The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson: A review

Various people who have read my reviews of C.J. Box's books (the few that I've read) have suggested to me that I should read Craig Johnson's Longmire series. They kept telling me that he was a very good writer. So curiosity got the better of me and I decided to see for myself, and after reading the first book in the series, I have to say that I don't think they steered me wrong.  

Now, no one will mistake Johnson's writing for great literature, but it is highly entertaining. He writes with humor and a light touch and a fine eye for the Wyoming landscape and culture. He's created some interesting and well-described characters that the reader can invest in and care about.

The one thing that this first book might have used was a better editor. I was frequently annoyed by the sloppy editing. For example, when the sheriff is securing a crime site, it is written as "sight". Later when he placed a piece of evidence on the bar, he "sat' the evidence on the bar. Lodestar becomes "loadstar". There were numerous such errors and they really set (not sat) my teeth on edge. It's the kind of thing that drives me nuts! Maybe it's being married to an editor all these years.

But, that complaint aside, this was a good and satisfying read.

When we meet Sheriff Walter Longmire of Absaroka County, Wyoming, he has been the sheriff for twenty-four years, much of his adult life. He's now in middle age and is hoping to groom one of his deputies, a woman, to succeed him as sheriff. She would be the first woman sheriff in Wyoming. 

The plot revolves around the consequences of a gang rape of a young Cherokee woman by a group of teenage white boys and the minimal sentences they received for their horrific crime. The crime and the sentences divided the community. Some, particularly in the Indian community, were outraged by the light sentences. Others felt the boys' lives should not be ruined for one adolescent crime. Never mind what that crime did to the girl's life.

This all happened in the past. The boys had already served their sentences at the opening of this story and were back in the community. 

Then one of the boys is killed, shot from a great distance with a big gun. Some evidence at the scene seems to point to someone from the local reservation having committed the crime and Walt suspects that the death might be related to the earlier rape. 

Then another of the rapists is killed in the same manner, which gives credence to the sheriff's suspicions. He must now hunt for the killer while simultaneously trying to keep the other rapists from being killed. 

Sheriff Longmire is aided by the aforementioned deputy Victoria Moretti and his lifelong friend Henry Standing Bear as well as other assorted deputies and community assets. He'll need all the help he can get because in the middle of the manhunt, a blizzard is coming.

As if the problems presented by his job were not enough, Walt Longmire's personal life is a mess. His wife died four years earlier, his only daughter is off being a Philadelphia lawyer, and he is a lonely man living in a shell of a house and bordering on a serious drinking problem.

All in all, this was a good beginning to what has become a very long-running series. 

Incidentally, my husband and I have watched the television series, Longmire, that is based on these books and it is not bad. But, although the ending here stretched my credulity, I thought the book was better.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


  1. Wow, you found yet another series, and a good one from what it seems. Sometimes series don't start on a high note, but from your rating and review I can see that this one did. Lucky you! :-)

    1. In fact, I wavered between a three and four star rating but decided to be generous. Editing errors aside, the writing was good and it was a fun read. Maybe I was just in the mood for it!

  2. Great review! Seems a good book despite the poor editing.

    1. It was a fun read. Not great literature, as I said, but definitely entertaining.

  3. You started! I wonder if when he was starting out, his publishers didn't get how big he would become and gave him a copy editor with grammar issues. It happens. Craig Johnson was a huge seller at the bookstore where I worked and did a couple events there. That is how I came to introduce the books to my husband and he has read the whole series. We watched some early Longmire episodes and found them no where near as good as the books and too formulaic, which the books are not!

    1. That may, indeed, be what happened with the editing situation. One can hope that the later books will have such annoyances edited out. Yes, thank you for recommending him to me. I will be reading more.


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