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Walt Longmire #1

The Cold Dish

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Walt Longmire, sheriff of Wyoming's Absaroka County, knows he's got trouble when Cody Pritchard is found dead. Two years earlier, Cody and three accomplices had been given suspended sentences for raping a Northern Cheyenne girl. Is someone seeking vengeance? Longmire faces one of the more volatile and challenging cases in his twenty-four years as sheriff and means to see that revenge, a dish that is best served cold, is never served at all.

354 pages, Paperback

First published December 29, 2004

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About the author

Craig Johnson

67 books4,157 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Craig Johnson an American novelist, short story writer, and playwright. . He lives in Ucross, near Sheridan, Wyoming, population 25.

Johnson has written twelve novels featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire: The Cold Dish, Death Without Company, Kindness Goes Unpunished, Another Man's Moccasins, Junkyard Dogs, The Dark Horse (which received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, and was named one of Publisher's Weekly's best books of the year in 2009), Hell Is Empty, As The Crow Flies and A Serpent's Tooth. The Cold Dish and The Dark Horse were both Dilys Award finalists, and Death Without Company was named the Wyoming Historical Association's Book of the Year. Another Man's Moccasins received the Western Writers of America Spur Award for best novel of 2008 as well as the Mountains and Plains award for fiction book of the year.

Former police officer; has also worked as an educator, cowboy, and longshoreman.

AWARDS: Tony Hillerman Award for "Old Indian Trick"; fiction book of the year, Wyoming Historical Society, for Death Without Company, Wyoming Council for the Arts Award.

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14,095 (37%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,195 reviews
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 2 books247k followers
August 31, 2018
"On the afternoon of June 25th, 1876, as the heat waves rolled from the buffalo grass, giving the impression of a breeze that did not exist, Colonel George Armstrong Custer and five companies of the Seventh Cavalry rode into the valley of the Little Big Horn. Also that afternoon, Davey Force, a pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics, went six for six against Chicago, who scored four runs in the ninth to pull out a 14 to 13 victory. Custer was not so lucky."

Big Horn Mountains

Sheriff Walt Longmire of Wyoming's Absaroka County is having a hard time getting his life back together after the death of his wife. "When they are gone, we are left with who we are after we were with them, and sometimes we don't recognize that person." In this case it takes a murder to bring Walt back to his job.

Robert Taylor playing Walt Longmire on the A&E TV series

Cody Pritchard, one of four boys convicted of raping an alcohol fetal syndrome Cheyenne girl, is found dead among a herd of sheep. He was shot with a big caliber weapon. As the case unfolds it is determined that a Sharps .45-70 Buffalo rifle was the murder weapon. A rifle capable of "dropping a horse at six hundred yards". Now you would think that would shorten up the list of suspects, but as it turns out due to the historical significance of the weapon and the accuracy the Sharps is capable of; many men, in this gun rich section of the country happen to own one. Walt has his own theories about guns.

"We are a combative breed. I was not hard on us, though; I didn't need to be, history was. Ten major wars and countless skirmishes over the last two hundred years pretty much told the tale. But that was political history, not personal. I was brought up on a ranch but, because of my father, the romance of guns had somehow escaped me. In his eyes, a gun was a tool, not some half-assed deity. Guys who named their guns worried him and me."

Sharps Rifle

When a second boy of the four is also shot with the same weapon Walt realizes he is in a race against time if he hopes to keep more murders from happening. He relies on his friend Henry Standing Bear who owns the local bar The Red Pony to help him negotiate the politics of the reservation and lend him critical advise on Walt's own mental state of mind. Henry owns a three-quarter ton piece of crap pickup he lovingly calls Rezdawg. Walt hates that truck, but..."There was one thing I liked about Henry's truck, even if I never told him: its comfortable smell of old steel, earth, and leather. I had grown up in old trucks like these, and there was a security there, a sense of memory that transcended brand names and badge loyalties. That description brought back fond memories for me as well. I learned to drive in my father's 1976 Chevy pickup and one of the more recent times that I was up to see my folks I went out to that pickup, now parked in the trees, and creaked a door open just to breath in those old, wonderful smells still trapped in the tattered seats and the rusted out floorboards.

Lou Diamond Phillips plays Henry Standing Bear in Longmire

Walt has a deputy named Vic Morretti, an acid tongued transplant from Philadelphia. She is absolutely devoted to Walt and yet uses every opportunity to kick his ass verbally. She's a handful, but Walt hopes with some seasoning she will someday succeed him as Sheriff. They are fond of each other and yet have a hard time showing it. Walt takes a chance on losing a paw.
I put my arm around her shoulders and pulled her in. It was a risky move, but she didn't resist, and I rested my chin on the top of her head. "Thanks for coming up after me."
Her voice was muffled and sounded strained. "You're the only friend I've got."
"I bet you say that to all the sheriffs."

Katee Sackhoff plays Vic on the series Longmire

I came to this book series ass backwards. I started watching the TV show on A&E this summer and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. The show is faithful to the books, and so reading this book was just like stepping into the TV show. The setting is modern times, but things really haven't changed a lot in Wyoming in the last hundred years. Yes, there are cell phones, even though Walt refuses to use one, but with the ring of mountains around this area service is spotty. The people who reside in Wyoming have to be respectful of nature. One misstep in this part of the world and you can still find yourself a victim of misadventure. Your scattered bones might never be found.

If you like Westerns you will love this series. If you like reading about beautiful vistas or have an interest in Cheyenne reservation culture you might like this book. If you believe the world is a place of mysticism you will find things in this book that will help keep those beliefs alive. Well written, authentic, with a plot that kept me hooked to the very end. I will certainly be reading more of what Craig Johnson wants to dish up.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Alejandro.
1,106 reviews3,543 followers
November 15, 2016
Solid narrative with guts!

This is the first novel in the “Longmire Mysteries” book series.


I have watched the TV adaptation of Longmire since its beginning.

I decided to watch it since it has three cast members that I was familiarized and I like to watch them to perform:

-Katee Sackhoff, from Battlestar Galactica (the re-imagined TV series) and she was honestly my main reason to watch this TV series. She plays “Deputy Victoria (Vic) Moretti”.

But I didn’t mind to find too…

-Cassidy Freeman, from Smallvile TV series. She plays “Cady Longmire”.

-Lou Diamond Phillips, from La Bamba film. He plays “Henry Standing Bear”.

Also, I like the concept of a modern-day sheriff, investigating murders.

Sheriff Walt Longmire, is the sheriff in the fictional Absaroka County.

While the TV series is different in certain elements and dynamics than the original book series, certainly I can say that any fan of the TV series would enjoy to read the novels.


The first novel introduces all the main characters (even several that you haven’t never met in the TV series) of the book series, along with the mystery to solve, employing more scientific and police procedures than you have witnessed in most of the TV show.

Sheriff Walt Longmire is getting used to live alone, since his wife died like 4 years ago (here was for natural causes), also there was a rough case that it didn’t end well, so he isn’t on his top when you meet him in the book.

An American Native girl was raped by several white teenagers but they weren’t punished by the court as they should…

…now, those teenagers, already young men, are starting to appear dead, one by one.

And since they weren’t model citizens, there are just too many suspects, even closer than Walt Longmire would prefer, and while he isn’t showing a single tear for those scumbags, he is the law in Absaroka County and he has a duty to do.

Sheriff Walt Longmire is tough man, he has seen a lot in his life, he has endured a lot, but maybe nothing of those hard experience prepared him…

…for such visceral twist in this murder investigation.

Revenge is dish best served cold, Klingons know it,…

…and Sheriff Walt Longmire will have to assimilate it too.

Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,862 reviews10.5k followers
August 7, 2015
Two years ago, four boys were put on trial for raping a Cheyenne girl. When one of them winds up dead, sheriff Walt Longmire finds himself in the middle of murder investigation. Plenty of people had cause for wanting Cody Prichard dead but who had the guts to do the deed? And are his three compadres next on the hit list?

In my never-ending quest to sample what series crime fiction has to offer, I decided to give The Cold Dish a try. After all, A&E wouldn't make a crime series about a dud, would they?

The setting sets the Cold Dish apart from most crime fiction on the racks. A sleepy Wyoming town next to an Indian reservation is a far crime from most metropolitan cesspools. Walt Longmire isn't a super cop by any means. He's out of his depth and he knows it. His feelings about his daughter, his deceased wife, and Vonna, the woman he's recently taken a shine to, make him seem human and vulnerable.

