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2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge (Hosted by Yours Truly)

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My Progress:

11 / 30 books. 37% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
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My Progress:

23 / 51 states. 45% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

16 / 50 books. 32% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

21 / 50 books. 42% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

43 / 50 books. 86% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

38 / 52 books. 73% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

25 / 40 books. 63% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

9 / 25 books. 36% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

6 / 26.2 miles (second lap). 23% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

21 / 100 books. 21% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

58 / 104 books. 56% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

59 / 165 books. 36% done!
Monday, March 22, 2021

Popular Series Opener More About the Journey Than the Destination

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I started watching Longmire, a crime series on Netflix, without realizing it was based on a set of books.  Since I'm a staunch the-book-is-always-better-than-the-movie person, I immediately stopped watching and got to reading The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson.  In this first installment, we're introduced to Walt Longmire, who's been sheriff of (fictional) Absaroka County, Wyoming, for 25 years.  Although the venerable old cowboy loves his job, retirement is starting to sound mighty good.  With an election on the horizon, he just might get his wish.  In the meantime, it's up to him to deal with the murder of a local bad boy.

No one is too surprised or too saddened by the shooting death of Cody Pritchard.  The young man was no altar boy.  In fact, he was known for making racist cracks about Native Americans and being involved in the vicious gang rape of Melissa Little Bird, a Cheyenne girl with learning disabilities, three years ago.  Cody received only a light sentence for his part in the crime, an outcome that pleased the smug boy and outraged both Walt and his county's Indian community.  An eagle feather found by Cody's corpse seems to indicate that someone with Native blood is seeking justice in their own way.  While Walt isn't about to shed a tear over the likes of Cody Pritchard, it's his job to find out who killed the kid and stop the murderer from executing the rest of Melissa's rapists.  With the help of Victoria "Vic" Moretti, his tough-talking deputy and protégé, the sheriff sets about to do just that.  As Walt digs deeper into the secrets of his small town friends and neighbors, he finds himself in increasing danger.  He won't stop until he finds the answers he seeks, even if it means stepping into the killer's crosshairs himself. 

I've heard The Cold Dish described as a "literary" mystery.  While I'm not sure it's as high-brow as all that, it's certainly more than your typical, run-of-the-mill police procedural.  For one thing, Johnson imbues the novel with a very strong sense of place.  You can feel his love for the American West—its landscape, its people, its contradictions—in every word he writes.  In addition, the story is much more about community than crime.  Johnson focuses on Walt's relationships with the people around him more than on the job he's doing.  The result is a folksy, long-winded novel that's enjoyable more for the journey than the destination.  While the plot takes a long time to get anywhere, which makes the story sag in places, there's still plenty in the way of humor, quirky characters, and local color to keep the reader entertained.  The killer's identity also surprised me, which doesn't happen all that often for this veteran mystery reader.  However, the most appealing thing about The Cold Dish by far is its hero.  Walt Longmire is an endearing character on many levels.  Not only is he brave, compassionate, and committed, but he's also fallible and self-deprecating.  It's impossible not to like him.  All these things considered, it's easy to see why this book has garnered so many fans since its publication in 2004.  While it's hardly an edge-of-your-seat thriller, it's an entertaining read.  The real question for me is, do I want to continue with the series?  Maybe, maybe not is my answer.  While I enjoy character-driven crime fiction, I prefer the kind that also features a taut, focused plot.  This is not that, so we'll see if I continue on with the series or not...

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of C.J. Box's Joe Pickett series, Margaret Coel's Wind River Reservation series, and Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, blood/gore, and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Cold Dish with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

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