Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Dark Horse by Guest Blogger Steven Head

It is late June and that means school is out, fire flies in the back yard, and the Tour de France is just around the corner. It also means the latest installment of Craig Johnson's Sherrif Walt Longmire mystery series is out. The Dark Horse is the fifth in the series and this time we find Walt doing undercover police work in Absalom, a town in neigboring Campbell County.

Walt is drawn into the case when the sheriff of Campbell County transfer his female prisoner since he does not have enough female officiers to meet the state requirement of the continuous presence of another woman. The female prisoner is the confessed killer of her husband. A confession she has volunteered and repeated at the scene of the crime and in custody.

One of the things making Walt wonder about this arrest is the prisoner has not uttered a word since entering his jail. And the Campbell County sheriff has expressed his own reservations about the confession and the crime that also involved a fire in both a barn and the house. So Walt agrees to impersonate an insurance agent out of Montana to investigate the crime. But one problem is that Walt grew up near Absalom and he is about as high profile in that part of Wyoming as any sheriff. His cover could easily be blown putting him at risk.

The Dark Horse repeats a storytelling pattern from the fourth book, Another Man's Moccasins, by running parallel narratives in different time periods. In Another Man's Moccasins the time difference was 40 years, this time it starts out as 10 days and progressively shrinks. I will not give away the secret but the discovery of what Walt knew before going to Absalom goes a long way in explaining his approach to the investigation.

While Walt's almost girlfriend, Deputy Victoria (Vic) Moretti, and friend Henry Standing Bear have significant roles in this story, many of his usual cast of players have cameos, at best. I missed the interaction and development of these characters and hope they return in future stories. The title character, the dark horse, ends up being Wahoo Sue who is mentioned early on and then dropped until the final chapters.

Like the other books this one has a happy ending in that the bad guy is apprehended, the innocent are damaged but alive, and there is a trail of bodies along the way. Like the previous books, it is a page turner sprinkled with obtuse references and interesting facts. Craig Johnson remains my favorite Wyoming mystery writer and I recommend him highly.

Thanks for the review, Steve. We're happy you found your way back!
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You may also notice that Blogger does not spell or punctuate well, especially when I am writing.

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