MysteryPeople Review: THE WESTERN STAR by Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest on Tuesday, September 12th, at 7 PM. We’ve followed the Longmire series from its incarnation, and we’re happy to announce Johnson’s latest is as good as any in the series! 

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

WARNING: WHILE NOT GIVING ANY SERIOUS PLOT POINTS AWAY, THIS REVIEW MAY HINT AT SOME OF THE NUANCE AND STRUCTURE THE READER MAY LIKE TO DISCOVER THEMSELVES

9780525426950Craig Johnson understands his hero, the way not every series writer does. We’ve witnessed his put-upon Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire battle depression after his wife’s death, cautiously develop a relationship with his deputy, Victoria Moretti, become a grandfather, and deal with others of life’s challenges, while rounding up the bad guys, all without a false note. This skill is fully apparent in The Western Star where a present day mystery connects to one in Walt’s past, and sets up his future.

The Western Star begins in Cheyenne with Walt and Vic getting re-certified for marksmanship (Obviously, no challenge for Vic). Lucien, the previous Absaroka County sheriff, comes along for the ride, since they are staying with Walt’s daughter and her new baby. Walt and Lucien also have another agenda. A convict has filed for compassionate release, due to a terminal illness. Wanting the man to die in prison, Walt is out to find out about the maneuverings that are making his release possible.

It all goes back to one of his first murder investigations as a deputy. Lucien took him along for a Wyoming Sheriff’s Association meeting that took place on a vintage locomotive traveling across the state, The Western Star. All that can be said without revealing any of the twists or surprises is a murder occurs, leading to a bigger picture when tied to the present.

The Western Star is the novel version of a finely crafted rocking chair – comfortable, sturdy and straight forward, in a way that proves deceptive. It contains a nod or two to Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express and gives that classic a run for its money. Johnson uses seventies references sparingly, yet in an entertaining fashion, so there’s no show-boating in his research. There are plenty of facts that need to be played close to the vest and Craig deals them out at the perfect plot point in a way that is never contrived.

Much of this can be credited to Craig Johnson’s understanding of Walt. Not only does he know Walt, he realizes that after a dozen novels, two novellas, and a short story every Christmas, we have gotten to know him well. He uses it as suspense in the present, given our understanding that our lawman is more interested in justice than punishment, keeping us locked in as we race to discover why he wants to make sure the person dies in prison. With the story on the train, he captures Walt’s hesitancy in emotional manners, less tempered by age, and demonstrates how he started out with the investigative chops we know today, but with a lack of focus he will attain later on.`

It is this understanding of Walt and those around him that make the book work and allow the series to move in a new direction. He picks perfect and believable points to have play against character (try picturing cantankerous Lucien with a baby before reading) and understands the still waters that run dark and deep within them. With The Western Star, Walt’s present and past dovetail beautifully into a satisfying conclusion that sets our hero up for a journey that will define him for books to come.

You can find copies of The Western Star on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Craig Johnson comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest on Tuesday, September 12th, at 7 PM.

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Three Picks for September

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

This month features three series heroes that never disappoint – in serving justice or in providing an entertaining read.

9780525426950The Western Star by Craig Johnson

Sheriff Walt Longmire has to deal with a why-dunnit in the present connected to a who-dunnit he was involved with in 1972 as a young deputy at a Wyoming sheriff’s conference held on a train moving across the state. Johnson tips his hat to Murder On the Orient Express, with a unique mystery that gives the classic a run for its money. Craig Johnson will be at BookPeople September 12th to sign and discuss The Western Star. The Western Star comes out today! You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Craig Johnson joins us to speak and sign his latest on Tuesday, September 12th, at 7 PM

9781617755859To Funk And Die In L.A. by Nelson George

Hunter D, New York’s security man for hip-hop stars, goes to La La Land to find his grandfather’s killer. It is all tied to the Rodney King riots, gangs, and a reclusive funk star from the Seventies. Nelson gives us another tight, tough hard-boiled detective story that also looks at black culture and the politics of art. To Funk and Die in LA comes out today! You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

9780399171444Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet by Reed Farrel Coleman

Jesse Stone’s drinking problem raises its ugly head as he mourns for his murdered love while working a series of crimes connected to a once famous singer and the legend of a lost recording that even involved a Boston PI named Spenser. Coleman takes a look at loss and the human recovery from it while giving us a highly entertaining mystery. Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet comes out next Tuesday – pre-order now!

Murder in the Afternoon Book Club to Discuss: ANOTHER MAN’S MOCCASINS by Craig Johnson

The Murder in the Afternoon Book Club meets to discuss Another Man’s Moccasins by Craig Johnson on Monday, August 21st, at 1 PM on BookPeople’s third floor. You can find copies of Another Man’s Moccasins on our shelves or via bookpeople.com. 

