Book Review: The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson

It’s always a delight to find a new author whose work makes you want to read more and more. That is the case for me with Craig Johnson. I received his latest book The Dark Horse for a birthday present, and once I started reading it, I could hardly put it down. And this is another book that will have a permanent home on my bookshelf.

Being a horse lover, I was intrigued by the title and the cover when I read a review of the book in the Dallas Morning News. The story is set in Wyoming, home of Sheriff Walt Longmire, who was first introduced in Cold Dish and has appeared in three other novels before The Dark Horse.

In this latest story, Walt investigates what looks like a clear-cut murder case, but becomes increasingly complicated. Mary Barsad confessed to killing her husband, Wade, after he set fire to their barn and killed all Mary’s horses. The crime is out of Wade’s jurisdiction in a neighboring county, but he can’t help thinking there is more to the crime than what Mary said. He poses as an insurance agent and goes to the small town of Absalom, where the main attraction is the fights at the local bar, to investigate. That investigation has him digging deep into the history of that forsaken town and unearthing secrets that would have been better left alone.

There is much to enjoy in reading this book: the characters who are well-defined and engaging, the twists of the plot that keep you guessing, the atmosphere of “old west” that permeates the setting, and some of the best narrative I’ve read in a long time.

Here is just a sample: “One strike of lightening followed another in succession and I felt the tingling of intimidation in being the tallest point on the big mesa; then I slipped a boot into the stirrup and made myself taller.”

Johnson has received both critical and popular praise for his novels The Cold Dish and Death Without Company with starred reviews in Kirkus and Booklist. Both novels were named Booksense selections by the Independant Booksellers Association and Killer Picks by the Independant Mystery Bookseller’s Association . As a Penguin paperback, The Cold Dish had a six-week run on the Barnes & Noble top-fifty best-selling mystery list, and made the Booksense Paperback Summer Pick List of 2006.

Wow. No wonder I was so impressed with the book. And now I have to start this great series from book one.

# Hardcover: 336 pages
# Publisher: Viking Adult (May 28, 2009)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0670020877
# ISBN-13: 978-0670020874

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