The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

The Cold Dish
By Craig Johnson
Penguin Books

Reviewed by Keith Jones

Those who are viewers of the A & E television series, Longmire, will recognize the characters in “The Cold Dish” because this is the book that started it all. This is the book that kicked off the Sheriff Walt Longmire series of mysteries. In this book, Johnson created an unusual protagonist reminiscent of Marshal Sam McCloud from the old television series McCloud. The difference being that Johnson did not take his hero out of his world and transplant him in the concrete jungle, instead he invites us into his world… Wyoming. Johnson is often heard to say that he went against conventional wisdom by basing his tale in the least populated county of the least populated state. In so doing, he brings us into a world that most of us will otherwise never see.

Longmire is a unique blend of the old western and modern crime story. In the process it creates a sort of “New Western” genre. “The Cold Dish” is a genuinely enjoyable book bringing in equal parts of gritty realism and light hearted humor and overlaying it with seriously dark humor. The character development is of a superb quality I have not seen since “Lost Boys” by Orson Scott Card. You will very quickly find yourself captivated by the complex characters that Craig Johnson creates and the complicatedly simple world they inhabit.

If you watch the TV series you will recognize the basic plot line of this book, but don’t assume you know the full story. This Longmire mystery will keep you guessing until the end. It is always a joy to discover a book with a set of characters you really enjoy and know that there are another 7 or 8 books beyond the one you have just finished. That is the case of “The Cold Dish” and the Walt Longmire world.

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