Hell Is Empty
A Walt Longmire Mystery by Craig Johnson
Review: Not your lucky day, Longmire. Words the Wyoming Sheriff doesn't want to hear when he learns that the body of a murdered boy is buried within his jurisdiction — and it's up to him to recover it — in Hell Is Empty, the seventh mystery in this series by Craig Johnson.
One Raynaud Shade has admitted to the killing, and is willing to guide the authorities to where he buried the body. But a complicated prisoner exchange that Federal officers have arranged goes horribly wrong when Shade escapes, taking several hostages with him. With a fierce snowstorm bearing down on the region, Longmire goes after Shade … but it soon becomes clear that he's on his own, roads blocked in all directions, trapped on the side of a mountain with a killer leading him on a path that can only result in a confrontation between the two men, the likely outcome being neither surviving it.
Walt Longmire is alone for much of the book, and in an interesting twist for a thriller, the source for much of the suspense. He questions early on why he is pursuing Shade and the hostages on his own, and rationalizes his actions by considering that if he were a hostage with an escaped killer, he'd hope someone was following him. The terrain and weather are all formidable elements against him, and are frequently depicted in a most descriptive manner. Consider this short paragraph:
There was the noise of the wind, like something colossal moving past me, something important — so imperative in fact that it could not pause for me. It was the cleaning sound that the wind made in the high mountain country, scrubbing the landscape in an attempt to make it fresh.
But as his trek wears on, and fatigue and hypothermia set in, the boundary between reality and fantasy in his mind becomes increasingly blurred. How much of what is happening to him is real and how much may be his imagination? Though there are parts of the plot that stretch credibility a bit — there's a tendency to rely too heavily, and at times too literally, on Dante's Inferno for inspiration … though the book's title actually comes from Shakespeare's The Tempest — and parts of the storyline that seem overly dramatic — a firestorm in the middle of a blizzard, for example — the overall narrative is kept grounded by the solid character of Walt Longmire and, somewhat ironically, by the mysticism of Indian lore. Hell Is Empty is not a typical crime novel by any means, but it does make for a fine addition to this particular series.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided a copy of Hell Is Empty for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Viking (Hardcover), May 2010
ISBN-13: 9780670021826; ISBN-10: 0670021822
Viking (Ebook), April 2012
ISBN-13: 9781101592649; ISBN-10: 1101592648
Location(s) referenced in Hell Is Empty: Wyoming
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Hell Is Empty by Craig Johnson — A Walt Longmire Mystery
Publication Date: June 2011
List Price: $25.95