Death Without Company Reviewed By Wally Wood of
Wally Wood

Reviewer Wally Wood: Wally is a a professional writer and a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He holds a master's degree in creative writing from the City University of New York as well as a bachelor's degree from Columbia University where he majored in philosophy. As a volunteer, he has taught writing in men's state prisons and to middle-school students in his local library.

His first novel, Getting Oriented: A Novel About Japan received positive reviews even from people who do not know him. As a ghost-writer, he has written 19 business books, all published by commercial publishers. He has recently published The Girl in the Photo which is currently available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a trade paperback or Kindle download.

By Wally Wood
Published on January 6, 2018

Author: Craig Johnson

Publisher: Viking Penguin

ISBN: 0-670-03467-3

Author: Craig Johnson

Publisher: Viking Penguin

ISBN: 0-670-03467-3

Walt Longmire, the fictional sheriff of the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming, is the creation of Craig Johnson who now lives in a small Wyoming town that would be in Absaroka County if it existed. 

Johnson says of his background in law enforcement, "It was a large, metropolitan department in the east, which gave me an insight into the procedural aspects of law enforcement that makes writing this kind of novel a little easier. Walking a beat in a city is very different from sheriffing a county the size of Vermont, but there are similarities. I spent a lot of time with another good friend, Sheriff Larry Kirkpatrick of Johnson County, refitting my experiences to a more rural jurisdiction. I rode around with Larry a lot; herding cattle off the highway with a cruiser is a real talent."  

Death Without Company, published in 2006, is the second Longmire mystery; there are now more than 11 and a TV series based on the books.

Among the book's many pleasures: Longmire tells his own story. We never shift point of view to one of the other characters. We have a real sense of his foul-mouthed deputy Victoria (Vic) Moretti, former sheriff Lucian Connally, and Walt's Cheyenne friend Henry Standing Bear. Even the minor characters—an elderly doctor, the Sheriff's Department secretary, a female bank inspector from out of town, and a huge methamphetamine addict—come alive.

Another pleasure: A sense that the novel's winter landscape is exactly as Johnson describes. (Wyoming has barriers ready to block the interstate to all traffic when a blizzard roars across the high plains.) Indeed, the landscape is as important to the novel as any one of the characters.

Finally—although I could go on—Johnson writes wonderfully functional dialogue. Example: Vic asks Walt what he's going to do about dinner:

    "I don't know, maybe go down to the Bee." The Busy Bee was in a small concrete-block building that clung to the banks of Clear Creek through the tenacity of its owner and the strenght of its biscuits and spiced gravy. Dorothy Caldwell had owned and operated the Bee since Christ had been a cowboy. I ate there frequently and, due to its proximity to the jail, so had our infrequent lodgers.

     "I bet she's gone home."

      "I'll take my chances. If worse come to worse, I can always catch the pepper steak over at the Home for Assisted Living."

     She made a face. "That sounds appealing."

     "Better than a plastic-wrapped burrito from the Kum and Go."

     "Boy, you know all the hot spots, don't you?"

     "I have been known to show a girl a good time, yes."

Death Without Company (from a Basque proverb: 'A life without friends means a death without company') gets rolling when an elderly woman dies in the Durant Home for Assisted Living, hardly an unusual or unexpected occurrence. And then the new, young, hotshot medical examiner establishes that she was poisoned. 

Walt begins investigating. Why would someone kill a 74-year-old woman of Basque extraction? Who would kill her? What happened to her long-gone husband? Is there any connection between the woman's death and the guy who tries to kill Walt? Between the old woman's death and an attack on her granddaughter? And why would someone tamper with the brakes of the kindly old assisted living home doctor's classic Mercedes? 

We follow Walt as he talks to people, runs down leads, and gradually comes to understand the history and the circumstances that led to the murder. All in all, satisfying, complex, and plausible.