The supporting cast is also interesting, although I thought some of the Native American portrayals might be leaning toward stereotypes. I liked the backstory and I loved that I had no idea who the murderer was until Walt did.

And now here's the stuff I wasn't crazy about. This very much felt like a first novel, particularly in the first half. Also, the author overused pronouns and sometimes it was hard to figure out which "he" or "she" he was talking about. The pace also dragged. For the first 60% of the book, I thought it was so average that I couldn't pick it out of a police lineup.

The last hundred pages was the saving grace of the book. The story got the kick in the ass it needed and I wound up digging it quite a bit by the end.

All things considered, I'm awarding this a 3.5. It's good and I want to read more about Longmire but there are other detectives in line ahead of him.
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,560 reviews5,818 followers
May 14, 2015
Walt Longmire is just wanting to finish out his term as sheriff of Wyoming's Absaroka county in peace and quiet. That of course does not happen. Young Cody Pritchard is found shot and dumped in with a local farmer's sheep.
Don't feel bad for Cody though, he and his buddies violently raped a young Cheyenne girl. They got suspended sentences.
Now someone is seeking justice for that crime.

Walt Longmire is that type of character that grabs my fickle attention. Overweight, depressed, likes drinking. Sign me up! He lost his wife 4 years previously and has not recovered from her death yet, he does have the inner sense of good and that makes this book shine.

The cast of characters that join in the story are also some of the best.
You have Henry Standing Bear

I could feel his disapproving glance as we crossed a cattle guard and momentarily became airborne. We made for the washboard curve that lay ahead, and he braced himself. "Hey, I thought you guys always thought it was a good day to die."
"Attributed to Crazy Horse who was often misquoted."

Deputy Vic Moretti

"You think I'm too butch?:
"No, I don't, and I really was thinking what a good-looking woman you are."
The eye closed, but the smile returned. "Good."
"Then you opened your mouth..."

I was entertained enough that I might just turn my Netflix back on because I've never seen the show that was developed from this book and now I'm curious.

Profile Image for Paula K (on hiatus).
414 reviews428 followers
November 8, 2015
I watched the Longmire Series when it was on TV and enjoyed it very much. A GR friend recommended reading the books so I started with the first, The Cold Dish written back in 2006.

This is one of those warm and friendly type of books. A nice change to a murder mystery with a western backdrop taking place in a small town in Wyoming. Walt Longmire, sheriff for 24 years, widowed, gives us a wonderful description of the beautiful country seen thru his eyes. His friendship with Henry Standing Bear and his banter with deputy Vic (Victoria) Moretti add nicely to the story line.

An interesting twist toward the end of the book as to whom was murdering the boys convicted of raping a disabled Cheyenne girl a few years back.

A good series for mystery and western lovers.

4 out of 5 stars.

Profile Image for James Thane.
Author 8 books6,900 followers
June 9, 2015
This is the first book in Craig Johnson's long-running series featuring Walt Longmire, the middle-aged sheriff of Absaroka County in Wyoming. The books, in turn, would later inspire the television program that was named for the sheriff.

This book opens with the shooting death of a young man named Cody Pritchard. It's possible that Pritchard's death was the result of a hunting accident, but it soon appears that it was actually an act of deliberate homicide.

The list of suspects is unusually long. Two years earlier, Pritchard and three of his high school classmates had been tried on charges of sexually assaulting a mentally challenged Native American girl. The four were convicted but received only minimal punishment and a lot of local people, including the victim's family, are still hoping that justice will be served, one way or the other. It now appears that someone seeking revenge may have all four of the young perpetrators lined up in the sights of a Sharps .45-70 rifle.

For a sheriff's office that is small and short-handed, an investigation of this magnitude poses a serious challenge. And, as if he didn't have enough problems in his professional life, Walt's personal life is a total mess. He's been widowed for a number of years and is living in a partially-built home that he never got around to finishing after his wife died. His friends, especially Henry Standing Bear, the owner of the local saloon, are encouraging Walt to get on with his life, but he doesn't seem to have much interest in doing so. He'd rather just do his job, drink a few cans of Rainier beer and let it go at that.

In Longmire, Craig Johnson has created a character that obviously appeals to a large number of readers and television viewers. The Wyoming setting is beautifully constructed and there's a solid cast of supporting characters. The mystery itself is a good one, although I thought the solution came basically out of left field.

All that said, this is not the sort of book that normally appeals to me. The whole enterprise is just a bit too folksy for my taste, what with the aw-shucks sheriff who names his truck the Silver Bullet and the cast of eccentric townspeople who are just a bit too odd, strange and curious. As much as I can admire what Johnson has accomplished here, I prefer my crime fiction just a bit more hard-boiled, though obviously there are thousands of other readers for whom Longmire hits the mark perfectly.
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,048 reviews1,802 followers
March 29, 2016
He was drinking a ginger ale and leafing through a stack of police supply catalogs. I guess she figured we have him chained up in the basement. I asked her about Jim, and she said that he was hunting down in Nebraska with some friends; geese, she said. There was a hesitancy in the way she said it that led me to believe there was something more there. So I used one of my age-old cop tricks and asked her if there was anything else she wanted to tell me. She used one of the age-old mother tricks and just said no. Cop tricks pale in comparison with mother tricks.

This book was wonderful. I was loving it because it was so cute and funny, but then on page ten I found out that a key plot point was the gang-rape of a teenaged girl with fetal alcohol syndrome with many objects besides penises.

I have a real problem with rape books, often having to DNF because I just can't take fiction on this topic (see The Round House), but fortunately for me Johnson skirted around the rape enough so that I could read this and finish it. If he had gone to any more detail than he had, I would have had to DNF, cute and funny and well-written as the book was notwithstanding. Thanks to Shelby for the encouragement to continue. It ended up being alright and not too rape-focused.

The book starts out with one of the rapists being murdered, years after the rape. Who killed him? Well, who WOULDN'T kill him is the better question, as everyone is angry at the rapists and angry at the very light sentence they received. Would one of the tribe be avenging the girl, as she was a Native American and related in some way to almost everyone on the Rez? Would it be any number of the people who hate the rapists and wanted them to suffer instead of getting off almost scot-free? Why wait years after the crime in order to seek revenge? Is it true that revenge is a dish best served cold?

An older, grizzled white man sheriff is nothing new. Walt is in his 50s, overweight, and clinically depressed. He sleeps for 14 hours at a time and his house is almost unlivable. Ever since his wife died four years ago, he just doesn't seem to be able to pull it together.

Walt also is funny. He has a very dry, hilarious voice that had me laughing and laughing through the whole book. He's truly funny.

As she walked into her office opposite mine, all she said was "Don't ask," and slammed the door behind her. After a few moments though, she reappeared with her Philadelphia Police mug and a bottle of tequila, had sat down in the chair by my door, threw her feet up on my desk, poured herself a drink and hissed, "All men are assholes, right?" I nodded vigorously, quietly finished my reports as she drank, and then crept out, my back to the wall.

This kind of combination of clinically depressed and yet very funny is too good, and I was enjoying myself immensely.

Another plus with Walt Longmire is that he really likes women. Now, men always say, "I love women!", but what they mean is "I enjoy fucking women," which is not the same thing at all. But I feel as if Longmire genuinely likes women, even women he doesn't have any desire to fuck, and he's so caring and loving and treats women just as he would a person (>.< So many of these manly mysteries make women into non-people). It's not like these mystery novels where I feel as if women are objectified or ornamental objects or something. In this way, Longmire reminds me a bit of Spenser, who was also a MC who really liked women. Longmire's close friendships with both men and women are touching and very believable.

I feel strains of Spenser through all this, although Spenser is more literary and also tougher than Longmire is, Johnson also flirts with Dickens, Shakespeare, Faulkner, and Hemingway in this. Longmire is so sweet and long-suffering, he's not as tough and capable as you feel Spenser is, but sometimes he surprises you - as with Longmire's single violent, tough-guy action in this novel (I won't spoil you). But unlike Spenser, he gets scolded and lectured for this action by various people.

Johnson introduces complex, interesting side characters here and doesn't skimp on either good writing or character development. He's a good writer, and I enjoy reading good writing. It's relatively rare.