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery 

9780143115526On August 21st, we continue our annual tradition of reading the next novel in Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series. Another Man’s Moccasins is the fourth book in the series and my personal favorite. Unlike previous volumes in the series, Another Man’s Moccasins takes a deeper look into aspects of the Wyoming sheriff’s past that still haunt him.

The book is actually two mysteries, linked by a mysterious woman from Walt’s past. Walt and his deputies get a call alerting them to a body dump – a Vietnamese woman has been found murdered. On her person, they find a photo of Walt’s younger self playing piano in a Saigon bar. To solve his latest murder, Walt must look back to his first murder case as a CID officer.

With its explorations of Walt’s experiences in Vietnam and the past’s relationship with the present, Another Man’s Moccasins gives us much to discuss. We’ll be meeting on BookPeople’s third floor, Monday, August 21st, at 1PM. The books are 10% off to those who attend.

Scott’s Top Ten of 2016 (Make it a dozen. Okay, fifteen or sixteen.)

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

This was a great year for crime fiction. Established authors experimented with new ideas or pushed what they were doing further. People with great debuts in 2015 proved it wasn’t just beginners luck this year. 2016’s new releases were so good, it was difficult to narrow them down, so I put a few together and made it a dozen.

97803991730351. Anything and All Things Reed Farrel Coleman

This year Coleman started a new character, ex-Suffolk-County-cop-turned-sorta-PI Gus Murphy (Where It Hurts), ended the series featuring dwarf detective Gulliver Down (Love & Fear), and delivered a Game Change in the life of Robert B Parker’s Jesse Stone (Debt To Pay.) All of it was executed with a poet’s choice of words, haunting emotions, and believable leads in a struggle to find who they are and what matters to them. He also had brilliant short stories in the anthologies Crime Plus Music and Unloaded. It wouldn’t surprise me if Reed made out some moving grocery lists as well.

97803995743202. The Second Life Of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton

Possibly one of the best crafted crime novels in a decade. Nick Mason finishes a twenty-year stretch in five due to a criminal kingpin who runs his empire from the inside. Upon Mason’s release the kingpin’s lawyer hands him a cell phone that is the condition of his release – he must answer the phone at any time and do whatever he is told on the other end. Everything Hamilton sets up in the first few chapters falls beautifully into place by the end.

97803162310773. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

This dark, morally complex tale looks at ambition and the dynamics of family support for their gymnastics prodigy daughter as the family and community react to a murder that occurs in their sporting community. Abbott further pushes the boundaries of noir.

97805254269434. An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson

Sheriff Walt Longmire, Henry Standing Bear, and Deputy Vic Moretti find themselves having to solve a mystery in a town overrun by a motorcycle rally. Guns, outlaw bikers, federal agents and a woman from Henry’s past all play a part in unraveling the final mystery. Johnson strips down the cast to his most essential characters for one of the most entertaining books in the series.

97800623698575. What Remains Of Me by Alison Gaylin

A multi-layered psychological Hollywood thriller, in which a present-day murder of an actor is tied to the past murder of a director, and the same woman gets blamed for both. Gaylin’s character development beautifully dovetails with a plot that is never revealed until the final sentence. Beautiful, stunning work.

97803991739506. The Innocents by Ace Atkins

The latest and angriest of The Quinn Colson novels has our country boy hero and Sheriff Lillie Virgil solving a torturous murder of a former cheerleader, dealing with the worst aspects of Southern small town society. A book that enrages as it entertains.

97803079612737. Dr. Knox by Peter Spiegelman

Spiegelman introduces us to his new series character, a doctor who keeps his Skid Row clinic afloat by making “house calls” with his mercenary pal to the rich, famous, and criminal, who don’t need anything reported on medical records. A very interesting, complex hero, and an interesting look at L.A.

97812500099688. Murder At The 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane

In Murder at the 42nd Street Library, Con Lehane introduces us to another great new character, Raymond Ambler, Curator of the Crime Fiction Collection for the New York Public Library and amateur sleuth. A satisfying mystery with a lived-in, warm look at friendship and a worker’s look at New York.

97819438181749.City of Rose & South Village by Rob Hart

The seconds and third installments following unlicensed private eye Ash McKenna takes him to two very different places, tracking down a stripper’s daughter in Portland and a solving a murder on his friend’s Georgia commune, charting a progression of a broken man putting the pieces of himself together. Plot and character meld seamlessly into this compelling tale of a lone hero who feels he can not be a part of the society he helps.

978076537485110. Night Work by David C Taylor

This follow up to veteran screenwriter David C. Taylor’s debut, Night Life, has police detective Michael Cassidy protecting Castro during his famous New York visit. Taylor makes the city and period a living, vibrant thing coming off the page.

11. Shot In Detroit by Patricia Abbott9781940610825

This story about a photographer who gets obsessed with a project involving young black men challenges us at every turn about race, class, and art and crime fiction itself. It is a book where the author complements the reader by assuming you are as intelligent and open to difficult topics as she is.

