Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire stories are special.  They are complex.  They are powerfully rooted in their Absaroka County, Wyoming, setting.  And they have strong, interesting characters.

This is the first in the series.  It begins with the murder of a young man who was involved in the brutal rape of Melissa Little Bird, a mentally handicapped Cheyenne youth.  Someone starts to systematically kill all those who took part in the rape.

Melissa's rape itself has haunted Walt since it happened.  A local judge let the rapists off with light sentences.  After all, they were White, and some of them came from prominent families.

There is a second murder.  The whole investigation leads Walt and his friend Henry Standing Bear to be caught in a blizzard they barely survive.  And then the story moves to an unexpected ending.

But the story is even more complex than that.  

Melissa's rape and the court's injustice only adds to Walt's depression as he struggles to deal with the unexpected death of his wife about two years ago.

This book is filled with detail.  You learn about the Sharp's buffalo rifle and about the power of the spirits which guide Henry Standing Bear and his people.  

The setting itself is a character in the story, adding beauty and danger.

Ironically, because of the Cheyenne culture, Melissa Little Bird survives and, in her way, thrives, while their sins destroy her tormentors.

If you like real stories with real murders and powerful characters, you should like this book.

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