Book Review: Craig Johnson’s Dry Bones

Posted July 21, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Craig Johnson’s Dry Bones

Dry Bones


Craig Johnson

It is part of the Walt Longmire #11 series and is a mystery that was published by Viking Adult on May 12, 2015 and has 306 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books in this series include Wait For Signs

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include The Cold Dish, Death Without Company, Kindness Goes Unpunished, Another Man's Moccasins, Christmas in Absaroka County, Dark Horse, Junkyard Dogs, Hell is Empty, As the Crow Flies, Spirit of Steamboat, A Serpent's Tooth, Any Other Name, Wait For Signs, The Highwayman, "Eleven/Twenty-Nine", An Obvious Fact

Eleventh in the Walt Longmire mystery series based in Wyoming and revolving around Sheriff Longmire. If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Walt Longmire books on my website.

My Take

Johnson is such a tease at the start. I swear. I think I read the opening chapter three times, gave up, and went on reading. That’s when I figured out who that slut was, lol. There’s a good bit of rueful humor in this — damn politicians — as well as those cynical cop one-liners, Brandon’s pip, and Bloomfield’s plea that will have you rolling. You know all the tropes where the good guy gets wounded and has to go to the hospital, and they whine and whimper and complain loudly? Well, LOL, wait’ll you hear Lucian’s experience when he wants to be released. Omigod, *more laughter*.

Johnson gets a touch metaphysical in his stories with the dreams and the Native American visions. Sometimes those visions are as confusing to read as they most likely are for Walt to interpret. I gotta confess the whole conflict over that $37k not being enough money doesn’t ring true for me. That or my brain just isn’t capable of that high finance. If Dave paid Danny that money to reserve the right to dig solely for the museum, and they’ll split any profit from what they dig up, what’s the problem?

Skip, now. Skip is such an ass. It’s mindblowing how quickly he stirs up animosity with his pomposity. He comes prancing in, spouting off about the Antiquities Act and preserving culture, etc., and when you read what they intend to do with the body…ya gotta wonder about our values. Although, I couldn’t turn down that kind of money, either. And yeah, it makes me a hypocrite. Walt intends to punish ol’ Skip (my impression, or is it my wish??) by assigning Vic to guard his body. McGroder solves the nighttime problem: he’ll have an agent knock on Skip’s door every hour on the hour, lolololol. He really cements the impression with that first press conference. The impromptu one? The one for which he’s already applied the pancake makeup? I can’t believe he’s surprised when Walt refuses to come to another one, ROLMAO.

As you keep reading, you may want to skip the next body that’s found. I’m not that squeamish, but I did get urgly as I read about the crime scene.

Nice little tidbit about two of the first paleontologists in the U.S.

I do love the characters in this series. Walt is so low-key. He reminds me of Miss Marple in the way he knows everyone and has a pretty good idea of who is likely to do what. Vic is brash, forward (she’d’a never gotten Walt into bed if she’d waited for him!), and determined to make her point. I adore Henry. He has such a dry sense of humor. He and Walt make a great pair, lol.

“I think I know things from my past, but it turns out I just think I know them; my youth is becoming a mythology to me.”

The Native American focus in Dry Bones is on the problems that ensue if a death is suspicious and the condition of the body. If you’re a Traditional involved with the tribe’s medicine, condition and more becomes much more important.

I do have a M.A.J.O.R. bone to pick with Johnson, and the reason why I’ve downgraded the story from a “5”. The most godawful, heartrending event occurs in this, and Johnson ignores it, except for the occasional mention. WTF?? I mean, I’m grateful (in some ways) that Johnson didn’t dig into this ’cause I’d rather not cry. But, c’mon…??? Henry, Vic, and Walt all have their suspicions, and I don’t understand why Walt doesn’t take Henry up on his offer. Well, okay, I do understand, and the reasons Walt parades out are good ones. Reasons that will make you tear up, but I still don’t agree with them.

Just as an aside, if you see a metaphysical shop offering Medicinal Bi’Shee poultices, don’t buy ’em.

Oh, boy. There’s a minor aside into Walt’s childhood and the type of man his grandfather was. Oh. Boy. Sounds like Walt’s dad was a really great guy. Just goes to show how you can overcome a bad parent.

And, yep, we’ve got the requisite scene in which Walt goes off on his lonesome to track the bad guys. At least this time, it’s not a stupid decision, although Bambino sure tries to make it one, *grin*.

“Save Jen!” ROFLMAO…again

The Story

When the largest, most complete fossil of a Tyrannosaurus rex is discovered in Absaroka County, it would appear to have nothing to do with Walt. That is, until the Cheyenne rancher who finds her is found face down in a turtle pond.

As a number of parties vie for ownership of the priceless remains, including rancher Danny Lone Elk’s family, the Cheyenne tribe, the Deputy Attorney General, and a cadre of FBI men, Walt must recruit undersheriff Victoria Moretti, Henry Standing Bear, and Dog to investigate a sixty-six million year-old cold case that’s starting to heat up fast.

