The Cold Dish
Date Published09 April 2015
Price£ 8.99

The Cold Dish

by Craig Johnson

Cody Prichard’s murder looks like revenge for the rape of a local Cheyenne girl. Sheriff Walt Longmire needs to find the shooter to prevent further deaths.


Four youths have been convicted of the rape of Melissa Little Birds, a Native American girl, but the suspended sentences handed out were almost universally felt to be unduly light. So when one of the four is shot and killed, with a large calibre Sharps rifle, revenge looks to be the most likely explanation.

Sheriff Walt Longmire attempts to bring the remaining three into protective custody, but it is hunting season and before they can all be located another is brought down. The Indian community seems a likely place to look for a culprit, especially as feathers have been planted on the victims; even Walt’s best friend, Henry Standing Bear, looks to have a strong motivation. But investigation reveals no obvious perp. and Walt starts to doubt his abilities to clean up.

It might be set in contemporary America, but there is an old-fashioned feel about this story, with more than a touch of the Wild West. The setting is high open country, wide plains with lakes filled with runoff from the surrounding mountains. Huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ are a big preoccupation with both locals and visitors, and Johnson builds up the high level of intimacy achievable in a small town setting.

Walt Longmire is the focus of the story, somewhat larger than life, ex-military and an excellent shot, easily commanding the loyalty of his staff, and capable of extraordinary efforts when necessary. At the same time he is prone to bouts of depression and lapses in self-confidence; when the book opens he is grieving for a dead wife and living in a half-built cabin, unable to summon the effort to complete it.

Luckily his best friend Henry is around, another stalwart character, and in addition knowledgeable in the ways of his people. Through Henry, Walt is able to recover a buffalo rifle from Melissa’s uncle Lonnie, a Sharps like the murder weapon. But this is a renowned gun in the Cheyenne community, decorated with tribal insignia, and given to Longmire in the expectation it will help him complete his task.

The good folks of Absaroka County have a direct if laconic verbal style which is amusing to read, and no doubt the dialogue was a significant factor in the translation of The Walt Longmire Mysteries to a TV series. The Cold Dish is the first of a dozen stories starring Longmire, written between 2005 and 2014, so if you like this, there are plenty more to look forward to.

Reviewed 29 August 2015 by Chris Roberts