Dry Bones

In the 11th novel of Craig Johnson's mystery series, beloved Absaroka County, Wyo., sheriff Walt Longmire investigates the death of Danny Lone Elk. At first blush, it appears to be an accidental drowning. However, the recent discovery on Danny's property of what may be the largest ever Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton leaves Walt with a sense that it might have been foul play.

Adding to the challenges of ascertaining whether Danny's death was murder or not, the archeological treasure instigates a battle over who possesses the legal rights to "Jen," so named for the scientist who initially discovered the prehistoric vestige. The Lone Elk family, High Plains Dinosaur Museum, Cheyenne tribal council and State of Wyoming all scramble to establish their claims, which leads to a rib-tickling circus-like atmosphere in the small town of Durant, complete with the slogan "Save Jen!"

Even though Johnson's protagonist enforces the law in the least populated county in the least populated state in the country, the series continues to be fresh and innovative. In Dry Bones, Johnson accomplishes this through a "sixty-five-million-year-old cold case" with current social and political implications, as well as via vibrantly complex characters.

Devoted series fans won't feel a sense of déjà vu in Dry Bones, but they will easily identify Johnson's tendency toward innovative imagery ("my brain felt like it was bouncing around like a sneaker inside a washing machine"), crack dialogue, humor and a strong sense of place. Absaroka's maker brings dem bones to life, and readers are sure to rejoice. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

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