‘Dry Bones’ – Walt Longmire #11 by Craig Johnson

When Jen, the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever found, surfaces in Sherriff Walt Longmire’s jurisdiction, it appears to be a windfall for the High Plains Dinosaur Museum – until Danny Lone Elk, the Cheyenne rancher on whose property the remains were discovered, turns up dead, floating facedown in a turtle pond. With millions of dollars at stake, a number of groups step forward to claim her, including Danny’s family, the tribe, and the federal government. 

As Wyoming’s acting deputy attorney and a cadre of FBI officers descend on the town, Walt is determined to find out who would benefit from Danny’s death, enlisting old friends Lucian Connolly and Omar Rhoades, along with Dog and best friend Henry Standing Bear, to trawl the vast Lone Elk ranch looking for answers to a 65-million-year-old cold case that’s heating up fast.

It’s been a year since I last read a Walt Longmire book so reading this one was meeting an old friend and effortlessly catching up with where you left off. Part of that comes from the familiar ensemble cast that I’ve gotten to know over the previous ten books and which have their own novel-spanning story arc. Part comes from the way Walt Longmire looks at the world with calm compassion, tinged with humour. A lot of it comes from George Guidall’s gravelly-voiced narration, which I could listen to all day.

As is often the case with the Longmire books, this one starts off light and a little quirky, slowly drawing me into a situation, a set of people and a location and then gradually becomes darker and sadder, like watching indentations in a rock path fill with water in the rain.

The book opens with the discovery of two bodies, The first is the fossilised remains of a T. Rex that a young palaeontologist and her dog discover while sheltering under a rock overhang. The second is of a body, floating in a lake, surrounded by snapping turtles.

This being the series it is, I knew the two would be related and that murder would be involved and that founding out how everything fitted together would take me on a tour both of the politics and economics of finding and selling a major new fossil and of the family, friends and enemies of the dead man.

All of that lived up to its promise, with the motivations and history being even more complicated than I expected. Along the way, a lot of fun was poked at the posturing of a newly-appointed Acting Deputy Attorney General and Walt was placed in a number of life-threatening situations, mostly involving very bad weather (storms rather than snow this time) and all kinds of people pointing loaded weapons at him.

The one part of this series that I’d grown a little tired of was the importance to the plots of Walt’s mystic moments. Maybe it’s the atheist in me refusing to let go, but I’ve always viewed Walt’s regular communication with the spirits of dead Cheyenne as a sign of mental illness rather than a finely-tuned spiritual connection. It made me smile that, in this book, Victoria Moretti finally calls Walt on his ‘vision thing’ and asks if he’s ever considered asking a neurologist to check out his brain for faulty parts.

The novel-spanning story arc also moved forward with some bad news that I’m sure will change the course of future books and which added to the slow accumulation of sorrow in the book.

I’m glad I went back to this series again. ‘Dry Bones’ has refreshed my appetite for the books which is good because, as of 2022, I still have another eight books left in the series.

I strongly recommend the audiobook version ‘Dry Bones’. George Guidall’s narration is too good to miss. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

2 thoughts on “‘Dry Bones’ – Walt Longmire #11 by Craig Johnson

  1. I know what you mean about Guidall, he’s just so good with this series. I still read the new releases in print, but revisit them with audio, and think I might enjoy them more that way. Perfect match of narrator and series.

    (wish I could offer you some hope with the supernatural/mystical/whatever, but if you think it’s bad now, you’re in for a bumpy ride.)

    Liked by 1 person

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