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THE DARK HORSE by Craig Johnson Kirkus Star


by Craig Johnson

Pub Date: June 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-670-02087-4
Publisher: Viking

The Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyo., follows a hunch to free an allegedly self-made widow.

Though his jail is housing confessed killer Mary Barsad, Walt Longmire has a feeling the horse-loving lady is innocent. Prescription drugs found in her system have left her with little appetite and even less ability to focus on the here and now. Posing as an insurance adjuster, Walt goes to the Powder River country to sniff around. His welcome is less than warm. On the night of the murder, Wade Barsad’s ranch house and barn were destroyed by fire, along with his wife’s prize cutting horses—all except for Wahoo Sue, Mary’s favorite, whom Barsad claimed to have taken out and shot. The long list of people happy to see Wade dead includes his hired hand Hershel Vanskike, whose hopes of fortune rest in an antique rifle, and just about everybody else in a three-county area. When Walt rents a room in Absalom, only a Guatemalan bartender and her half-Cheyenne son Benjamin are willing to talk to him. Though he tries to keep a low profile, Walt gets pushed into fighting Cliff Cly, king of the local Friday night fights. It turns out that Barsad was in the witness protection program and had a lot more enemies than the locals he’d antagonized. After a trip with Hershel and Benjamin to Twentymile Butte shows Cly in a new light, only a meeting with Wahoo Sue saves Walt from death.

Walt’s fifth (Another Man’s Moccasins, 2008, etc.) is stunningly descriptive and compulsively readable.