The Characters

Walt Longmire is sheriff of Absaroka County in Wyoming. Dog is a Saint Bernard/German shepherd/plains grizzly. A widower, his daughter, Cady, had her baby girl, Lola, five months ago. Cady, a.k.a., the Greatest Legal Mind of Our Time and Sweet Grass Woman, married Michael Moretti, a policeman back in Philadelphia where Cady practices law. Henry Standing Bear, a.k.a., the Cheyenne Nation, is Walt’s best friend and runs the Red Pony. He’s also Heads Man of the Dog Soldier Society, Dog Soldier Clan.

Victoria “Vic” Moretti is one of Walt’s undersheriffs and his very low-key girlfriend. She’s also Michael’s sister. Lena is Vic and Michael’s mother. Chief of Detectives North is Vic and Michael’s father. Yeah, he and Lena are divorced. Ruby is the police dispatcher. “Sancho” Saizarbitoria and the one-eyed Double Tough are his deputies. The Bobs (Lucian refers to them as AAA with guns) are Bob Delude and Robert Hall, highway patrol partners who can’t wait to get rid of their burden. Former sheriff Lucian Connolly lives in a retirement home and likes a drink. Lana Baroja is Lucian’s granddaughter ( Death Without Company , 2). Mary Jo Johnson runs the nursing home.


The law enforcement version…
…finds Agent-in-Charge Mike McGroder coming out to Absaroka to help with the great dino controversy (see Hell is Empty, 7, for his story). I think Jarod gets stuck, in the end, with guard duty.

Skip Trost is a clueless jerkwad and the acting deputy U.S. attorney who has no trial experience and is determined to make a name for himself on everyone else’s back. Joe Meyer is the Wyoming attorney general and a friend of Walt’s. Dennis Kervin is an attorney from Durant.

“He turned back to me. ‘The press conference was embarrassing.’

‘I know that; I’ve been to your press conferences before.'”

The fuckin’-big-Indian version…
…is Brandon White Buffalo (he’s Crow-Cheyenne) who operates the Sinclair station. Yeah, 375 pounds qualifies Brandon as an FBI, lol. Virgil White Buffalo is the Indian who keeps appearing to Walt in the visions. Lonnie Little Bird is the Cheyenne chief (he cracks me up too! We first met him in The Cold Dish, 1). The mellowed Lolo Long is the Tribal Police chief (As the Crow Flies, 8) and the director of the Cheyenne Conservancy.

Danny Lone Elk owns the family ranch, part of which is on Cheyenne Conservancy land, and he protects the turtles along with his brother, Enic. Danny is also the tribal elder who holds the medicine for the Northern Cheyenne Sun Dance. Randy Lone Elk is Danny’s son who used to work as a conversationist. The trigger-happy Taylor who runs away everyday is his nephew, Eva’s son. Eva is Randy’s shy sister.

Jennifer Watt discovered Jen; she’s a paleontologist and insistent on videotaping everything…can’t trust anyone unless ya got it on tape! She has a Tibetan mastiff. Dave “Dino Dave” Baumann, a paleontologist, is the director of the High Plans Dinosaur Museum.

Omar Rhoades is an outdoor adventurer, outfitter, big-game bon vivant, very wealthy, and a free spirit *eyebrow waggle*! Doctor Isaac Bloomfield is still practicing at Durant Memorial Hospital. Cathi and Chris are local EMTs. David Nickerson is the new head of ER at Durant Memorial Hospital. Janine is Ruby’s daughter and the hospital receptionist. Dorothy owns the Busy Bee Café. Jay is the UPS driver with a forklift. Ernie “Man About Town” Brown is a reporter with the Durant Courant. Chaplain Anthony Keen is from Philadelphia. Evelyn Clymer now works at the grocery store. Dan Crawford is the manager. Bob Barnes is one of the townsfolk at the Red Pony. Doc Joseph Free Bird (he’s NN) is based in Hardin and does a lucrative business in “herbal medicines”. He may have some deals going with the Tre Tre Nomads, an Indian gang.

Mr. Gallmeister is with the Smithsonian; Mr. Matteson represents the Field Museum in Chicago; Ms. Weisheit is with the Fernbank Museum in Atlanta; and, Mr. Aslanides is from the Iziko Museum in Cape Town.

Tomás Bidarte is the poet lariat and killer we met in A Serpent’s Tooth, 9. He’s responsible for almost killing Vic. And he’s not done.

I think a Traditional is an Indian who has gone back to the old ways.

The Cover and Title

The cover is the signature woodcut style from previous stories with Walt in a bright blue shirt, Stetson on his head, rifle in hand as we look down from an aerial view at the split gray skull of the Tyrannosaurus rex discovered in the dry beige Wyoming hills.

The title is a two-fer. Dry Bones is the tune Eva sings as well as the major conflict within the story.