Dry Bones by Craig Johnson – The find of possibly the world’s largest T-Rex dinosaur near Durant thrusts Sheriff Walt Longmire into a quagmire of jurisdictions. Danny Lone Elk, the owner of the ranch where the fossil is found, has made a deal for $37,000 to sell the fossil to the local High Plains Dinosaur Museum.
A straightforward business transaction suddenly becomes complicated:
You see, the rancher bought that particular land from a white homesteader in 2000 and exercised his right to have it held in trust for twenty-five years by the U.S. Department of the Interior under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, which allowed him to not have to pay taxes on it. The problem is that in putting your land in trust, either federal of Cheyenne, limits the options of selling it or anything on it.
Then Danny Lone Elk is found dead floating in a turtle pond on his ranch. On his death the land was to be “signed over to the Cheyenne Conservancy”.
Federal officials, the Cheyenne Tribal Council, representatives of the local museum and the Lone Elk Family are all jousting over the T-Rex now known as Jen in honour of the young archaeologist who discovered her.
While an interesting scientific find the real source of the conflict is that the T-Rex is worth at least $8,000,000.
Walt wants to pursue who will benefit from Lone Elk’s death but how could a killer know if the death would actually be beneficial? There are so many competing interests.
A late addition to the mix is a grass roots campaign to keep the fossil in Wyoming which adopts the slogan “Save Jen”.
Walt is also having visions connected to the Cheyenne:
“I was following someone in this dream, and when I got closer I could see it was a buffalo, but when it turned it changed shape into a man, a man with no eyes, just spaces where you could see the stars shining in the darkness – like his head contained the universe.”
It is Lone Elk who was found with no eyes.
Personally Walt is looking to forward to his daughter, Cady, coming home to Wyoming with his granddaughter, Lola. That visit is shattered by a truly startling violent action. Johnson is willing to let his characters experience tragedy.
For two-thirds of the book I was caught up in a plot that concentrated on careful, even thoughtful, investigation. I thought Johnson had shifted from recent books in the series where violence was the solution.
I was dismayed by the final third, not because of the violence involving Cady’s life, but because the plot descended into a conventional Hollywood type of resolution.
Walt’s physical injuries now exceed the long list that Travis McGee endured in the series by John D. Macdonald.
I was doing alright, despite the violence, when the plot headed into a cave. I have rarely found searches in caves to be credible and the journey underground in Dry Bones was no exception.
Had the plot left Walt uninjured and above ground it would have been a great book. Overall it was a good book which is an improvement on recent books in the series. There is less of Walt being the Lone Ranger.