Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

As the Crow Flies, by Craig Johnson (hardcover, $25.95), set to be released on 5/15/12

It's fine if Johnson wants to hightail it up to the philosopically elevated heights of the Big Horn Mountains every once in a while (Hell Is Empty), but the people and country of As the Crow Flies is where Sheriff Walt Longmire belongs. Actually, he belongs in Absaroka County, Wyoming, but he's slumming it in Montana on the Rez, getting ready for his daughter's wedding to his deputy's brother. (The small-town interlocking relationships stretch all the way to Philadelphia, where Cady and her fiancĂ© live.)

I love the way this book starts. It's full of Craig Johnson's trademarked humor and snappy white man-red man dialogue. It gets a rollicking book off to a great start. Despite the sometimes bizarre circumstances in which the characters find themselves in the eight books of his Longmire series, there is a naturalness to Johnson's writing. It's hard to believe his characters aren't real. If wishes were fishes, I'd be swimming alongside Walt, best friend Bear, more-than-just-a-deputy Vic, just-a-deputy Saizarbitoria, daughter Cady, predecessor Lucien, and dog Dog.

It's just Walt's hapless luck that he should be planning his daughter's wedding in Montana when he stumbles across a murder, drug dealing, a trap set by federal agents, a peyote ceremony, a grumpy reservation police chief, and bad truck karma.

Speaking of bad truck karma, this passage doesn't really have anything to do with either of the main stories, but it's a shining example of Johnson's enveloping humor. This is Walt trying to get Henry Standing Bear's recalcitrant truck, "Rezdawg," to start:

I climbed out, unhooked the rubber straps behind the grille, pinched my finger into a blood blister with the hood latch, and finally got the thing open long enough for it to close onto the back of my head. I pushed it up again, with more effort and a little anger this time, reset my hat, and stood outside its jaws long enough to make sure the hood would stay up. 
Relatively sure I wasn't going to get snapped again, I wiggled the corroded positive clamp on what had to be the original AUTOLITE STA-FUL battery and thought I'd be happy if the damn thing just STA-CHARGED. The greenish-white buildup on the lug fell away just enough for the worn bare part of the cable to turn and rub against the inner fender and shoot sparks around the engine bay, my hand held in an electrified death grip.

Johnson knows how to tell us a (tall) tale, and better than anyone else except James Lee Burke, he knows how to end it. He brings us to our sentimental knees at the end of his stories without bowing at the twin altars of schmaltz and ham.

Craig will be visiting us this summer (yay!). Look for him on Tuesday, June 19, 7:00 p.m. 

1 comment:

  1. I'll get a copy of this book and read it through Barbara- it sounds great.

    Also, James Lee Burke is my favorite author.