Dry Bones
A novel by Craig Johnson
Book review by Jules Brenner
Viking, released 5/12/15, 320 pp., $27.95
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As is his custom, Craig Johnson charms and thrills us with another glimpse at the goings on in Absaroka County, Wyoming, and its satirically amusing, uniquely spiritual and dutiful sheriff, Walt Longmire. Did I say "regular guy?" He is that, but don't challenge him to a fight nor break any county laws. And certainly not both. Stick with his good side and the percentages are a whole lot better for you. You don't want him cranky.


As Longmire tales go, this one certainly has its unique elements. It starts out with him and Undersheriff Vic Moretti getting a call to come see a shocking scene. Out on a pond, the turtle-nipped corpse of Danny Lone Elk, a Cheyenne rancher well known on and off the res, floats face down -- on his own property.

An autopsy to determine cause of death is ordered while an incident comes up that could be related to the rancher's death. Jennifer Watt, a young, up and coming paleontology student working with Dave Baumann, director of the county's High Plains Dinosaur Museum, discovers what the title refers to: a dinosaur fossil, which they're calling "Jen," after its finder.

Billed as "the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex" remains ever found!" -- it's value has several entities vying for ownership of the bones, including the deal the dead man had made with Baumann to give it to the Museum. Other contenders might be Danny's own family, the local Cheyenne Indian tribe, the federal government, and a big budgeted, ruthless group. Then, too, the FBI to help bring matters to a boil.

Was Danny, who assumed the bones were his since they were found on his land, killed to clear the field of claimants?

It's not long before Walt is up to his ears in a mystery that grows more complex and dangerous by the page, causing the sheriff to exercise his unbounded courage while putting himself in the gunsites of some very hostile people.

Walt is up for all challenges along with the various characters who people his life and work. High on that list is best friend Henry Standing Bear, aka, Cheyenne Nation, Victoria Moretti, undersheriff and lover and, of course, Dog. Mixed into the tense atmosphere comes Walt's daughter Cady and baby daughter, Lola visiting from Philadelphia. A visit that turns tragic.

Johnson provides another toothsome adventure with his hero who goes from unbelievable acts of courage to twists of banter and wit laced with ironic logic and humor. He is again exposed to near-death experiences, a tribal spirit of protection and the loving attachment of his crew. While this may not be the best Longmire episode I've read, it will likely satisfy Johnson's brigades of fans and followers.

If you don't yet own Dry Bones and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.