Walt Longmire is the capable, humorous, and widowed sheriff of Wyoming’s fictional Absaroka County. He is in a relationship with his hard-boiled undersheriff, Victoria “Vic” Moretti, a transplanted Philadelphia homicide detective, whose brother married Longmire’s daughter Cady. Cady and her husband have a five-month-old daughter Lola, and as the story begins, Cady and Lola are coming to Wyoming for a visit.
Longmire won’t have the time for visiting he would like: a valuable T. rex skeleton has been discovered in the area, along with the dead body of the Cheyenne rancher, Danny Lone Elk, on whose land the bones were found. The remains of the dinosaur, called “Jen,” named for the paleontologist who found her, are worth a fortune. Walt has to figure out what happened to Danny, but the principal suspects have so many secrets, it isn’t easy for him to sort through the plethora of means, motives, and opportunities. He gets much-needed help from his longtime friend Henry Standing Bear, who is essential as a liaison with the local Native Americans.
Discussion: Readers get a good feel for Wyoming, and even get to learn about the ways in which Wyoming has been such a goldmine for paleontologists – who knew! According to Wikipedia:
“Wyoming is such a spectacular source of fossils that author Marian Murray noted in 1974 that ‘[e]ven today, it is the expected thing that any great museum will send its representatives to Wyoming as often as possible.’ Murray has also written that nearly every major vertebrate paleontologist in United States history has collected fossils in Wyoming.”
Both Jim and I were reminded of Robert Parker by Johnson’s lean writing style and the ways in which he imbues his protagonist with a wry sense of humor and plenty of very funny one-liners. Jim thinks the books written by Parker are funnier, although we both appreciate the way Johnson adds a bit more emotional depth to his characters than Parker.
This book is the 13th in the mystery series featuring Sheriff Longmire. Neither Jim nor I have ever read any of the books before, and I at least (being more obsessed with series order than Jim) soon was sorry we started with number thirteen rather than number one. This is because, while this book can be read as a standalone, we liked it a lot, and want to read the rest. It will bother me to go backwards, but I will buck up and do it, because Johnson is a very entertaining writer, and his sense of humor is delightful.
Published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2015
Note: These books have been made into a television series, available to stream on Netflix.