The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson
When I saw reviews of this one in review journals, they had stars next to them, and one was in a box with a star (high praise, indeed)—and I averted my eyes so the plot wouldn’t be blown. (I swear: some reviewers tell as much of the story as doggone movie trailers do. Why bother with the book/movie after learning too much too soon?)
Here we find Walt Longmire in a funk once again—he misses his daughter, who has returned to her life out East; he is facing a challenge in the upcoming election for sheriff; and he suspects the innocence of the woman transferred to his jail.
So he decides to take action in finding out the true story behind the jailed woman’s claim that she killed her husband, which takes him on an occasionally amusing, occasionally gasp-worthy, undercover mission to the next county.
Walt’s on his home turf here—near the ranch where he grew up and which he still owns but rarely visits. It’s located in a mean little place that seems to be peopled with plenty of wretchedly nasty folks—and a few decent people with interesting flaws. I can see these secondary characters, and that doesn’t always happen.
For fans of Walt’s friend Henry and undersheriff Vic (and those who enjoy the tension between her and Walt), we’ll have to wait until the next book to see a little more of them. I think both are terrific, but it was kind of nice to see Walt going it alone a little bit more in this book.
And Henry did what needed to be done: he set up Walt to exorcise his demons again in this book, in an episode I saw coming but hoped (did I really?) could be avoided. (All that testosterone. In a novel, it’s a very good thing.)
In this 5th book in the series, Johnson’s keeping it real. Walt’s narration is as wry as ever. Here’s one sentence about Walt traveling with his dog, which made smile right out loud:
“I locked the car, set the alarm so that it wouldn’t go off with movement inside, took a deep breath, and told Dog not to play with the radio; it was our joke—he knew he could play with the radio if he wanted.” (p. 51)
Walt’s voice is the most delightful I can name. Truly unbeatable.