Rainy Day Reads

the cold dish book cover

The Cold Dish

by Craig Johnson
“I think there was an awful lot about him that I thought I knew, but the truth was I was just coloring in the missing parts with colors I liked.”
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Print Length: 354 Pages
Publication Date: March 28, 2006
Publisher: Penguin Books

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As someone who thoroughly enjoyed watching the Longmire TV series on Netflix, I decided it was finally time to delve into the books that served as its source material. Thankfully, the book was every bit as enjoyable as the show. If you’re looking for a compelling story that balances weighty themes with humorous dialogue, then be sure to read on.

In Absaroka County, Wyoming, we find Walt Longmire, a sheriff on the verge of retirement. He finds himself amid an investigation that appears to be a hunting accident at first glance. As he arrives at the scene, he swiftly deduces that the death was not a mishap but rather a murder, evidenced by an eagle feather left as a calling card. Walt identifies the victim as Cody Pritchard, one of four men recently accused of sexually assaulting a mentally challenged Cheyenne Indian girl. With numerous potential suspects having a motive to kill Cody, Walt realizes he has a challenging case on his hands.

From the start, the character development behind Walt catches your attention. He is emotionally raw and relatable, with a sharp and witty sense of humor that adds an enjoyable layer to the story. His inner struggles are evident as well, as he grapples with depression, frequent alcohol consumption, and living in a somewhat disheveled home. These struggles are the result of the loss of his wife to cancer four years earlier, and his grief is apparent to those around him.

Luckily for Walt, he is fortunate to have a trustworthy confidant in his best friend, Henry Standing Bear. Their humorous exchanges add depth to the story and are often a highlight. Henry’s involvement in the neighboring Cheyenne reservation brings a unique perspective to the plot, along with his loyalty and unwavering support for Walt. It’s hard not to love the bond shared between these two.

“Henry figured that the reason the Cheyenne had always ridden Appaloosas into battle was because by the time the men got there, they were so angry with the horses they were ready to kill everything.”

Although the book opens with a promising and intriguing start, it lacks pace and becomes somewhat lethargic towards the middle of the story. Nevertheless, in the later half of the book, the plot picks up again and finishes with an exceptional ending, complete with unexpected twists and turns. Perhaps more seasoned readers will be able to pick up on some of the clues left for the reader.

A minor annoyance that I found with the book were a few references I was unfamiliar with sprinkled throughout the story. While I understand that these references can add to the story’s authenticity, they slowed down my pace as I had to stop and do some research to fully grasp their meaning. These included nods to literature, poetry, and television.

Craig Johnson’s The Cold Dish is a well-crafted mystery novel that boasts a captivating protagonist and a fulfilling conclusion. The character development is particularly noteworthy, and the plot is engrossing. Nevertheless, the book has a few pacing issues, and some of the references may not be readily apparent to readers unfamiliar with the source material. Nonetheless, this is a commendable book that is certainly worth checking out.


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