Tl;dr - Such a pleasant surprise. I'm definitely going to continue with this series. Johnson is a talented writer, funny and poignant without giving you the feeling that he is trying too hard. Longmire is a mensch and I really enjoy reading about mensches and their lives.
Profile Image for Francesc.
382 reviews189 followers
March 8, 2020
La ambientación de Wyoming y las reservas indias es fantástica. Además, los personajes están muy bien caracterizados. El sheriff Longmire tiene carisma, sentido del humor y pasión. Es débil y fuerte a la vez y eso lo humaniza.
Pero... no he conectado con la trama. Los diálogos están demasiado cargados de acotaciones y eso los hace lentos. A ratos, la historia se va y no la encuentras y simplemente tienes la sensación de que el autor la alarga innecesariamente. Esto te desconecta mucho y hace que no te apetezca su lectura. Y demasiadas descripciones que llegan a cansar.
Sólo la ambientación y los personajes hacen que quieras llegar al final.

The setting of Wyoming and the Indian reservations is fantastic. In addition, the characters are very well characterized. Sheriff Longmire has charisma, sense of humor and passion. He is weak and strong at the same time and that humanizes him.
But ... I have not connected to the plot. The dialogues are too loaded with dimensions and that makes them slow. At times, the story goes away and you can't find it and you just have the feeling that the author unnecessarily extends it. This disconnects you a lot and makes you not fancy reading. And too many descriptions that get tired.
Only the atmosphere and the characters make you want to reach the end.
Profile Image for Charles  van Buren.
1,674 reviews170 followers
March 10, 2022
Revenge is a dish best not served at all

A teenager/young man who was convicted of brutal sexual abuse is found dead. Shot through the back. There is a host of suspects. The boy was given an incredibly light sentence which angered almost everyone. Longmire and others determine that he was shot from long range which narrows the suspect list to residents known to be capable of such a shot. The caliber and type of rifle narrows it further but the list still includes Longmire's old and close friend Henry Standing Bear. There is also worry that the boy's accomplices may be next.

The mystery is deliciously complex and convoluted. The characters are well developed and interesting. Excellent first book in a series. The firearms and forensic information is weak. There is a reader's guide at the back which reads like a book report which tells readers what to ask and what to think. There is also an interview with the author by an interviewer who seems intent upon impressing his audience with how erudite he is. I recommend skipping both of these.
Profile Image for carol..
1,504 reviews7,561 followers
September 7, 2014

I knew in the first four pages that I was going to enjoy this book.

It begins with Sheriff Walt Longmire of Absaroka County, Wyoming, sitting in his office, watching the geese fly south. Ruby, dispatcher/receptionist, interrupts his musings to tell him he has a call from Bob Barnes, who wants to report a dead body he discovered when he and his son went to collect their sheep.
“She leaned against the doorjamb and went to shorthand, ‘Bob Barnes, dead body, line one.’
I looked at the blinking red light on my desk and wondered vaguely if there was a way I could get out of this.
‘Did he sound drunk?’
‘I am not aware that I’ve ever heard him sound sober….‘

‘Hey Bob. What’s up?’
‘Hey, Walt. You ain’t gonna believe this shit…’ He didn’t sound particularly drunk, but Bob’s a professional, so you never can tell.“

He takes the report from Bob, verifies the information on the phone with Billy, Bob’s equally drunk son, and just as he’s about to hang up,

“‘Yes sir… Hey, Shuuriff?’ I waited. ‘Dad says for you to bring beer, we’re almost out.’“

Walt tells Ruby “that if anybody else called about dead bodies, we had already filled the quota for a Friday and they should call back next week,” and heads to his car. He swings by the drive-through liquor store, and on his way out of town, passes by one of his deputies who is seriously irritated with traffic detail and delegates the job to her instead.

This is no ordinary sheriff, and this is no ordinary gunslinger book.


Continued at my blog and Leafmarks, because, you know, intellectual freedom and all that jazz.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,464 reviews928 followers
October 31, 2012
I don't think I've been this enthusiastic about a new author since discovering Dick Francis. It's not a question of Nobel or Booker Prize material, or of changing my outlook on life. It's just that I discovered something that fits me like a glove, the equivalent of a joyride - makes me feel good, makes me feel smart for figuring out the main suspect before the last page, a bit of adrenaline rush and a lot of snarky humor. Most of all it's about the characters, oddballs and loners most of them, with a strong sense of belonging to a small community, one that you wish you were part of. The immediate connection I made is with early episodes of Twin Peaks : Absaroka County in Wyoming is a similar closed circle of people, each knowing the others intimately, living close to Nature and having little contact with the wider outside world, most of them having secrets to hide and odd quirks of character. I was tempted to say that the main difference between the two is the absence of the supernatural, weirdness factor, but by the end of this first book in the series, the story veered right into some shamanism, new agey spiritual communnion with dead people, so I say give David Lynch a call and sell him a new TV series.

I mentioned earlier Dick Francis, but the connection is more in style and general forthright attitude of characters than in content. The one thing you would expect about a book set in Wyoming is horses, cattles and cowboys - and that exactly what you will not find here (yet). Sheriff Walt Longmire is not so keen on the equestrian sports, and prefers to drive a muscle car (I'm not familiar with American brands, so I can't tell what his Silver Bullet actually looks like). His second aversion is surprisingly about guns, in a red state that is famous about gun rights activism. He mentions that he often forgets his service pistol in bars or restaurants, and prefers to leave it in the office or in the car. Still, he is a Vietnam War veteran, and capable of dealing damage when the situation requires it. And I would also mention that the main plot of this western-noir series revolves around a series of crimes committed with a rare and expensive antique rifle dating back to the time General Custer had his unfortunate adventure nearby, at Little Bighorn. Absaroka County reveals itself as a haven for gun collectors, with every other person hiding an arsenal in his closet, and a surprising number of suspects with access to such a rare and deadly artefact.

Walt Longmire is for me cast in the mould of the classic "tall in the saddle" heroes of the silver screen: Wayne, Stewart, Cooper, Mitchum. His childhood friend and occassional deputy is Henry Standing Bear, another Vietnam vet of Indian origins. They are both men of few words and quick reflexes, always baiting each other with insider jokes, almost a copycat of Robert Mitchum and John Wayne in Rio Grande, most often with the Bear playing the straight man and Walt the drunken clown with the wounded heart. Dialogue is really one of the strongpoints of the novel, liberally peppered with "YEP" and "NOPE", but also with a lot of one liners and literary or pop culture references. Walt is apparently quite the bookworm for an outdoorsman, and can keep his own well in any literary or philosophical conversation.

One of the main points of interest for me in the series is the near wilderness of the region - the least populated county in the US, with the Big Horn Mountains always on the horizon, the frequent changes in the weather, the isolate ranches and the neighboring Indian Nations reservations. I've saved countless images from the Tetons and the Snake River on my desktop background, and maybe one day I will get to visit. Until then, this Walt Longmire series is a good substitute.

Coming back to the story, I felt in places that the actual murder investigations take second place to the building up an interesting setting and a good cast for the long run of the series, introducing the major players, but not delving too deeply into their background in order to leave something for the next books, sketching the investigative team interactions, mixing self administered justice with modern scientific methods. By the way, detective Vic Moretti is a great counterpoint to the slightly old fashioned friendship between Walt and the Bear, adding some sexual tension and a LOT of foul language.

The story is well anchored in social issues and the human interest angle (a rape case involving some wild youngsters and an underage Indian girl), making the administration of justice a personal issue for Walt Longmire. His problems are componded by loneliness after losing a wife to illness and a daughter to the lure of a big city career. I was both proud and a little disappointed in having guessed the identity of the bad guy very early in the story, but the final appeal was more in the journey than in the destination.

Book two coming soon. Maybe even the new TV series, but I can't catch it on any channel available in my network.
Profile Image for Blaine DeSantis.
880 reviews102 followers
February 17, 2022
There are some books, and some series, that you are so excited about and you cannot wait to read it and upon reading it you are filled with excitement. I have felt this way many times when I begin the first book of a large series and I was so excited to finally start the Walk Longmire series by Craig Johnson. Unfortunately, my excitement exceeded the reality of this book. It's not a bad book, but it was a ponderous book for me. It's filled with many descriptions and information that just seeing to stand in the way of making this a free flowing read.

As a fan of the Walt Longmire TV series I guess I still have have images of all the characters burned into my mind, and the characters that you discover in this first book of the series are not what you got on the TV screen. I also find it fascinating that a veteran lawman such as Walt Longmire would be so confused as he was in this book. For those who have not watch the TV show or read the books, Longmire is a County Sheriff in Wyoming and he has a cast of characters surrounding him in the Sheriff's Office that are all different and unique. some of that uniqueness comes across in the book but it's not at all how they are portrayed on the TV screen. Obviously the author had an image of what he wanted from his characters, and I don't think the TV series depicts the characters in the same manner.

