I needed something light and undemanding to read and I decided to turn to Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire series. It was a fortuitous choice.
This sixth book in the series is the best one yet, in my opinion. Johnson is on his game with the dry humor that is the best thing about the series, and the action takes place in Durant so all of those supporting characters that we've come to like so much are there and are doing their thing.
The plot is a somewhat convoluted one with a lot of subplots lurking in the background, and much of the action turns on the fact that it is the dead of winter in Wyoming, just around Valentine's Day, and the temperature hardly gets above zero Fahrenheit. Moreover, there is snow, snow, and yet more snow.
Still, life goes on in its quirky fashion in Durant, beginning with a 72-year-old junkman named Geo Stewart getting accidentally tied to the rear bumper of a 1968 Oldsmobile Toronado that his granddaughter-in-law was driving to the store. The explanation of just how that came to happen leads to even more complications and after that the whole thing really begins to spin out of control.
In an unrelated incident, Geo ends up dead after an altercation with a neighbor whose mother, a retired school teacher, he was having an affair with. The neighbor was a real estate developer who wanted to close down the man's junkyard and build more ranchettes on the property.
It turns out there is more going on on that junkyard property than just the junkyard. The old man's grandson has "a little 4-H project" growing hydroponically in a tunnel under the junkyard. Someone had to finance all the state of the art equipment used in that operation and the money sure didn't come from junk! So, where did it come from?
Meanwhile, a styrofoam cooler with a man's severed thumb tip in it has been found at the junkyard and Walt assigns his deputy Santiago Saizarbitoria, aka Sancho, to find out whose thumb it is and how it came to be there. The only thing is, Walt knows who the thumb belongs to because its owner has been going around town asking if anyone has found it, but the sheriff wants to keep Sancho busy and occupied because he's suffering from PTSD and Walt's afraid he's going to quit.
Walt's best friend, Henry Standing Bear, is living at the jail temporarily because all the pipes are frozen at his place and he has no water; Walt's other deputy and sometime lover, Victoria Moretti, is trying to buy a house; Ruby, the receptionist, is keeping them all straight; and Dorothy at the Busy Bee Cafe is still serving up "the usual" every day.
Walt can hardly move without suffering some unlikely injury, including getting bitten in the butt by a wolf-dog, one of the eponymous "junkyard dogs." He, of course, ignores all of his injuries and carries on in his usual fashion.
Soon, there are more deaths and Walt and his deputies suddenly have plenty to keep them busy, and, along the way, his dog (named Dog) earns his kibble.
This was a thoroughly satisfying read. The incidents depicted are absurd and yet they have a degree of internal logic. And Walt continues to exhibit a kind of Zen-like balance in his approach to life and to policing that is very appealing.
I'm still not happy with the Walt/Vic relationship; it seems forced and not at all "balanced," a departure for Walt and for Johnson, but I can tolerate it as long as the rest of the writing is this good.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars