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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guest Review: Hell is Empty

My next door neighbor Ken, a former deputy sheriff, is making his book review debut.  It is fitting that a former deputy sheriff is reviewing a book about a sheriff.  Read about how he liked Craig Johnson's newest book.

Author:  Craig Johnson

Copyright:  2011 (Viking Penguin) 309 pages

Series:  #7 in The Walt Longmire Mysteries

Sensuality:  some violence

Mystery sub-genre:  western police procedural

Main Characters:  Sheriff Walt Longmire and arch nemesis, Raynaud Shade

Setting:  Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming

Obtained Book Through:  Publisher supplied in exchange for honest review

Well, our action packed, rough and tough hero is at it again.   Sheriff Longmire and Santo, his deputy, are transporting three prisoners, all murderers facing death row, to a mysterious meeting in the heart of the Big Horn Mountains involving several FBI agents and adjoining county sheriffs.  It seems one of the prisoners, Raynaud Shade, a one-eyed Crow-adopted Canadian Indian, is supposed to lead them to the remains of one of his many victims.  Years ago he had killed the young boy of a local family named Owen White Buffalo.  The remains are unfortunately recovered within Longmire’s jurisdiction, and it’s up to Longmire to assist.

Thus the journey into hell begins.  Shade steals the child’s bones, officers are killed, one is severely wounded, and the bad guys (aptly described as “your garden variety psychotic scumbags”) and two accomplices escape and kidnap one agent in the process.  Santo must remain behind to help the wounded agent and coordinate the support that’s on its way.   A bad snowstorm is also developing so Longmire must start a one-man manhunt.  Along his perilous trek he discovers in a supply pack that Santo hurriedly put together for him a book Santo has been reading to “fill in some literary gaps” in his education – Dante’s Inferno.  Longmire remembers passages from this book at some of the most synchronistic moments during the manhunt.

In the process of dealing with the bad guys and the nasty forces of nature, a couple of people assist Longmire.  The most noteworthy is Virgil White Buffalo who appears, disappears, and comes to Longmire’s rescue, always in the nick of time.  But is he real or mystical?  The higher up into the mountains Longmire tracks and deals with the bad guys, the deeper into hell he slides.  Old memories and flashbacks also intrude.  Dante was guided by Virgil and the Sheriff was well assisted by his own Virgil.

This was a very enjoyable read.  The drama of this adventure holds it’s edge throughout the book.  The characters, their interplay, and the plot are well inter-woven and consistent.  The title and the story are fitting; as the author pointed out, the Bard stated in The Tempest, “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”  It’s a good thing the citizens of Durant and Absaroka County, Wyoming, have Sheriff Longmire and his cohorts to diligently serve and protect them.

FYI, A pilot was filmed in the Southwest called LONGMIRE which is based on Craig’s novels. It will air on A&E and stars Robert Taylor as Sheriff Longmire and Lou Diamond Phillips as Henry Standing Bear.

Mystery writer Craig Johnson is featured in this short video and explains how the many hats he has worn helped him become a best-selling author.

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