Book Review: Craig Johnson’s Death Without Company

Posted November 1, 2012 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 Death Without Company

Death Without Company


Craig Johnson

It is part of the Walt Longmire #2 series and is a mystery that was published by Penguin on March 16, 2006 and has 271 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.
(This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.)


Other books in this series include Wait For Signs

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include The Cold Dish, 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, Dry Bones, The Highwayman, "Eleven/Twenty-Nine", An Obvious Fact

Second in the Walt Longmire mystery series revolving around a sheriff in an obscure part of Wyoming.

If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Walt Longmire books on my website.

My Take

I love Johnson’s writing! A homey setting that makes you feel warm even as the snowstorms rage day after day. A wonderful sense of humor and a close-knit community. Characters who are quirky with their own personalities. Characters you want to spend time with, who care about each other, warts and all. It’s enough to make me want to move to Wyoming.

Bits of useful information and humor just keep dropping into my lap. How to tamp a grave flat. Gathering in reluctant jurors.

It’s a lighthearted start and a hint of sadness that sets the pace which too quickly descends into a horrible dissection of a woman’s life. I do wish Johnson had explained somewhere why Mari’s first choice of husband was so hated by her family. How could her last surviving relative, the cousin, still be so ignorant of what she barely survived?? Arghh, people! Johnson points out that of four Catholic brothers, they only had three children. Sets my mind to wondering.

Massive conflict of interest in this. A lot of lying. A case of past attitudes meeting today’s enlightened state. I do love how Walt resolves this. I had worried about Vic as she can be pretty gung-ho.

The metaphysical intercession in this story is not as overt as in Cold Dish. It’s still there, but you need to be paying attention. I found a comparison that was rather interesting. And very enlightened.

This one made me laugh: “Everything to do with women is foolish and, therefore, absolutely essential”.

The Story

A slow, sweet introduction with a blizzard bearing down with a satisfying sense of social interaction that devolves into heated demands. Mari’s dead and Lucian knows it was murder. Mostly to ease his friend’s mind, Walt arranges for her autopsy despite her family. A good move.

It simply escalates from there. More murders. More attempts at murder. Enough that a pattern emerges, that meshes with what Walt discovers about Mari’s life and the lies he’s been told.

The Characters

Sheriff Walt Longmire has been sheriff at the Absaroka County Sheriff’s Department in Durant long enough to start thinking about retirement. That last set of murders, Vonnie’s especially (Cold Dish), have hit him hard. Cady is his lawyer daughter who works in Philadelphia. The work on his house has slowed down. The coal-bed methane outfits just pay too much and now there’s only Charlie Small Horse to get any work done. Henry Standing Bear is Walt’s best friend and he runs the Red Pony. He’s also one helluva chef. He’s working on a special project in this story. Dog has been inherited from Lucian.

Victoria Moretti is his brilliant young undersheriff who doesn’t hesitate to light into Walt. And yet she stays despite offers from her old job and the FBI. Walt intends for her to take over for him when he does retire. She’s divorced now. Ruby is the police dispatcher during the week as well as the secretary. Jim Ferguson is a part-time deputy. Santiago “Sancho” Saizabitoria is a potential new hire for the department.

Lucian Connally is the retired sheriff. Old school. The man who hired Walt. Lucian now lives at the Durant Home for Assisted Living. After events in Cold Dish, he’s back to work as the weekend dispatcher for the department. Jerry Aranzadi tends bar at the Euskadi Hotel. Dorothy Caldwell runs the Busy Bee diner where Walt eats a lot of meals. Vern Selby is the judge and remembers Mari well. Johnson gets his digs in on computers with his comments on Lois Kolinsky‘s ability to lay her hands on information over at the assessor’s office. Brandon White Buffalo and Lonnie Little Bird have a cameo and we learn how Melissa is doing.

Maggie Watson is the unclaimed property project manager for the state of Wyoming. Seems Durant has been too far off the beaten path for too long. Jess “Double Tough” Aliff is the foreman for the Northern Rockies Energy Exploration company. Cecil Keller is a roughneck for NREE who has his good and bad days, or moments.

Joe Lesky is an assistant at the assisted living home. Anna Walks Over Ice cleans at the home and is holding some secrets. Ellen Runs Horse is her sister.

Mari Baroja was of Basque descent and had a horrible life in some respects, although she did inherit half of the 50,000-acre Four Brothers Ranch when her father died. Back in the 40s, she was forced to abandon the man she did want for the one her family wanted. A bad choice all around. Charlie Nurburn was the husband her family chose for her. Doesn’t say much for them, that’s for sure. Joseph Walks Over Ice is one of Charlie’s illegitimate kids.

David was the oldest child. Lyle Lofton is a lawyer in Sheridan County married to Kay Baroja. Her twin, Carol Baroja-Calloway, lives in Miami. The girls are Mari’s daughters and the most obnoxious women! I so love how Mari manages to shaft ’em! Lana Baroja is Mari’s granddaughter and David’s daughter. She is a trained chef and has opened a bakery in Durant near her grandmother. Father Jolie Baroja is Mari’s cousin suffering from Alzheimer’s. Dr. Isaac Broomfield is a concentration camp survivor and Mari’s doctor. One carrying a lot more secrets than most doctors have to hold.

Bill McDermott is the new, thorough medical examiner from Billings. Wes Rogers is with the Highway Patrol (HP) and about to retire. His wife’s been awaiting this moment for twenty-six years.

Leo Gaskell is a meth head who produces and sells it. He’s considered armed and dangerous.

The Cover and Title

The cover makes me think of a pastel painting with its textures and the coloring in its golds and blues creating a background of cold mountains and barren hills with a cabin tilting downhill with Mari in profile wearing jeans and a fringed leather jacket and holding one of Charlie’s pistols as she prepares to defend herself.

The title is a translation from a Basque quote in which a life without friends means Death Without Company. It’s a bit late yet still lucky for Mari that her friend has friends.