Hot Tip on a Cold Dish

By Velvet Belle Tree

ItÕs always good to find a new author É especially one as good as Craig Johnson.  IÕve found authors many different ways. Sometimes serendipitously, sometimes by recommendation. 

This time, it was my daughter telling me that a boyhood friend of her husbandÕs was having a book signing back in their home town.  She said it was a mystery, and since IÕm a mystery aficionado as well as an sf one, I had to get it.  Well, thatÕs the reason I read The Cold Dish, but itÕs not the reason IÕm recommending it.

The Cold Dish is an excellent novel.  It has the three ingredients that a good novel must have:  interesting characters, good plot and good writing.  IÕm not going to give a plot summary here; you can read that in the reviews on, where you will find that those who reviewed it agreed with my evaluation.

The story takes place in Wyoming.  Johnson wasnÕt brought up there but has lived there for many years. He also has a background in law enforcement.  This is his first published novel.

The back story for the main events in the novel grabbed my interest.  It is based on a shameful event that took place not many miles from my home.  In 1989, a mildly retarded girl was sexually attacked by four high school boys who knew her and her condition.  This took place in an upscale suburb and the boys were all popular athletes.  Johnson transposes the incident to an Indian reservation and uses it as the driving force of the plot.

The novel abounds with interesting characters, starting with the protagonist, Sheriff Walt Longmire. His close friend, Henry Standing Bear is anything but a stereotypical Indian.  Yes, I said Indian, not Native American.  In the novel, and on his web site, Johnson points out that all the Indians laugh when the term Native American is used.

Some of the writing is astonishing, especially for a first novel.  There is one chapter, in which Walt pushes himself beyond his limit to rescue a wounded Henry during a snow storm, that is lyrical and tremendously powerful.

The book is the beginning of a series, the second of which is scheduled for release mid-March.  You can learn more about Craig Johnson from his web site: 

So do yourself a favor and read The Cold Dish.