DRY BONES by CRAIG JOHNSON (2015, Penguin, 306pp) ∗∗∗∗
Blurb: When Jen, the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever found surfaces in Sherriff Walt Longmire’s jurisdiction, it appears to be a windfall for the High Plains Dinosaur Museum—until Danny Lone Elk, the Cheyenne rancher on whose property the remains were discovered, turns up dead, floating face down in a turtle pond. With millions of dollars at stake, a number of groups step forward to claim her, including Danny’s family, the tribe, and the federal government. As Wyoming’s Acting Deputy Attorney and a cadre of FBI officers descend on the town, Walt is determined to find out who would benefit from Danny’s death, enlisting old friends Lucian Connolly and Omar Rhoades, along with Dog and best friend Henry Standing Bear, to trawl the vast Lone Elk ranch looking for answers to a sixty-five million year old cold case that’s heating up fast.
Craig Johnson’s Sheriff Walt Longmire mysteries, set in a fictional modern day Wyoming county, remain wonderfully entertaining. The main pleasure is not derived from the mysteries themselves, which although often quirky are nothing out of the ordinary, but in the rich cast of characters Johnson uses to populate his stories and their interaction with each other. Despite being written in the first person each character has depth, which is conveyed through Longmire’s wry and witty observation.
Although Dry Bones is the 11th novel in the series – as well as two novellas and a collection of short stories – Johnson shows no sign of tiring of his principal cast. The story itself mixes mystery, greed, mysticism and tragedy. The themes are familiar but it feels like returning to, and never tiring of, your favourite holiday destination.
Johnson’s writing has become more efficient as the series has progressed and he has lost none of his flair for dialogue. In Dry Bones he deftly mixes the tragic elements of the story with a sense of optimism and a warm feel good factor. I look forward greatly to my next vacation to Absaroka County.