MysteryPeople Review: DRY BONES (Longmire #11) by Craig Johnson

dry bones


Craig Johnson joins us to speak and sign his latest Longmire tale, Dry Bones, on Thursday, May 21st, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s second floor. All MysteryPeople events are free and open to the public. You can find copies of Dry Bones on our shelves or via bookpeople.com.


Dry Bones, Craig Johnson’s eleventh novel featuring Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire, shows off the author’s gift for handling differing tones and textures at once. He sets the reader up for a tale lighter in tone then his three or four previous novels, with a satirical backdrop framing the narrative. The story delivers its fair share of noir unease, however – Johnson drops a bomb that scatters somber shrapnel all around.

In the beginning he subtly and with humor foreshadows what’s to come, giving us a spoken police-style report on a murder victim that would make Joe Friday proud. The victim is Jen, a Tyrannosaurus Rex who left behind the largest intact fossil of her species in Absaroka County. When Danny Lone Elk, the Cheyenne rancher Jen’s “body” is on, dies in an odd drowning, a legal war erupts between state, local, and tribal governments, not counting the family. With all the big money involved, Walt’s suspicion of murder grows. While looking into Lone Elk’s death, he has to prepare for a visit from his daughter and granddaughter and deal with the dino-politics that has the Absaroka citizenry greeting him with raised fists, declaring “Save Jen.”

For the first third of the book, we’re given a humorous mystery in the vein of Junkyard Dogs, then Walt gets a call. On the other end of the line is tragic news. it has little effect on Dry Bones’ plot, but will pull the series in a new direction. Johnson deftly weaves this personal element into the plot.

Much like someone in Walt’s place, we are in shock, then the book gradually moves back to its initial feel as he continues to work the case while dealing with the fall out from the news. Johnson doesn’t as much shift tone as have one bleed into the other. The humor that still occurs often has more resonance, becoming a refuge for both Walt and us. Johnson also begins to slowly build the seriousness of the crime as well, to reflect Walt’s emotions. He’s even able to end the novel with a light moment.

Dry Bones shows Craig Johnson’s ability to spin several story plates at once. The humor of his characters always comes through believably even in worst of situations. It gives hope those bad times will pass and hope in humanity itself.


Craig Johnson joins us to speak and sign his latest Longmire tale, Dry Bones, on Thursday, May 21st, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s second floor. All MysteryPeople events are free and open to the public. You must purchase a copy of the book to enter the signing line. Can’t make it to the event? Pre-order a signed copy!

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