“The Dark Horse – Walt Longmire #5” by Craig Johnson

So, when you’re on the fifth book about an ageing sheriff in a small town in Wyoming, how do you keep things fresh?

You make him become someone else and move him to a different small town and you give him a daunting mission: to prove that the person in his cell, who confessed to murdering her husband, didn’t do it.

The plot in this book takes a little more suspension of disbelief than I’m used to but it was clever, mostly plausible and had some smart twists that I didn’t see coming.

But this wasn’t a book I read for the plot. I sat back and let myself fall under the spell of the storytelling, the quality of the writing and the skill with which Craig Johnson makes the people and the places seem real.

The story is not told in an entirely linear fashion. At the start, we don’t know why Walt is there or what his agenda is. We get glimpses of an earlier timeline, with Walt being Walt in his own town, dealing with a prisoner sent to him as an overflow from the Sheriff in the next County but we don’t know how the stories connect. The Dark Horse idea crops up frequently usually applied in a new way and or to a new person. The plot is a puzzle which Walt doesn’t yet have all the pieces for, although the part of the plot that made me raise an eyebrow was how you go undercover one county over in a town that seems to have a population of about thirty.

The writing reflects Walt’s odd mix of patience and passion, logic and intuition and his dryly humorous self-awareness. It’s easy on the ear yet it’s tightly focused and well-executed.

The people in this story are new, apart from Walt and Henry. I liked the empathy with which the undocumented single mother, the old and almost worn out cowboy, the rancher who is selling up and shipping out and the little boy who still believes in heroes were presented. They were more than plot devices but they also brought the plot alive.I liked the feel for the semi-desert landscape, for a life spent raising horses and for living in a town that doesn’t have any life any more.

That was enough for me. This may not have been the strongest Longmire book but its fed me and made me hungry for more. Book six is already on my TBR pile.

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