Thursday, July 01, 2010

Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson

Title: Junkyard Dogs
Author: Craig Johnson
ISBN: 9780670021826
Publishing Information: Hardcover, 306 pages, Viking Penguin, 2010
Genre: Police Procedural, #6 Sheriff Walt Longmire mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: I tried to get a straight answer from his grandson and granddaughter-in-law as to why their grandfather had been tied with a hundred feet of nylon rope to the rear bumper of the 1968 Oldsmobile Toronado.

It's February, and it's cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey in Absaroka County, Wyoming. As much as Sheriff Walt Longmire would like to stay inside his nice warm jail, folks just aren't going to accommodate him. An old man (and owner of the town dump) has been dragged behind a car. One of his deputies is suffering from "bullet fever", so Walt gives him the task of tracking down the owner of the severed thumb found in a cooler there in the junkyard. His Pennsylvania deputy, Victoria Moretti, is trying to buy a house, and it seems to have made her a tad ill-tempered. The owner of a new housing development that borders the junkyard has to have his feathers smoothed down....

What's a sheriff to do? Especially when an interesting side business is found in the dump followed by the discovery of two bodies. Winter refuses to behave itself (as if it ever has).

It is such a pleasure to read a book written by Craig Johnson. He is a born storyteller. He can make you laugh. He can make you cry. The Wyoming setting and every single character is etched crystal clear in your mind.

There's a reason why I live in the Sonoran Desert: I am not a winter person. I do not "do" cold. When I discovered that this book took place in the winter, I quite literally shivered. However, Craig Johnson is one of the few writers who, for me, can put poetry into a season I loathe. Try this on for size:

It was Monday of the second week in February and people talked less because their words were snatched from their mouths and cast to Nebraska. I had an image of all the unfinished statements and conversations from Wyoming piled along the sand hills until the snow muffled them and they sank into the dark earth. Maybe they rose again in the spring like prairie flowers, but I doubted it.

I have come to view reading a Craig Johnson novel as a visit with a beautiful place, as catching up with a group of characters I've come to know and love, and as an exercise in deduction as I try to identify The Bad Guy. Junkyard Dogs satisfies on all these levels, and Craig Johnson continues to be an author that I wish everyone would read at least once.

I'm willing to bet the farm that, for many of you who do sample his writing, it will be the start of your own love affair with Absaroka County.


  1. Cathy - I know exactly what you mean about writers who can portray things almost poetically. Thanks for this terrific review!

  2. Ok - you have now introduced me to another author that I absolutely must try! That is one of the best opening lines I have read in a long time.

  3. I couldn't agree more. Fine review, Cathy. I look forward to jumping back into this series. Thanks for this.

  4. I like the sound of this book. The quote about words being cast into Neb. reminds me of when I lived in Maine. People there said things in the deep of winter, but you had to wait until the words thawed out in spring to find out what they said. Or so I was told. :)

  5. This is one of "never to be missed" mystery series. I love, love, love Craig Johnson's books. I've been saving back the book prior to this one because I just can't stand to not have a Walt book waiting in the wings. Guess I better get to reading. LOL

  6. We are reading this book for our July book club. He will visit with us in August. A small group of us have dinner with him, beforehand and he is just so entertaining!
    His novels are absolutely AMAZING!! He is a gifted storyteller.
    You should sign up for his "Post-its" via his website. You'll definitely enjoy his take on things.

  7. Margot-- Glad you liked it!

    Molly-- Denis started reading the book last night and was laughing about the whole tale behind that first line!

    Michael-- You're welcome!

    Barbara-- Another place I'm staying out of in winter! LOL

    Kay-- Normally I prefer having one waiting in the wings, but Johnson is so good that I can't help myself!

    Kathy-- I am a regular visitor of his website, Kathy. I think I'm a groupie. :)

  8. I think you and Jen have convinced me -- I will do my best to start this series this year. Really. I'll try.

  9. Beth-- Quick! Before Jen and I hogtie you!! LOL

  10. Where have I been that I missed these books. I have #1 and #2 but somehow I missed all the rest. I thoroughly enjoyed Sheriff Walt and all the other characters. My husband likes him even better than I do. I can't wait to tell him we have four more books to go.

  11. Margot-- Denis loves him, too, and is now reading JD. And having 4 Walt books to read? I am well and truly envious!


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