By Craig Johnson
The past comes back to haunt with fatal consequences in The Cold Dish, the first book of the Longmire mystery series.
The title refers to an ancient proverb that revenge is a dish best served cold. In this case, the revenge is so cold, it leaves Sheriff Walt Longmire with a series of nearly unsolvable murders.
When the body of Cody Pritchard is found, Longmire isn’t sure what he has on his hands. His instincts tingle when he remembers that Pritchard was one of four boys convicted of brutally raping Melissa Real Bird, a Cheyenne girl with fetal alcohol syndrome.
Sentenced to a youth facility, the boys were released barely two years after the crime. Many in the small community of Durant — and on the nearby Northern Cheyenne Reservation — believe the young men got off virtually unpunished.
As forensic reports come in suggesting Pritchard was killed with an antique buffalo gun, Longmire turns to Omar Rhoades, a local hunting guide who not only has a similar gun but also ideas about who was capable of so accurately shooting such a weapon over long distances.
One name is the list is that of Henry Standing Bear, Longmire’s lifelong friend and guide to the reservation where Longmire’s jurisdiction ends. Standing Bear is Melissa Real Bird’s uncle.
Longmire is nearing his 25th anniversary as sheriff of (fictional) Absaroka County, Wyoming. He plays chess weekly with Lucian Connally, his predecessor and mentor and is hoping he can see Deputy Victoria Morretti, a former cop from Philadelphia, take over his badge — if she can get elected.
Widowed since his wife died of cancer several years earlier, Longmire is just starting to come back to the world of living and loving when this death occurs. A beautiful woman, a sculptress and real estate investor who grew up in the area, cautiously opens his heart again.
But the more Longmire investigates, the more he has to challenge expectations and hopes to get to a tragic truth about a long hidden crime.
The Author: Craig Johnson (1961 – )
Johnson lives in Ucross, Wyoming, (population 25) where he and his wife have a ranch with horses and two dogs.
He earned a degree from Marshall University and a master’s of arts degree from Temple University, where he wrote plays and did some acting. After spending two years working as a police officer in upper Manhattan, he moved to Wyoming.
He started writing again during the fall of 1992 as he was trying to get a log cabin built and bad weather and money problems stalled his progress. The book got shoved in a drawer and it wasn’t until another 12 years or so had passed that he returned to it.
He is known for strong character development. Longmire is a flawed man who has seen a lot of evil in his time but is sustained by his friendships. His friend Standing Bear bridges his Cheyenne upbringing and relationships on the reservation and a modern world. His long friendship with Longmire has sanded away prejudices and cultural distrust. Morretti is foul-mouthed, sharply observant and hasn’t lost the ability to be hurt and will have to stretch to take a seat behind Longmire’s desk.
The Longmire mysteries were turned into a popular television series. The Cold Dish was a finalist for the DILYS Award given by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association for its favorite novel of the year.
The books in the Longmire series (in order) are:
- The Cold Dish
- Death Without Company
- Kindness Goes Unpunished
- Another Man’s Moccasins
- The Dark Horse
- Junkyard Dogs
- Hell is Empty
- As the Crow Flies
- A Serpent’s Tooth
- Spirit of Steamboat
- Dry Bones
- Any Other Name