Nonetheless, this is a book that took me longer than I expected to read and got bogged down at many places. Lots of discussion about guns, Indian traditions, past crimes all of which will hopefully set the stage for future books. But for our first book I felt the author got in too much detail and that detail actually got in the way of the story. I know there are a lot of people who like this series, and I'm not going to give up on this, but I must admit the first book does not make me want to read the second book of the series in the near future.

This was a solid if not spectacular effort by the author, and again it's very possible that had a not seen the TV series and had the characters set in my mind, I may very well have enjoyed this book more than I did.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,309 reviews1,596 followers
August 17, 2015
A group of friends and I have something that we like to call Forced Book Reads, where we each choose a book and make the whole gang read it. (Or at least they have to if they want the others to read THEIR book.) For my selection, I went with Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, and now it's my friend Chris's turn, and he chose this.

I would like to state for the record at this point that, as a whole, I did like this book. However, pretty early on, I noticed some nitpicky little things that started to bother me, and once I strap on my Nitpickers, they don't come off that easily and I'll be walking around in them for a goodish while.

So let's get this show on the road and start with the issues. First of which is the fact that I called the whodunnit and why at 49%, so it was pretty predictable as far as the plot went. (Hint: It was NOT Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory with the rope.) I can pinpoint the exact moment I knew because I have a note on my Kindle with my prediction, which was even before the 2nd body was discovered, though not by much.

The main character figures it out at 93%. This in itself is not unusual, that the main character figures things out very close to the end of the story, but I bring it up because I had to wade through 44% more before the main character, a Sheriff who in many other ways seems to be very intuitive and experienced, got with the program.

The reader (if they aren't there yet) is filled in on the who at 94% and the why at 97%. I bring THIS up because of the style and blatant obfuscation attempts in the narrative. I'll come back to this.

And in between all of that is a whole mess of description and... to be honest, filler.

I really enjoy mysteries and I love when they keep me on my toes. I love smart and fast-paced thrillers that think they were a freight train in their past life and just run you down if you can't keep up. But then there are the mysteries that are a slower pace, that take the time and set the stage and work up to things slowly. Those can be just as enjoyable, but they require a more deft hand and a surer sense of direction.

Imagine that the story is giving you directions for how to get to Brad's party after school on Friday while his parents are out of town. The fast-paced story will tell you to take the interstate, get off at exit 4 and fuck the roads, just drive due north across the fields until you see Keg Mountain in front of Brad's parents' house. 15 minutes from your last class to the site of your future beercoma. 10 if you "forget" you said you'd give that moocher Joey a ride because he's always late and you don't feel like waiting. (Also, GAH! When will he buy his own car??)

This book would take you straight through town (at a funereal 15 MPH because it's also a school zone), then have you turn right and take State Route 13 for 8 miles. Hook a left at the site of the old Barnett farm, which they lost 15 years ago during the drought. Poor old man Barnett. He now lives with his daughter and son-in-law in St. Petersburg Florida, and hates the humidity and misses the mountains and feels like a burden, so he drinks too much and is a little too irritable with the grandkids, and the patience is wearing thin on the living situation, and poor old man Barnett may end up in a "retirement community" where nobody will visit him and he'll die alone listening to Bernice in the room next door have long, loud arguments with her husband who died in 1993. So, left at the farm, and then continue on this road for a while, until you see the lightning-struck tree. You'll know it's the RIGHT lightning-struck tree because there will be a carving of Jesus' face in the tree bark. Some say the lightning did that - but I was there the night Sam got drunk and thought it would be funny to convince the town it was a miracle. He used a paring knife, but it got the job done, and the rubes in town do think it's a miracle, despite the fact that it happened 6 months after the tree was hit. Apparently miracles take time. At the Jesus tree, make another left, and then a sharp right onto Hooker Creek Road, so named because the family that used to own the land would hook fish out of the creek using repurposed wire hangers, not because there are hookers in the creek. Stay on that road for about 20 minutes, and just LOOK at that scenery... and then... Wait, didn't we pass Brad's house 20 minutes ago? I have to go to the bathroom...

That's a bit, uhh... hyperbolic, I admit, but it's not inapt. This is definitely a slow build of a book, and for so much of it, there's just not a lot going on but scenery. We get descriptions of the town, the reservation, the inhabitants of both, the mountains and the general outside areas of Absaroka County, as well as the weather, the weather, the weather, and also the pricipitational habits of the great outdoors. (I'll save you some time: Warmish and sunny, but getting cooler, then cold. Cold. Colder. Snowy. More snow. Snow with fog. Blizzard.)

This book had something of an identity crisis. There were times when it felt like it wanted to be something, anything, other than what it was. It is a slow-build murder mystery set in Small Town, Wyoming. What it seemed like it wanted to be, at times, was everything else. Joke book, travelogue, Park & Field Guidebook, romance, Native American historical, litigation thriller, meteorological almanac, and a literary reference guide, to name a few options. Add to that the fact that the narrative jumped around seemingly at random, and it's rather off-putting and confusing. The first few times, I was convinced that there were parts missing from the ebook. But then it kept happening, and I realized that was just part of the style. Most of the narrative shifts, which, in my experience usually come with a small bombshell to tease the reader that when we come back to this point, there will be something worthwhile there waiting, just kind of fizzled out and went nowhere.

So, let's talk about the style a bit more. There was something... strange about it. Not just that it jumped around without any rhyme or reason, but also because the narrative didn't like to actually divulge who was talking. Sometimes it was just like Johnson forgot to mention who was involved in a conversation, like when Walt made a phone call and "she" answered. Maybe this was a misstep during the editing process and he fully intended to go back and specify who "she" was, but deadlines loom, and it's not a dealbreaker. But other times, it felt very intentional, the identity of the people involved in something, other than Walt, were purposefully hidden from the reader to create a sense of suspense, or foreboding, or something. This is what I was referring to in the beginning of this review, when I mentioned the obfuscation in the narrative, but it was noticeable, and sometimes quite obvious, which isn't good.

Part of the reason I think it didn't work is that Craig Johnson just doesn't have a great sense of timing. There was a section, from about 50% to 75% or so, that got to chugging along quite nicely, and I thought, "Oh good - this is finally starting to get going!" but then it just dropped off again and lost focus. Something important to the plot would happen, and rather than following that thread, we'd wander off into a description of the scene, or a bit of history regarding guns, or what an eagle feather symbolizes, or maybe a little memory of the trial, which is the link between the victims. Important stuff to the story... but awkwardly timed to interrupt the flow of the narrative, rather than enhance it. I admit that I skimmed a goodish amount of these sections.

One more thing about the writing, and then I promise I'll say something positive. There were a few times when Walt went all technobabble on me, which is OK, but I would hope that there would be an English translation for the lay readers who might not know what the hell he's saying. For instance: "Massive cavitations with a lot of radiopague snowstorm."

Oh yeah, well "Elucidation nonexistent despite a voluminous perplexity of confabulation."

In your FACE.

One of the best things about the style was the sense of humor. I loved Walt's sarcasm and wit, and I especially loved how he and Henry played off of each other. Their scenes were among my favorite in the whole book, and honestly, I could've swapped out the whole plot of the book for just a bunch more scenes with Walt and Henry.

I did like most of the characters in the book - this little town seemed peopled with interesting, smart, and funny characters with loads of personality. Most of them, anyway. I really enjoyed the characters, and think that's a definite check mark on the Positive column for this book.

Where the negative check mark comes back in is regarding their names. Quite a few of them have similar sounding names: Cody and Cady. Vic, Vonnie, Vern, Ernie/Ernest (this last one just because of the similarity of 'ern' sound in my head.). And a decent sized majority of them have, in my opinion, literary names. I first thought of this when a group of three new people were introduced in the course of a few sentences: Kyle Straub, Jules Belden, and Vern Selby. It's impossible to read Jules and Vern in the same sentence and not think of Jules Verne. And the name "Straub" gives me an eye twitch, so of course I'm going to think of the horrible, horrible writer who shares the name.

But wait, there's more....

Vonnie Hayes / Vonnie Hughes
Kyle Straub / Peter Straub
Jules Belden / Jules Verne
Vern Selby / Twofer: Jules Verne & Hubert Selby Jr
Dorothy Caldwell / Dorothy Parker
Henry Standing Bear / (O.) Henry or Henry Miller or Henry James? (My vote goes for James as his reference - Henry likes the ghost stories.)
Walt Longmire / Walt Whitman?

