Sunday, December 2, 2007

Death Without Company by Craig Johnson

This author was recently in Bend for The Nature of Words. His mystery series centers on Walt Longmire who is a sheriff in a small Wyoming town. Death Without Company is the second in this series. Lucian Connally, the former sheriff and a current resident of the Durant Home for Assisted Living, is convinced a fellow resident did not die a natural death. His convictions are complicated by his past relationship with the woman, Mari Baroja. The sheriff investigates Lucian’s allegations while also delving into the past.

A major strength of the book is that Johnson introduces an incredible number and variety of characters. The town doctor is not just the local doctor, but a survivor of a concentration camp. Here Sheriff Longmire describes his deputy, “I looked at my recently divorced deputy, a beautiful, intelligent woman with a body like Salome and a mouth like a saltwater crocodile.” (pg 151) Johnson makes it seem like each person in this fictional Wyoming town is interesting in a unique way. Mari Baroja and her family’s identification as Basque is mentioned; more information on that transplanted culture would add to the book.

The writing is enjoyable. Some of it is just quirky and gives you a sense of the main character. “I pulled my pocket watch out and consulted it as to lunchtime; we concurred that it was early but acceptable.” (pg 54) At other points there were phrases that I almost missed and then wondered what they really meant. For example, “I smiled as the feathers brushed the inside of my chest like they always do when I get irritated.” (pg 42)

The mystery from the past was almost too easy to figure out. The present day problems with increasing violence and danger keep one interested in the plot. There are some dream sequences that I felt did not really mesh with the rest of the book.. It helps with background to have read The Cold Dish first.

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