“Junkyard Dogs – Walt Longmire #6” by Craig Johnson

The Longmire series goes back to its roots: the feuds, follies and felonies of larger-than-life characters in small-town Wyoming.

“Junkyard Dogs” is one of my favourite Longmire stories because, after “Another Man’s Moccasin’s” where spent most of our time learning about Longmire’s youthful experiences in Vietnam and “The Dark Horse” where we left Longmire’s town and Longmire himself behind as he went undercover, “Junkyard Dogs” brought us back to the roots of the series: the life of a beleaguered small-town Sheriff dealing with the feuds, follies and felonies of larger-than-life characters in Durant, Wyoming.

This is a fun book that, even though it’s mostly betrayal and murder and the long reach of organised crime, is dominated by benign, compassionate humour.

The opening incident of the book pretty much sets the tone for the whole thing. As usual, we’re dropped straight into the action and, as usual, neither what is going on nor Sheriff Longmire’s reaction to it are what you might expect.

“I tried to get a straight answer from his grandson and granddaughter-in-law as to why their grandfather had been tied with a hundred feet of nylon rope to the rear bumper of the 1968 Oldsmobile Toronado.“

This bizarre incident introduces us to the Stewart clan who run the local dunp. They are drawn with care and affection, even though they often behave in ways that are at best reckless and at worst show the kind of stupidity that would qualify them for a Darwin Award. These are real people, not just bizarre characters whipped up to provide a laugh at those strange people who live out in the boonies. Walt treats them with respect and compassion, except when one or more of them is trying to kill him.

There is a solid plot here that is more complicated than it at first appears to be and it’s unravelled by patient policework rather than sudden insight. Along the way we get a character-driven picture of day-to-day policing in a small town, at least day-to-day policing in a small town where the Sheriff is a man who doesn’t jump to conclusions, doesn’t give up on his people and who maintains his sense of humour even when confronting terrible behaviour with tragic consequences.

Sheriff Longmire perhaps takes longer than he might have done to work out what was going on and seems always to be at least one step behind the bad guys, but he get there in the end and he manages to do it in a way that shows him to be a kind man who is eternally hopeful that people might rescue themselves from their anger, greed and stupidity.

As usual, my experience of the book was greatly enhanced by George Guidall’s great narration. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample of his magic.

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