Now, in case you're just tuning in, I love me some books. I love reading them, I love thinking about reading them, I love when other people read them and so on. I usually appreciate book references in other books. They are like little Easter eggs to be found. But... they didn't really work for me in this book.

I have no doubt that Walt is an intelligent person. He went to college (albeit briefly, before he lost his deferment and was drafted to Vietnam), and was made an MP. He has been in law enforcement ever since, but I'm not of the opinion that that means that he can't enjoy reading. It just seems strange to me because he DIDN'T read at all during the course of this book, yet rattled off literary references and quotes like they were tattooed on the inside of his eyelids. He can spot literary style thievery 3 different ways in 3 sentences written by the local journalist, and has a witty quip for just about every occasion. Yet he never reads a book that I noticed. When he's home, he's sulking and drinking (though not in the 'jaded alcoholic detective' way - just in the 'unwinding after a long day in my empty, lonely house' way). But OK... Maybe he has a really good memory for books he read in college. Sure. Stranger things have happened.

So... yeah. There's a lot of nitpicky stuff that just rubbed me the wrong way while reading this. BUT... all that bitching aside, I did enjoy the book, mainly for Walt and Henry, and I'd bet a few dollars that the series gets better from here, so I'd be willing to give it a second chance. Maybe Johnson will hit his stride in the second book, and the series would end up being great.
Profile Image for Thomas.
691 reviews165 followers
August 20, 2015
I enjoyed reading this book and give it a solid 4 stars. It is the first book in the series. Walt Longmire is the Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. He has a 3 and 1/2 person department. Absaroka is not an actual County in Wyoming, but there are Absaroka mountains. I like the author's use of language, p.45"The aspen trees... were a bright butter..." He has captured the flavor of life on the high plains. He gets a call from a sheepherder who has found a body. He asks the location of the body and is about to hang up and head out when the caller says:'Hey, Shuuriff? Dad says for you to bring some beer, we're almost out." I did not realize who the murderer was until almost the end. There are some laugh out lines in this book. The TV series Longmire is based on this series and is pretty faithful to the books.
Profile Image for Carol.
822 reviews477 followers
June 7, 2012
Surprise! Surprise! Yep, books can still surprise me.

Recently I saw a trailer on A&E plugging the debut of TheWalt Longmire Mystery series coming to tv with the first to be aired last Sunday. I have heard wonderful things about theis award winning series but had never read one myself. Time to turn the pages!

The Walt Longmire series begins with The Cold Dish and it seemed appropriate to start right at the beginning. I knew they took place in Absaroka County,Wyoming and had that sort of western, outdoorsy appeal but wasn't certain what else to expect.

I really enjoyed my first Longmire book. I actually finished it after watching the debut of the TV series. Though Johnson is happy with the production and I can see why, I'll stick with the books. Johnson knows how to tell a story, and his descriptions of place will put you right on the scene. Most importantly for me Longmire and his cast of characters are fleshed out beautifully in this first of the series. That’s not to say you know all about the man. Johnson is cagey enough to leave some loose ends and room for character development so you'll come back for more.

The Longmire series is much about what it's like to be a Wyoming Sheriff and Johnson is quick to point out the man needs to be big. A western sheriff is it, no back up, so he, Longmire, is the end all. Johnson's descriptions of Longmire make you see this. A large, tall man, heavy set, a bit paunchy, widowed just a year, he's chiseled enough for men and has just enough of a soft side for us women to love him. He drinks hard, mostly Rainier Beer, is ex military, tends to moodiness and seems a bit intellectual. The cast of supporting characters in this first outing include his good friend, Henry Standing Bear, of the Cheyenne Nation, Vic, a smart, sassy, sexy, exurbanite who becomes his deputy sheriff and plays well to Longmire's grieving soul, a former one legged sheriff, and a bunch of others I hope return in upcoming books.

There's enough mystery in The Cold Dish to keep fans of this genre entertained. Add to this smart dialog, sexual tension to add hope for the big guy, humor that surprised me and plain good writing that engaged me throughout.

The Cold Dish is a solid start as the first in what is now eight books. I'm hooked!
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,474 followers
November 18, 2014
This was perfect delight to me. It has satisfying drama, engaging characters, and evocation of place. Often the first in a series is a bit awkward, but this one hit on all cylinders for me right out the gate.

Walt Longmire, the 50-something sheriff of the fictional Absaroka County in northern Wyoming, gets a case of a young man shot by a large caliber gun likely to be an antique buffalo rifle. It turns out the victim was one of a set of youths convicted a couple of years earlier of the rape of a Cheyenne girl with diminished capacity due to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, but whom only received suspended sentences. Thus, the Sheriff’s team have a lot of potential suspects for revenge, including family members on the reservation he would rather not put through any more emotional trauma. That includes Walt’s best friend, Henry Standing Bear, proprietor of a local bar and former sniper with the Marines during the Vietnam War.

To me the cases in these tales are just a means for me to get to experience this rural community and its residents in action. The dynamics among Longmire, his ex-Philadelphia deputy Vic, his aging mentor Lucian, and his buddy Henry is rendered with warmth and humor whatever the crises they constantly deal with. I now feel they are like a virtual family. Johnson does well in capturing the changing beauty of the environment of the mountain West and make good use of the dangers from its weather and risks of mishaps in remote settings in his plots.

As icing on the cake, the mystery here is a good one, and it steps up a notch when it comes to pass that the other boys in the old case may be targets. The search for people who have capable rifles leads him to a Sharpe’s model that may have been used at Custer’s Last Stand. The persisting cultural trauma among the Cheyenne Tribe surrounding the tragic end of the Indian wars is brought out with sensitivity. Longmire himself is subject some ghostly visitations from old Cheyenne warriors apparently related to some bad juju over the rifle. That he gets help from such visions at critical times of danger may strike some as a bit over-the-top or as crass cultural misappropriation, but, for what it’s worth, I don’t feel that way.

If you join my addiction to this series, you will find it hard to find copies of out-of-print volumes early in the sequence. I bit the bullet and tasked my local library to find me copies from the state library network. Watching the TV cable series from A&E is another line of pleasure, as it does well in rendering the main characters.

In closing I share two samples of dialog. In this one the mutual respect and underlying sexual tension between Walt and Vic are illustrated:
“Do you find me unattractive?”
“You?” That got an eye. It wouldn’t hurt anything to level with her, and she was being vulnerable, which only happened on leap years. “I was just sitting here, a moment ago, thinking what a handsome woman you are.”
I caught my breath. “Wrong word choice?”
“Sounds masculine.” The eye again. “You think I am too butch?”
“No, I don’t. and I was really thinking what a good-looking woman you are.”
The eye closed, but the smile returned. “Good.”
“Then you opened your mouth.”

Here Walt reconstructs an exchange his friend Lucian has shared from his days as a sheriff in 1949:
I could just see that little bandy rooster straightening his belt and buttoning up is old Eisenhower jacket as he got out and walked on the two then solid legs up to the ancient, black-primer Dodge. …”Hey, Chief.” He wasn’t joking; Red Shield was a chief of the Northern Cheyenne. “I pulled you over ‘cause you’ve got a couple ‘a taillights out back here.”
He said the old chief’s eyes twinkled, and he patted Lucian’s arm that rested on the car. “Oh, that’s okay. I thought you were pulling me over ‘cause I didn’t have no license.”
Lucian said he nearly bit his lip to bleeding trying not to laugh until Mrs. Shield slapped her husband across the chest and said, “Don’t pay no attention to him, Sheriff. He don’t know what he’s saying when he’s been drinkin.’”

Profile Image for Karin Slaughter.
Author 119 books60.9k followers
June 14, 2014
I read this because I really love the TV show, but it spoiled a lot of things on the show for me, so then I decided to not read any more. So, if there was no TV show, I would read all of them. Does that make me a bad person? Or am I just an awesome TV watcher?
Profile Image for Mike Schneider.
601 reviews17 followers
August 22, 2011
When starting this book as a result of my daughter's recommendation, I didn't think a murder mystery set in sparsely-populated Wyoming would hold my attention. When finished, I realized this was one of the most enjoyable books I've read this year, I marveled at how well-written it was, and I wondered how Craig Johnson's books had heretofore escaped my attention. This is the first of a series and I'm definitely looking forward to the remainder of the series. Johnson has created several intriguing characters in this book, all with a subtle technique of describing themselves through their dialogue. For example, his main character, Walt Longmire, the sheriff, describing his sadness and sense of loss after the death of his wife, says "When they are gone, we are left with who we are after we were with them, and sometimes we don't recognize that person?" And the old , retired sheriff, talking about a suspect, says. "I'd say the depths of his stupidity have yet to be plumbed, and yours is comin' up fast on the inside turn".

