Craig Johnson grows on one. I was intrigued into reading his first novel, THE COLD DISH, by a review on DorothyL. I wasn't sure what to think of it, for in many ways it turned the rules of mystery writing, if not on their side, at least at a severe angle. Who ever heard of a rural sheriff with a degree in English Literature and who quotes Shakespeare with great regularity? There have been Native American sidekicks before, but rarely one who speaks English with high grammar and never uses a contraction. Said sidekick has a degree in classical literature, but runs a rural bar and is conversant in the languages of four different tribes. And then there is the female deputy-female, mind you, whose favorite word is a four-letter word (or one of its variants) that begins with the letter "f." And the former Sheriff, who still struggles with the fact that the style of law enforcement of the old west is no longer accepted in modern jurisprudence.
However, I was intrigued enough to read Johnson's second book, DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY. I'm glad I did. The same characters are back, as they look into whether the death of an elderly woman in a rest home was a death by natural causes or a murder. In so doing, they look back at the history of Basque sheepherders who settled in Wyoming, after the Second World War, and how their culture and that of the Anglo culture interacted while never mixing.
Sheriff Walt Longmire, a Vietnam War veteran who got his degree in English Literature before being drafted, is the Sheriff of the least-populated county in Wyoming, one that covers about the same number of acres as the State of Vermont. He is sensitive, grieving from the deaths of both his wife, five years earlier, and a woman with whom he was falling in love, in the first novel. His sidekicks are highly educated Cherokee Henry Standing Bear and Deputy Sheriff Victoria "Vic" Moretti, newly separated from her husband and a refugee from the Philadelphia, PA Police Department. Oh yes, she also has a Master's Degree in Law Enforcement. This novel also introduces a new character, Santiago "Sancho" Saizarbitoria, a young, just-out-of-police-academy, educated and married new deputy, who also happens to be of Basque heritage and is a skilled linguist.
Never has rural law enforcement had such a collection of officers-and their education causes them to look at ways of enforcing the law and finding the villains that one would not expect law enforcement to take.
The book is utterly fascinating, and is, in my opinion, better than the first. This one is worth buying AND reading.