Book review: 'The Dark Horse' by Craig Johnson
When Stars Align
First among victors is Craig Johnson’s The Dark Horse—the only new title we came across to receive stars from all four trades. When Wade Barsad locked his wife’s horses in a barn and burned them alive, she retaliated by shooting him in the head six times. Or did she? Sheriff Walt Longmire investigates. Booklist warns that Longmire’s friend Henry Standing Bear “feels like a tag-along” but assures readers that “Longmire’s shoulders are more than broad enough to carry a book.”
Johnson's mysteries set in the wild West worth a read
Marilyn Stasio, New York Times, June 7, 2009
It's the scenery — and the big guy standing in front of the scenery — that keeps us coming back to Craig Johnson's lean and leathery mysteries. All the books in this series are set in Wyoming and feature Walt Longmire, the sheriff of Absaroka County , who's a good man to have on your side if you're a world-class rider jailed for shooting your husband after he burned down the stable with your horses inside. That's what happens in THE DARK HORSE to Mary Barsad, who refuses to talk about the bloodbath, leaving the sheriff to investigate in his own maverick style.
Working undercover, Walt meets some crusty characters in a bar where beer is served only in cans (“Nobody ever got hurt throwing a can, and nobody in this part of the world ever threw a full one”) and a Powder River Pound-Down Tough-Man Contest is held every Friday night. Walt takes a few punches when he's roped into one of these fights, but that gets him a wild ride on a magnificent horse. And in the end, in one of those surprising grace notes that keep this series from falling into cowboy guff, it's the song of a meadowlark that gives the killer away.
Fiction review: 'The Dark Horse'
Mary Barsad has confessed to shooting her husband, and the gunpowder residue on her hands backs that up. So why has Sheriff Walt Longmire gone undercover in the unfriendly town of Absalom by the Barsad's L Bar X ranch to prove that wrong?
Because Walt just can't shake the feeling that the woman housed -- but not at home, if you know what I mean -- in his Absaroka Country jail awaiting trial is not responsible for the charred body found with six bullets to the head.the fifth in Craig Johnson's series about the lawman from Wyoming , Mary has a lot of motive for wanting her unlikable-to-all-who-knew-him husband, Wade, dead. The intermittent wife-beater took her beloved, prizewinning quarter horse on a one-way trip; a week later, he locked the barn on the rest of her herd and lit it on fire. The fire spread to the house, burning up the already dead man where he lay in the master bedroom.
"The Dark Horse" delivers another solid, winning mystery in Johnson's addictive series, set amid haunting landscapes and with characters who come off the page -- so much so that Johnson has gotten more than one love letter sent to him with a request to forward it to Walt.The books in the Longmire series have won a number of awards for Johnson and "Dark Horse" is already a 2009 "Indie Next list" selection. Which makes for more than one "Dark Horse" in Johnson's latest venture: Publishers Viking and Penguin combined have shipped out more than 120,000 copies, backing up their belief that this could be the breakout book that launches him into best-seller status. His publishers have backed Johnson from the get-go, and fans and reviews have avidly touted the merits of the Longmire series from the first, "The Cold Dish." As one of those who has been an addicted fan from the first, my money's on Johnson.
Book Review by Susan Larson
Wade Barsad just needed killing -- and he gets it in Craig Johnson's "The Dark Horse." Barsad, a newcomer to Wyoming ranching, made plenty of enemies being arrogant, violent and ruthless. His beautiful wife, Mary, was found dazed near the body, with a rifle in her hands and a confession on her lips. Seems Wade burned down the barn with her prize-winning horses inside.
The champion rider winds up in Sheriff Walt Longmire's jail, even though the crime happened in an adjacent county. And something in her confession doesn't seem right to the laconic lawman-hero. Mary isn't talking (or eating), so Longmire goes undercover as an insurance investigator in tiny Absalom, where bar fights and farm auctions seem to be the local entertainment.
A very old cowboy and his very young sidekick join Longmire and his famously eponymous Dog on a trek through battered streets and the mountainous Wyoming wilderness in search of the truth in the fifth entry in the winning Longmire series.
Book Review: Johnson crafts another must-read mystery
By CHRIS RUBICH
Spur Award winner Craig Johnson has another winner on his hands.