This book made me stay up late to finish it and it made me want to start the next of Johnson's books right away, but it gets five stars just because it was the first to make me use the highlighting function on my Kindle so I could remember how nicely phrases were turned in this book.
Profile Image for Karl.
3,258 reviews256 followers
December 10, 2014
Mission Complete. I have now read all twelve Longmire books (in reverse release order).I believe I started last June, so that works out to about two of the books in the series per month.

The Cold Dish is a powerful work. It is quite understandable why it spawned a T.V. show and a series of books. Mr. Johnson is quite readable and highly entertaining. If one needed to categorize the book it would probably called a police procedural. The characters are supremely well developed and as a reader the characters become quite endearing.

Mr. Johnson's ability in infuse humor into the story line is an art in itself. The humor fits the characters and it fits the story line. As one reads along, the realization that Wyoming itself is one of the main important characters of the books. And all the characters are made real, no two dimensional cut-outs to be found.

What is the Cold Dish ? Three of four levels of meaning can be discovered in the reading of this novel. Not just revenge, not just "the babe", not just being lost in the mountains in a show storm. But all of those and more.

If this book is read, the need to read the next, and the next will become compulsive. Even if you read them in reverse order.

Highly Recommended.

This copy is signed by the author.
Profile Image for Kimber Silver.
Author 1 book191 followers
January 30, 2019
I love Walt Longmire. Craig Johnson has written a wonderful cast of characters. Wry, gritty and interesting, the story held my attention throughout and the ending was a surprise! Well done.
Profile Image for Mark.
1,294 reviews50 followers
February 25, 2022
When I first read this book it was an Ebook as this particular writer was difficult to obtain in my neck of the woods or at great price. A good reason for a reread is finding a good 2nd hand copy of this book. I must admit not remembering the exact plot so it made reading fun again. I certainly had forgotten how much fun these early books are, the mystery is second to the interaction between the various characters, and Henry Standing bear is just awesome, Vic is outrageous, Ruby a dear and the old Sheriff is a legend. I am glad I have reread the novel it is truly awesome.

review 12 January 2016

Revenge is a dish best served cold, Historians are not sure where the saying originated, but it means that revenge is best served not fresh after the insult occurred, but after enough time has passed so that the target won't see it coming.

I did seek out this book simply because I really liked Longmire the TV series that was based upon the book series as written by Craig Johnson. And to be fairly honest the book did more than satisfy my curiosity.
The actual story starts several years before this tale takes place in the form of a group rape of an Indian girl. Even after they were judged guilty the four pulprits got of fairly lightly. This all changes when one of them is found killed by a legendary weapon, the likes that saw one General Custer meet his doom and dead at a famous mountain in the US.
The main character Walter Longmire is a sheriff of a rather large patch of territory which in itself does lean against an Indian reservation. He isthe sheriff of Absaroka County for 24 years and plans to run for reelection again the following year. Mostly so he can turn over the sheriffs duty to his 2nd in command Victoria "Vic" Moretti, who is a carreer police-officer that is way overqualified for the position but likes the surroundings.
Walt's closest friend and confidant is Henry Standing Bear. They have been friends since they were 12 years old, and both went to Vietnam. They share a bond and mutual respect that really shows through the story.
In this book Walt is looking for the murderer of two of the perps of the rape of the Indian Girl, He would like to fall in love with a beautiful woman that has been in his life on and off for a very long time.
While Longmire goes out of his way to catch the killer we meet his world and absolutely gorgeous characters that the writer does serve in this very first outing.

I really enjoyed the tv series but find that the books have way more depth to them than the show does, while in the first half of the book a lot happens there is no urgency to the story halfway the book the urgency does change and makes the book fairly difficult to put down. A very enjoyable book that begs for a continued reading of the series.

Well advised.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,782 followers
September 7, 2014
Walt Longmire is the long time sheriff of Absaroka County. This is the first book in the series of his....what, adventures, escapades, life events?

I'm giving this book (after consideration) four(4) stars though it's a low 4. If we had the much lamented half star system it would be 3.5. For at least the first third of the book whether I'd finish it or not was in doubt. Then it (finally) settles down and tells it's story.

So...be ready for Walt's internal struggles, his angst, his loss, his new relationship trauma. Prepare for visits to "folk", a search for a fuse box, a pancake brunch...lots of "stuff. We meet a new character and get a few hundred words of description then a few hundred or a few thousand more on background and history.

I found it, for me and my taste in books exceedingly slow going for a while. Of course many love that about these books so some of you will get caught up in the book right away. You'll love the detail about Walt, Vic and others. That's not the type of book I particularly like so as I said...it was slow for me.

Now that said somewhere around the halfway mark as we got more involved in the actual plot (which was introed early on but got lost for a while in the detail) I got involved and enjoyed the book.

Also I think fans of Tony Hillerman might like this one as it uses Native American (American "Indian" as is used in the book) mysticism in the plot. My wife was a big Hillerman fan.

So, pretty good once it gets back to the plot. I think it might reach multiple audiences. While maybe not completely what detail lovers of plot centered enthusiasts prefer it has something for both. Think I'll try another of the series.

I can recommend this with certain reservations.


Profile Image for Lance Charnes.
Author 7 books87 followers
April 28, 2020
Craig Johnson’s The Cold Dish introduces Walt Longmire, long-time sheriff of the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming. If Walt’s name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because he has a TV show named for him (Longmire, on Netflix). Some elements of The Cold Dish made it into the pilot episode, while the rest filled out the first season’s climax. I was drawn to this book by the series, as I suspect others before me have been.

That may have been a problem.

The titular “cold dish” is revenge, which drives the action throughout. Two years after four white teenagers are given trivial sentences for raping a developmentally disabled Cheyenne girl, one of the accused rapists turns up shot in the back by an antique rifle. Most everyone in the area believes the boys were guilty and the local Cheyenne still bear a grudge. While Longmire and his band of deputies investigate the murder, more bodies start to pile up.

This book is a traditional mystery, meaning solving the puzzle surrounding the crime at hand is the main point of the plot. In this regard, Johnson’s debut novel does a fine job. The victims come with plenty of baggage, and there are more than enough suspects to keep Longmire and crew busy for much of the book. There are enough of the requisite false leads, lies and mistaken accusations to keep fans of traditional mysteries entertained. You probably won’t guess the villain before Longmire does.

If you’re a fan of this genre, you already know much of what’s going to happen, and you already know Our Hero will solve the crime in the next-to-last chapter. You come back for the characters. So, would you want to spend time with Walt Longmire?

More than likely, yes. He’s a paunchy, middle-aged-plus veteran of small-town crimefighting in the wide-open-spaces West. He has the mandatory Painful Past (recently dead wife, absent daughter, empty house), but he’s at least still able to do his job. He’s plain-spoken, respectful of his environment without fetishizing it, and aware of the ways of the Cheyenne without fetishizing them. He does heroic things without placing much value on being a hero. Johnson’s dialog for Longmire is clean and suits the man.

The people surrounding Longmire are a mixed lot. Walt’s primary sidekicks – Henry Standing Bear, his oldest and best friend, and East Coast transplant Victoria Moretti, his newest deputy – are drawn clearly and well, although Vic does tend to go over the top at times (which may be the author’s intent). The others are more types than people, which I suppose is the luxury a series provides an author – he can color in the details over multiple volumes.

Johnson clearly has a firm grasp on the setting (alpine Wyoming) and provides plenty of atmosphere for the story and his characters. The mountains, the plains, the trees, rocks and scrub, the many faces of fresh or falling snow, the sky’s thousand personalities, all roll easily off Johnson’s pen.

Yet by the end of this, my reaction was more “hmm” than “wow.” Why? There are a lot of little reasons, and one big one.

The little reasons range all over the map. Dialog tics aren’t always confined to a single character; this and Johnson’s sometimes idiosyncratic punctuation and paragraph breaks not infrequently make it hard to tell who is saying what. Johnson adheres to the Trad Mystery Guidebook perhaps too slavishly. It feels like the author’s running out the clock in the last couple of chapters before the denouement. While told in first person, Longmire’s spoken voice isn’t the same one that waxes lyrical about the landscape in the narrative; that latter is the author’s voice, and it’s jarring to hear coming out of Longmire’s thoughts. The villain falls from the sky in the final act; while I mentioned before that you’ll never guess whodunit, it’s not because of clever plotting but rather because the culprit isn’t even in the running until the last minute. And it appears all the ladies of Absaroka County are unaccountably attracted to our crusty, overweight, out-of-shape, nearly over-the-hill sheriff (including Deputy Vic), which makes very little sense and gets intrusive over time.

