Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

Over the summer there was a television show called Longmire on A&E.  When I saw the previews I though it looked intriguing and if I’m totally honest I decided to watch it because Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck, Battlestar Galactica) was one of the main cast members.  She has been connected to a few shows after BSG ended but they didn’t make it past the first season.  The first episode didn’t wow me but I gave it a second chance.  I’m hooked and now that the season is over I thought I should read at least one of the books the series is based on.  The Longmire series by Craig Johnson starts with The Cold Dish and follows Walt Longmire, the Sheriff of the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming.  This is a police procedural but the pacing is much slower than a police procedural that takes place in a big city.  It is easy to imagine that the daily life of Walt Longmire described in the book is exactly what life is like for a county sheriff in Wyoming. 

At the beginning of The Cold Dish, Walt is introduced to us as an aging sheriff nearing retirement.  He spends his days staring out his office window, looking over an old case file and drinking away his nights.  He is a widower and his daughter, a lawyer, lives out East.  When he gets a call from a couple of hard drinking ranchers (apparently they are never sober) who swear they found a body on their land, Walt passes the call off to one of his deputies.  Walt is a good sheriff, but Walt doesn’t really want to work too hard these days. A few years ago Walt investigated the gang rape of a young Cheyenne girl.  The four boys involved didn’t get the punishment they deserved and this is the case that haunts Walt to this day.  As a result there is a lot of tension between Walt and those who live on the reservation.  The dead body Walt did not want to investigate turns out to be one of the boys who participated in the gang rape.  Now Walt is torn between seriously investigating the murder and saying “good riddance to bad trash”.  Walt’s best friend is Henry Standing Bear, owner of the Red Pony bar, Vietnam vet (as is Walt) and well-respected member of the Cheyenne Nation.  Due to the strained relationship between Walt and the tribal police, Henry’s help is essential to Walt’s investigation. Henry also serves another purpose in the book. He has taken it upon himself to get Walt out of the depression he has been in since the death of his wife.  Henry and Walt's daughter conspire to get Walt in shape and start dating.

As with any TV show based on a book there are differences.  The cast members never seem to fit the physical description of the written characters.  Also, some of the character names have been changed but that certainly did not detract from my enjoyment of both the book and the show.  What the book provides is character development and background information that the show was not able to delve into in its short, 10 episode season.  Normally when a TV show is based on a book the first episode is taken from the book plot.  Longmire waited until the last episode of the season to air a plot similar to The Cold Dish.  I enjoyed both the TV show and the book but keep in mind if you are looking for a fast-paced thriller, this is not the series for you.  

~Amy, Adult Services

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