Mary takes up residence in Longmire's jail, and he sets out for the down-and-out motel in Absalom, near the burned-out ranch where Wade's bullet-riddled body was found.
Recent novels in this top-notch series have taken Sheriff Walt Longmire out of his Absaroka County, Wyoming, comfort zone to big-city Philadelphia and to his past in war-torn Vietnam. The Dark Horse treads turf similar to the first and strongest two books in the series but with a twist: Longmire’s in the next county over, and he’s working undercover. It starts with a transferred prisoner who’s been accused
Starred Library Journal
In his fifth outing (after Another Man's Moccasins ), Sheriff Walt Longmire goes undercover to prove that Mary Barsad, confessed murderer, did not kill her husband after he shot her horses and set the barn on fire. Walt finds that there is a lot more going on in Wyoming 's remote Powder River area, as he meets a cast of characters with much to hide. VERDICT While not as hardboiled as C.J. Box's crime thrillers nor as humorous as J.M. Hayes's "Mad Dog and Englishman" series, Johnson's deft, twisty storytelling immediately grips the reader. His latest has a heart as big as a Wyoming sky.
PW Starred Review
In Johnson's superb fifth contemporary mystery to feature Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire (after 2008's Another Man's Moccasins), Walt has his doubts about Mary Barsad's guilt when she confesses to shooting her husband, Wade, after Wade allegedly burned down their barn with all Mary's horses inside. Even though the crime is out of his jurisdiction in a neighboring county, Walt can't shake the feeling that there's more to Mary's story. Posing as an insurance agent, Walt starts poking around the tiny town of Absalom, whose main attraction are the fights at the local bar. He meets an illegal immigrant bartender with a knack for crime solving, the Barsads' loyal cowhand and some ranchers who may have had their own reasons for wanting Wade dead. Walt digs deep into the dilapidated town's history, unearthing secrets that might be better left buried. Series fans will delight in seeing Walt return to his cowboy roots as he mounts a horse and navigates the sparsely populated state. 8-city author tour. (June)
Poisoned News Review
Ever since my eye lit on the first paragraph of Walt Longmire's first case The Cold Dish, I've been a goner. Is it the uproarious and frequently outrageous but always apt humor, that weapon the hardboiled crime writer has always wielded alongside dark and ugly deeds to keep readers glued to the page? Is it the character of Walt himself, that often conflicted, frequently rueful, shrewd sheriff of Wyoming's Absaroka County, a man I call a true hero for he's afraid—but he acts anyway. Walt's a loving man, a good employer (the sheriff's office is peppered with characters you can't resist), a devoted father even if his daughter lives a dangerous life in Philadelphia – and then there's Walt's friend, Henry Standing Bear, aka "The Cheyenne Nation," as stalwart a backup as you'd like, and the new recruit, Dog (literally, a big beast). And in this novel, a remarkable and missing horse called Wahoo Sue whose spirit breathes life into the nearly defeated Mary Barsad who is charged with murdering her husband. Walt has gone undercover, posing as an insurance man, in Campbell County to see what the dickens is about to blow Powder River country sky high if Mary and the lid on the crime aren't kept locked down in Walt's jail….
Starred Kirkus Review
The Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyo., follows a hunch to free an allegedly self-made widow. Though his jail is housing confessed killer, Mary Barsad, Walt Longimire has a feeling the horse-loving lady is innocent. Prescription drugs found in her system have left her with little appetite and even less ability to focus on the here and now. Posing as an insurance adjuster, Walt goes to the Powder River country to sniff around. His welcome is less than warm. On the night of the murder, Wade Barsad's ranch house and barn were destroyed by fire, along with his wife's prize cutting horses- all except for Wahoo Sue, Mary's favorite, whom Barsad claimed to have taken out and shot. The long list of people happy to see Wad dead includes his hired hand Hershel Vanskike, whose hopes of fortune rest in an antique rifle, and just about everybody else in a three-county area. When Walt rents a room in Absalom, only a Guatemalan bartender and her half-Cheyenne son Benjamin are willing to talk to him. Though he tries to keep a low profile, Walt gets pushed into fighting Cliff Cly, king of the local Friday night fights. It turns our that Barsad was in the witness protection program and had a lost more enemies than the locals he'd antagonized. After a trip with Hershel and Benjamin to Twentymile Butte shows Cly in a new light, only a meeting with Wahoo Sue saves Walt from death.