The big reason? This will infuriate the nobody-can-make-decent-films-of-books posse: the TV series shows what the book could have been, but isn’t.

The sheriff’s department Johnson wrote is staffed with people who mostly get along, set in a town where most everyone likes Our Hero and each other. The one potential irritant in Walt’s command (a wayward deputy) poses no real threat and is dealt with almost as an afterthought. In short, there’s not much conflict or tension beyond the specifics of the crime. As a result, Longmire has an essentially clear field in which to do his work. Perhaps this is Johnson limiting the problems he poses for himself in this debut novel, or perhaps he really meant the county seat of Durant to be West Mayberry.

In contrast, Netflix’s version of Absaroka County is riven with petty rivalries, ancient grudges, prejudice, class and racial animosity, and its share of cranks, creeps and crooks. (Village politics, like those in Henry Kissinger's academia, are so vicious because the stakes are so small.) TV Walt has a deputy running against him in the election for sheriff, a conniving snake of a local magnate, positional and sexual politics at the stationhouse, and near-open warfare between the ranchers, energy companies, casino developers, Native Americans, meth cookers, hunters, tourists, and roughing-it outcasts. In short, the environment Our TV Hero navigates is far more rich, complex and dramatic than the one literary Walt inhabits, and looks more like the real world. Granted, this took some time to develop, but the seeds were planted in the first few minutes of the first episode. It also helps that TV Walt (Aussie actor Robert Taylor) is, though weathered, a fine figure of a mature man, so it makes more sense that he can do the things he does and also attract the county’s ladies.

The Cold Dish isn’t a bad book, and is certainly worth checking out if you enjoy traditional mysteries not involving Oxford and country manors. Whether you press on after the first installment, however, will depend on what you seek from the series. I expect that fans of the TV series will be disappointed. Perhaps author Johnson adds more flavors to make for a richer stew in subsequent books. Maybe someday I’ll come back to find out – just not in the near future.
Profile Image for Rob.
511 reviews103 followers
July 21, 2021
Book 1 in the Walt Longmire series published 2004.

A good all round 4 star read.

I enjoyed the Longmire TV series so much that when the series ended I decided I wanted more so here I am reviewing the first book of the series.

The title (The Cold Dish) comes from “revenge is a dish best served cold” but for some people letting the plate get cold doesn’t work.

A while ago a young Cheyenne Indian girl with special needs was brutally raped by three young white boys. The boys were found guilty but because of their age were given a light sentence.
This has lived with and troubled Walt Longmire since the sentences were handed down.
A young woman’s life is in ruins and the brutes responsible get a slap on the wrist.
When one of the boys is found dead with gun shot wounds it’s obvious to Walt that there’s someone out there with revenge on their mind.
Walt has to find the killer to stop the killing even if the general consensus is that they got what they deserved.
As for the end I didn’t see that coming until I got to the end. A real ‘I don’t believe it’ moment.

This is not a page turner by any means but an intriguing police procedural.
With Wyoming as back a drop and not the usual cityscape the pace is like the characters, laid back.
The story also gives the reader an insight into the trials and tribulations of being an American Indians living on a reservation.

All my favourite characters, and more, are here which pleases me no end.
The one character that came as a shock to me was Victoria ‘Vic’ Moretti the deputy sheriff of Absaroka County. In the TV series she come across as a strong, intelligent young woman and in the book she is still like that but she now has a mouth like a septic tank.

A recommended read.
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,017 reviews651 followers
March 25, 2013
The small town of Durant, Wyoming comes alive for the reader in this modern day Western. With the Big Horn mountains as the backdrop, the Busy Bee Cafe, the White Buffalo Sinclair station, Swayback Road, Crazy Woman Canyon - they all ring true.

The characters are richly drawn - Walt, the tough laconic sheriff who is inching his way toward retirement, Deputy Victoria (Vic) Moretti, who can turn the air blue with her peppery language, Henry Standing Bear, Walt's longtime friend. The female characters are strong and Walt views them with a mixture of respect and a healthy dose of fear.

The murder mystery is decent, the investigation of it kept me interested. My only complaint would be the ton of information having to do with various rifles and ammunition, far more than I wanted. Overkill, if you will. In all fairness, there are probably just as many people who will enjoy delving this deeply into all things ballistics-related. It's all here.

I have always liked the quote that "Revenge is a dish best served cold". It is good to know that Walt Longmire, sheriff of Absarok County, is on the scene, a true standup guy with plenty of smarts and experience to keep the peace and insure that there is no revenge served up at all.

Craig Johnson is a new author for me, not quite sure how I had missed him until now. What a boon to know that there are seven more Longmire books out there, ready to be plucked from a shelf and savored.
Profile Image for ✨Susan✨.
859 reviews173 followers
October 13, 2014
This is one of those books that takes you right in, sits you down by the fire, covers your lap with a blanket and hands you a drink. This story of a smart, seasoned and kind Sheriff just had me from the beginning. A fairly small town band of characters only add to the rich story line. A murder of a youth that was convicted of the rape of a young girl starts the roller coaster story line. The banter between the Sheriff and his best friend called Bear is so random and dry that it is just hilarious and sometimes inappropriate which makes it even funnier. Real characters that feel like old friends by the end of the book. The narrator is my favorite male reader. He is excellent. The experience would not be the same without him. I cant wait to continue with this series. Thank you Audible reviewers for leading me to this new series.
Profile Image for Harry.
319 reviews389 followers
April 30, 2013
Craig Johnson has written nine novels in his Walt Longmire series. Formerly a police officer; he has also worked as a educator, cowboy and longshoreman. Awards include Tony Hillerman Award, Wyoming Historical Society Award, Wyoming Councl for the Arts Award, as well as numerous starred awards. Johnson was also a board member of the Mystery Writers' of America.

Craig Johnson as an artist, as a man who paints with words ascribes to the essential characteristic of what makes art different from anything else: only it can portray the world as the artist thinks it ought to be as opposed to how it is. "Now a days, it's really hard to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys..." he says in an interview. "But Walt's a pretty good guy...the kinda guy if my car slithered off the road on I-80 in a blizzard, he's the guy I'd want to help me out." Johnson admits to portraying Walt Longmire, the hero in this award-winning series, as "The kinda guy my wife says I want to be in about 10 years."

Starting from his choice of book title all the way to the final period at the end of the book Johnson's prose fills the reader's soul with a longing for the good. And where else is one to find it but in the fictional county of Absaroka, Wyoming and it's Sheriff Walt Longmire. As with the work of William Kent Krueger Johnson introduces readers to the Western concept of cowboys and indians. Growing up in the Netherlands, I read till late in the night the wildly popular series Winnetou and Old Shatterhand (not available in the States). When playing outside 6000 miles away from American soil, it wasn't cops and robbers we played, it was cowboys and indians. It was this image of America I held in my mind as a 12 year old boy standing on the deck of the U.S.S. Rotterdam as we sailed into New York Harbor and waited in the lines of Ellis Island to be granted access to my boyhood dreams.

Unlike older western novels, however, Johnson brings this cultural diversity into the 20th century and without delving into multi-culturalism brings us to that mystical nether region between the two where native american and white man meet each other half-way. Johnson's aim is at portraying a fictional world as it should be and this includes diversity. Henry, a native american is Walt's best friend. The indian community stands ready to aid the law, helps the white man bring justice regardless of race, color or creed. Walt Longmire, in a hallucinatory fit, dances with the Cheyenne spirits who guide him to safety in the midst of a devastating blizzard even though the unconscious man slung over his shoulders is a perpatrator against a Native American woman. Walt does not question his sanity afterwards. Craig Johnson's world is one we might all long for...and isn't that the purpose of art?

Too often I read book reviews where the reviewers seem to place verisimilitude above fiction. In my opinion, if you want reality, if you want to read about the way things are, then view a documentary, read a biography, check out reality TV. This is fiction, and if an author changes reality to suit his notion for the book, so be it...

For some, the first in the series moves along a bit slowly...but to them I would say: give this writer time to paint his world as he sees fit. Books that concentrate on rural settings often have the advantage of highlighting the human condition in startling clarity. Distractions such as are found in urban settings removed, we see good and evil and compassion in a more profound way. Wyoming's Absaroka County gives us this magnifying glass. I found the plot intriguing and the ending second-to-none. Truly, the titles are well chosen in these novels.

There's a huge fan base for Johnson's work out there. A fan base that is after values, the good kind. I'm reminded of my daughter's fascination with Taylor Swift, whose millions of fans adulate her for precisely the same reason: her vision of 'the good'. There is a Renaissance occurring in a real world that at best can be portrayed as lost in the grey fog of compromised values; a Renaissance that has caught the attention of not only our youth, but all ages. And they are telling us what they want.

There's a reason A&E's Longmire series has been approved for Season #2. The first season sported A&E's #1 original-series premier of all time with 4.1 million total viewers. I plan to read this entire series and after that, I plan to view the A&E series (hopefully on Netflix where it is not yet available for down-streaming). Johnson, remarking on the television series agrees that he is 100% on board as the televised version is keeping very close to the books.

Unless there is a drastic divergence in subsequent Longmire novels, this review will be the same for all the Walt Longmire books.

Profile Image for P. Lundburg.
Author 7 books79 followers
September 15, 2017
I have to confess that I went into reading this after having watched the Netflix series . . . twice. So it's fair to say I'm a huge fan of the characters and the (general) story telling. Seeing a movie or series from a book can give the book-reading a great lift; but it can just as easily set it up for disappointment. Usually, I love a book more than the screen version, but this time I am a bit disappointed. Let me very quickly point out, though, that I am by no means giving up on the series. This is only Book 1, and I won't judge a series on one book. Ever. Well. . . . unless the writing itself is horrendous. Such is not the case here, so I will go on to Book 2 in the coming months.

My first praise would be to the characters. Johnson does an excellent job of developing his main characters extremely well, and without doing too much telling. He shows us the characters, and allows us to get to know them. Even more kudos are due to the fact that some of the minor characters have richly developed personalities, and in many cases they are round enough characters that we see them change over time and easily recognize their multiple facets. A second praise would go to the great job Johnson does with the sub-plotting. There are threads that run in the background of the primary story that weave through the series, and are adeptly begun in this first book.

Unfortunately, that plotting comment on the sub-plot is a point where I would offer some criticism. The sub-plot seems to move as fast as the main plot for this installment, which is to say that main plot really moves slowly. It meanders, in fact. Through a long, deep valley that goes on and on. It's not bad plotting . . . just really slowly evolving. I will confess that I looked at some reviews after I finished, as I sometimes do, to see if I was the only one with this complaint. I'm not. Several point out that Johnson seems to be trying to be more literary than the book warrants, and while I wouldn't be that harsh, I would say that it's a valid point. The prose does seem to mire down at times, and there were certainly times when I felt like there was too much effort in building a metaphor or trying to produce a clever turn of speech. I want to add, though, that I doubt many readers will be annoyed by this, and it's a minor point among a lot of upsides.

Among those upsides, and another praise, is the sense of place. You can hear the echoing expanse of the range in front of the mountains, feel the breeze tugging at your skin and eyelashes, and breathe in the crisp clean air. You can feel the rump-numbing distance as Walt drives the county to investigate the crime. And best of all, there's a strong presence of a well-articulated community. Johnson captures the sense of setting very well.

I would have loved to give Longmire, Book 1, a solid 4-star if not a 5, but I can't. I'm sure that the series is going to pick up, and I suspect that this first book was a steep learning curve. What carried me through the book most was the characters, but even that had a downside: Longmire is a classically "wounded hero," but because the story is told in first person, we're too close to that wounded hero to get the direct, pained reflection that we get. Third person would have served better for that, I think. I could feel the presence of the author too much at these points, and you should never sense the author trying to do anything in a story. You should be simply riding along, enjoying the journey, without realizing this or that paragraph or sentence must have been a bit of an effort for the writer.

Longmire fans will enjoy this book. For you folks, if you're not much of a reader, you'll feel a 4+ star book. For the critical reader, it will hover between a 3 and a 4. For the critical viewer/reader like me, you'll be a little disappointed with some aspects, hoping the next one will be better, and ultimately thinking this may be a case where the show is at least equal to the book.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,844 reviews470 followers
December 15, 2019
I loved the Longmire television series. When I first started watching it, I did not realize it was based on a book series by Craig Johnson. Usually I have a rule that I read the books first before watching a television or movie adaption of a story....but this time, I did things backwards. Turns out....that's ok. The television series is a lot different than the books.

For those who watched the television series, the characters are similar...but different at the same time. My two favorite side characters in the books...and the show....are Vic Moretti and Henry Standing Bear. In the books, Vic is much more mouthy. There were moments that her commentary made me laugh out loud as I read. She pops off at Longmire most of the time, but she is very skilled at her job and has a deep affection for her boss. Henry Standing Bear has been a friend of Longmire's since they served in Vietnam. They are truly friends, and Longmire knows when to call on Henry for help. One line from the show that is directly from the book made me smile. Henry answers the phone at his bar "It is a beautiful day at the Red Pony and continual soiree.'' LOL I love it!

In this first book, a teenager is found dead in Absaroka County near the reservation. Turns out, the boy was involved in the rape of a Cheyenne girl. He and three other boys got off lightly, despite the fact the girl was mentally challenged. As Longmire and his officers investigate the killing, he realizes the other boys might also be in danger. It's a race to find out who is seeking revenge before all of the boys are dead.

I listened to the audio version of this book (Recorded Books). Narrated by George Guidall, the audio is just shy of 13.5 hours long. Guidall gives a great performance! I like his voice and he does a great job of voice acting. Awesome listening experience!
Profile Image for Michael Britt.
171 reviews1,997 followers
August 11, 2017
Per usual, you can find this review and others like it at Tome Raider

This was my first contemporary mystery and I couldn't be more happy with this book.

Walt Lomgmire is the Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. 2 years ago 4 teenage boys were found guilty of raping a young Northern Cheyenne girl. But they were only given a suspended sentence. Fast forward to present day and one of those boys, Cody Pritchard, has just been found murdered. Walt is given the case and quickly finds out that the other boys lives might also be in danger. Given that there's a rather big Indian presence in Absaroka County, the murder doesn't really come as a surprise. It starts to look like a clear cut case, until the evidence starts pointing at other people. The case becomes more and more confusing the more ol' Walt investigates. We're taken on a truly awesome and tension packed ride as we try and figure out who is carrying out these murders before every one of these boys are picked off.

About 8 years ago I was really big into rodeo. Me and my buddy would travel out home state of Oklahoma and even go as far as Texas, Kansas, or Missouri if it meant we could get entered in and ride (we did saddle bronc, fyi). Wyoming was somewhere we always dreamed of going. So hearing that this is set in Wyoming piqued my interest. Johnson does such an amazing job of really bringing out the beauty of this gorgeous state through in his writing. We also get such a vivid picture of this small little town that I might just up and move there. I was so surprised at just how great he was at really making you feel like you were there. He also rivals GRRM with his love for making you super hungry through his descriptions of food. Seriously, I was constantly hungry throughout this book. I was so lucky I didn't have food near me, or else I would've snacked the whole time.

The characters he has created were all so perfect for this book. I can't think of a single character I disliked. Which is extremely rare. It's also rare for me to like the main character more than the side characters. Walt Longmire is the kind of guy that'd be fun to just hang out with. Especially if his buddy Henry Standing Bear was with him to cook some of his delicious sounding meals!

The plot moves at a decent pace. There towards the end I did feel as if it could've ended sooner, but you quickly realize that Johnson made a sound decision for not ending it sooner. It just sets it up for a really great twist ending. And a very emotional one at that.

Now, as much as I absolutely loved this book, it definitely has it's faults. Not many, but there are a few. Even though I understand why the ending was stretched out, I still felt the 75-85% (may not be super accurate, but my best estimation) section of the book could've been written a little bit better. This was a very small amount of the book, but I was definitely pretty bored for this part. Also, I could've done without all the food descriptions. It felt a bit much at times and made me way too hungry, but that's more of a personal problem there. My last complaint was how just about every female character seems to just swoon over Walt. I can't recall a single female that wasn't in love with him. It was pretty eye-roley (is that a word?) at times.

Other than those rather petty complaints, I couldn't have been more surprised at how much I loved this book. It had a plot that was well paced (for the most part), great characters, hilarious banter, Walt's inner monologue was so great and funny, and so many twists and turns that I was dizzy and disoriented by the end. If you're a fan of contemporary mysteries, or just mysteries in general, so yourself a favor and pick this series up.
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