978098913299212. Genuinely Dangerous by Mike McCrary and Kiss The Devil Goodnight by Jonathan Woods

Two dark wild rides through a pulp hell that is pure Heaven for crime fiction fans. if Barry Gifford was still running Black Lizard he would have signed these guys up.

Letters to Santa: Hugo Marston & Walt Longmire

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This year the MysteryPeople staff decided to have some fun with letters to Santa from some of our favorite crime fiction characters. We decided to wind up the blog series with letters from two authors – Craig Johnson, creator of Sheriff Walt Longmire, and Mark Pryor, who gave us US Embassy Director Of Security Hugo Marston. Each sent along a list of the perfect gifts for their heroes. 

Hugo Marston, Director of Security for the US Embassy in Paris, would like to receive this holiday season:

  • A signed, first edition, Sherlock Holmes book.
  • A new pair of Tomy Lama boots.
  • A two-week vacation. For (from?!) Tom.
  • A bottle of Chateau Pichon Lalande, to share with Claudia. Maybe a case, they’re in it for the long haul.
  • A coffee maker that requires no coffee making ability whatsoever.
  • A subscription to The Economist. (To be shared with Emma, his secretary.)
  • News that the new President-elect will be retaining the services of Hugo’s boss, Ambassador J. Bradford Taylor.

You can find Mark Pryor’s Hugo Marston series on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

Sheriff Walt Longmire doesn’t have many needs, but he would appreciate the following items:

  • Rainier Beer Jubilee Half-Quart cans
  • Plutarch’s Lives, eight volume leather-bound set, J&R Tonson &S. Draper, London 1749
  • 20 Rounds 230 grain JHP .45 ACP ammo
  • A gift certificate for “The Usual”, Busy Bee Café
  • And, Ham, any variety (for Dog)

You can find Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

If you like Longmire…

We are getting ready for our favorite sheriff to come to town. Craig Johnson will be here at BookPeople on Tuesday, September 13th at 7 PM to sign and discuss An Obvious Fact, his latest novel to feature Sheriff Walt Longmire, our Pick Of the Month for September. Craig’s visit just so happens to coincide with the book’s release date, so be one of the first to get a copy and one of the first to get it signed! You can find more information about the event and pre-order signed, personalized copies here. If you can’t get enough Longmire, and you’d like to hang out with similar lawmen, we though of these fine gentlemen.


Gabriel Du Pré (creator Peter Bowen)9781497676589

This Montana cattle inspector (or “cow ass inspector” as he refers to his profession) is not only a good investigator, but a champion fiddle player as well. His Métis French-Indian background gives him a unique perspective on Montana culture.

First appearance: Bitter Creek by Peter Bowen


Manny Tanno (creator C.M. Wendelboe)9780425240021

An FBI agent sent back to the place he couldn’t wait to leave, South Dakota’s Lakota Reservation. Along with murder, he has to deal with his old high school rival, now the tribal police chief; his brother, a native rights activist and sometimes suspect; and his old flame. A very human and often humorous look at life on the rez.

First appearance: Death Along the Spirit Road by C. M. Wendelboe


9780393350784Officer Henry Farrell (creator Tom Bouman)

Another fiddle playing lawman, this time in rural Pennsylvania. His jurisdiction and authority can sometimes be questionable, but the violence brought into his town by the meth trade isn’t. Picture a younger Walt Longmire dropped into Daniel Woodrell’s world.

Only appearance (so far): Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman

500,000 Bikers and one Sheriff: MysteryPeople Q&A with Craig Johnson

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Our Pick Of The Month is Crag Johnson’s latest, An Obvious Fact, one of the best to date in his sheriff Walt Longmire series. The Wyoming sheriff, his Cheyenne buddy, and his foul mouthed deputy (and sometimes love interest) from Philly have to solve a mystery during The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in a small town with connections to a woman from Henry’s past.

Craig will be with us on Tuesday, September 13th, at 7 PM, the same day as the book’s release, so come by BookPeople for a chance to be one of the first to get a signed copy! To get everyone excited for Craig’s visit, we got in a few questions in early to one of our favorite authors.

MysteryPeople Scott: I saw this book as your acoustic set, stripping the series down to its three main characters and solving the mystery with little of the drama that has been building in the series. Was this an intentional shift?

Craig Johnson: Well, I try and do something different with each book and I think the stripping down was a result of that, but the drama in the characters lives is always going to be subjugated by the action and pace of the plot. Strangely enough, this may be the funniest and best- paced novel I’ve written–I wish I knew why.

MPS: There is a lot of focus on Walt and Henry’s friendship. What do they provide each other, aside from back up?

CJ: It’s the backbone of the series ever since The Cold Dish when I had to have two individuals who represented their different cultures. I think the bond and most important the easy banter between the two characters is what I enjoy the most. This was a departure in the sense that we learn a little more about Henry’s personal past and that provides a few conflicts between the two men, but even with all the hurdles they face, there’s a camaraderie and a true friendship that never fails.

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