Death Without Company - Craig Johnson The publisher's blurb compares Craig Johnson to Ace Atkins, Nevada Barr, and Robert B. Parker. I have no idea what they must have been smoking when they wrote that. I have read some from each and Johnson is better. His use of language is far superior and evocative, not to mention the undercurrent of humor. Walt Longmire is someone you would really like to know; Spenser? Not me.

This is the second of the Longmire series, the third I have read. Probably not necessary to read them in order, but I have decided to do so except for the one I already read out-of-order. Lucien, Walt's predecessor and mentor in the Sheriff's office, has told Walt he needs to have an autopsy performed on Mari, his fellow resident at the assisted living home. Turns out he had been married to her for three days way back when. The investigation goes back many years and involves Basque culture (did you know that 27% of Basques have O-neg blood type -- as I do, coincidentally -- a normally rare type that is valued as it's the universal donor type. I'm rather proud that I am up to 8 gallons now of donated blood.)

Walt's department is such an interesting mix of personalities and stereotype-busters: he has a degree in English lit and quotes Shakespeare; Vic is an ex-homicide detective from Philadelphia with very colorful language. Santiago, the newest addition, is of Basque heritage - Absaroka County has a high percentage of Basques-- who is a linguist. Walt's best friend is Henry Standing Bear who speaks several dialects of Cheyenne (the relationship between the reservation and non-Indians is a recurring theme.)

Absaroka County is a mythical county supposedly about the size of Vermont (9200 sq miles similar to the real Femont county, the seat of which is Lander, population 7,800) and the least populated in Wyoming (unlike Fremont County). There is a real Absaroka mountain range along the border of Wyoming and Montana. For those of you who think it might be unrealistic to have such a small department for such a large territory, consider this. I was talking to Donald Harstad, a former deputy sheriff of Clayton County, Iowa who, incidentally, writes a terrific series of stories. Clayton County covers about 728 square miles in NE Iowa. ( said that at any given time at night in Clayton County, the department could field only two deputies for a dispersed population of about 18,000. That means to get to the site of an accident at the far end of the county requires some very high speed driving over very hilly roads. It's a very scary thought.

As one who has lived in large cities (Paris, Philadelphia, etc.) but also remote farming areas (the closest grocery store was 25 miles and the closest neighbor where I live now is 3/4 of a mile) I think those who grew up only in cities have little concept of the distances in places like Wyoming where the population is not quite 6 people per square mile. That being said, Harstad provides a better feeling than Johnson of the large distances that must be covered. BTW, I could find no reference to any real Cheyenne Indian reservation in Wyoming. There is an Arapaho and Shoshone reservation in west central Wyoming, but the closest Cheyenne reservation is in South Dakota.

Johnson is very good. I intend to read all of them. But read Harstad, too.