Friday, May 28, 2010

Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson

book cover

Junkyard Dogs
by Craig Johnson

Hardback: 320 pages
Publisher: Viking
First Released: 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, my take:
Things are changing in Durant, Wyoming. The owner of a multi-million dollar development of ranchettes wants to get rid of the adjacent junkyard and landfill, but the owner of the junkyard would rather die than move. But not all the members of their families are on hostile terms.

When the modern-day range war turns deadly, Sheriff Walt Longmire discovers that the case and the connections between the families are much more complex than it first appears. He has to solve the case while working through the pain of recent injuries and trying to fix an officer who's now bullet-shy and threatening to quit. And it doesn't help that the wolf-dogs at the junkyard don't seem to like him very much...

Junkyard Dogs is a humorous mystery novel. The first third of the novel was set-up and had more of a general fiction flavor. After the first murder, though, it turned into a fast-paced mystery. The characters were interesting and quirky. The world-building was good. The author avoided my even considering to question "would police really do that?" by having his Sheriff play fast and loose with the rules (much to the dismay of the other characters).

While this was a who-done-it type mystery, the crime and criminal initially seemed obvious, so the Sheriff's method of solving the crime was to follow the most obvious lead as fast as possible and see what happened. As in, there wasn't a lot of stopping to think out who had an opportunity, to study the evidence, etc...though things happened so fast there wasn't much time for that. His method of handling things had some funny results.

My only problem with the novel was that the transitions between some scenes weren't very smooth. We'd have two people at a certain place, then in the next scene one of those people was walking in on the other at another place. The explanation of what happened in the time lapse would come, but this sequence (with no transition between the scenes) threw me out of the story.

There was no sex. There was a minor amount of swearing and a fair amount of cussing. (It averaged about 1 bad word every 2.5 pages, though usually the bad language was all together with long stretches in between.) Overall, I'd recommend the novel as enjoyable, somewhat clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
I tried to get a straight answer from his grandson and granddaughter-in-law as to why their grandfather had been tied with a hundred feet of nylon rope to the rear bumper of the 1968 Oldsmoile Toronado.

I stared at the horn pad and rested my forehead on the rim of my steering wheel.

The old man was all right and being tended to in the EMT van behind us, but that hadn't prevented me from lowering my face in a dramatic display of bewilderment and despair. I was tired, and I wasn't sure if it was because of the young couple or the season.

"So, when you hit the brakes at the stop sign he slammed into the back of the car?"

It had been the kind of winter that tested the souls of even the hardiest; since October, we'd had nothing but blizzards, sifting snowstorms, freezing fogs, and cold snaps that had held the temperature a prisoner at ten below. We'd had relief in only one Chinook that had lasted just long enough to turn everything into a sloppy mess that then encased the county in about six inches of ice with the next freeze.

It was the kind of winter where if the cattle lay down, they weren't likely to get back up: frozen in and starved out.

I lifted my head and stared at Duane and Gina.

"Yeah, when I hit the brakes I heard this loud thump." She shrank into her stained parka with the matted, acrylic fur of the hood surrounding her face and tried not to light what I assumed was her last Kool Menthol.

We all sat in the cab of my truck with the light bar revolving to warn passing motorists of the icy roads. The roads, or more specifically the thick coating of ice on the roads, was what probably had saved Geo Stewart and, if it hadn't been for the numerous 911 calls that my dispatcher, Ruby, had fielded from passing motorists and the stop sign on state route 16, the seventy-two-year-old man would have made the most impromptu arrival into the town of Durant, Wyoming, in its history.

"I guess he slid into the back." Gina Stewart nodded the same way she had when she'd told me she'd been after cigarettes, Diet Coke, and a box of tampons from the Kum & Go, where she worked part-time.

I looked at the bubblegum-pink lipstick that stained her lone smoke. I'd warned her three times not to light up in my truck and tried to ignore the vague scent of marijuana that wafted off the pair. If she was down to her last cigarette, it smelled like they still had plenty of something else.

"He's a tough ol' fucker. That isn't the first time he's come off the roof."


Tina said...

I haven't read it, but Craig has been very good to our local library's in Wyomning, so we are big fans around here. Glad you reviewed it. He's really making his mark in the national fiction community.

Genre Reviewer said...


Thanks for taking the time to comment (and for RTing my Tweet about the book).

Well, I can say that he makes me glad I don't live in Wyomning in winter! Most of the story occurs with cold temperatures and snow frequently falling. But it was fun to read about.