The Dark Horse (Walt Longmire Series #5)

( 69 )

Overview

Walt doubts a confession of murder in this novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Cold Dish and As the Crow Flies, the fifth in the Longmire Mystery Series, the basis for LONGMIRE, the hit A&E original drama series

 

Fans of Ace Atkins, Nevada Barr and Robert B. Parker will love The Dark Horse is the fifth installment in New York Times bestselling author Craig Johnson's Longmire Mystery Series, the basis for LONGMIRE, ...

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The Dark Horse (Walt Longmire Series #5)

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Overview

Walt doubts a confession of murder in this novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Cold Dish and As the Crow Flies, the fifth in the Longmire Mystery Series, the basis for LONGMIRE, the hit A&E original drama series

 

Fans of Ace Atkins, Nevada Barr and Robert B. Parker will love The Dark Horse is the fifth installment in New York Times bestselling author Craig Johnson's Longmire Mystery Series, the basis for LONGMIRE, the hit A&E original drama series. Wade Barsad, a man with a dubious past and a gift for making enemies, burned his wife Mary's horses in their barn; in retribution, she shot him in the head six times. But Sheriff Walt Longmire of Wyoming's Absaroka County doesn't believe Mary's confession. Leaving behind the demands of his upcoming re-election campaign, Walt unpins his star to go undercover and discovers that everyone-including a beautiful Guatemalan bartender and a rancher with a taste for liquor-had a reason for wanting Wade dead.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In Johnson's superb fifth contemporary mystery to feature Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire (after 2008's Another Man's Moccasins), Walt has his doubts about Mary Barsad's guilt when she confesses to shooting her husband, Wade, after Wade allegedly burned down their barn with all Mary's horses inside. Even though the crime is out of his jurisdiction in a neighboring county, Walt can't shake the feeling that there's more to Mary's story. Posing as an insurance agent, Walt starts poking around the tiny town of Absalom, whose main attraction are the fights at the local bar. He meets an illegal immigrant bartender with a knack for crime solving, the Barsads' loyal cowhand and some ranchers who may have had their own reasons for wanting Wade dead. Walt digs deep into the dilapidated town's history, unearthing secrets that might be better left buried. Series fans will delight in seeing Walt return to his cowboy roots as he mounts a horse and navigates the sparsely populated state. 8-city author tour.(June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In his fifth outing (after Another Man's Moccasins), Sheriff Walt Longmire goes undercover to prove that Mary Barsad, confessed murderer, did not kill her husband after he shot her horses and set the barn on fire. Walt finds that there is a lot more going on in Wyoming's remote Powder River area, as he meets a cast of characters with much to hide. VERDICT While not as hardboiled as C.J. Box's crime thrillers nor as humorous as J.M. Hayes's "Mad Dog and Englishman" series, Johnson's deft, twisty storytelling immediately grips the reader. His latest has a heart as big as a Wyoming sky.


—Jo Ann Vicarel
Kirkus Reviews
The Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyo., follows a hunch to free an allegedly self-made widow. Though his jail is housing confessed killer Mary Barsad, Walt Longmire has a feeling the horse-loving lady is innocent. Prescription drugs found in her system have left her with little appetite and even less ability to focus on the here and now. Posing as an insurance adjuster, Walt goes to the Powder River country to sniff around. His welcome is less than warm. On the night of the murder, Wade Barsad's ranch house and barn were destroyed by fire, along with his wife's prize cutting horses-all except for Wahoo Sue, Mary's favorite, whom Barsad claimed to have taken out and shot. The long list of people happy to see Wade dead includes his hired hand Hershel Vanskike, whose hopes of fortune rest in an antique rifle, and just about everybody else in a three-county area. When Walt rents a room in Absalom, only a Guatemalan bartender and her half-Cheyenne son Benjamin are willing to talk to him. Though he tries to keep a low profile, Walt gets pushed into fighting Cliff Cly, king of the local Friday night fights. It turns out that Barsad was in the witness protection program and had a lot more enemies than the locals he'd antagonized. After a trip with Hershel and Benjamin to Twentymile Butte shows Cly in a new light, only a meeting with Wahoo Sue saves Walt from death. Walt's fifth (Another Man's Moccasins, 2008, etc.) is stunningly descriptive and compulsively readable.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143117315
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/25/2010
  • Series: Walt Longmire Series, #5
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 42,459
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson is the author of eight previous novels in the Walt Longmire series. He has a background in law enforcement and education. He lives in Ucross, Wyoming, population twenty-five.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
In his second Matthew Shardlake novel, C. J. Sansom combines historical fiction and the mystery genre to achieve a tour de force of intrigue and suspense. The year is 1540, a time of religious tension, political turmoil, and social strife in England. Henry VIII is showing signs of weakening his support for the religious reforms he and his vicar general, Thomas Cromwell, brought to England, and resurgent papists are plotting to bring Cromwell down. To restore his standing with the King, after falling out of favor for engineering Henry VIII’s ill-fated marriage to Anne of Cleves, Cromwell must find a mysterious ancient weapon of mass destruction known as “Dark Fire,” the formula for which has been found in a London monastery seized by the King.

This tinderbox atmosphere is the setting into which the renowned hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake is plunged. Shardlake has taken on the apparently doomed case of young Elizabeth, the orphaned niece of his friend Joseph. Elizabeth stands charged with killing the son of Joseph’s brother, who had taken the girl in after her parents’ death. Elizabeth will speak to no one, refuses to plead, and will soon be slowly “pressed” to death unless Shardlake can discover the real murderer. Cromwell uses his influence to stay her execution for two weeks, on the condition that Shardlake will help him find “Dark Fire.” Shardlake reluctantly agrees and soon finds himself pressed between Cromwell’s demands, the fate of young Elizabeth, and the evil forces who are trying, with brutal tenacity, to keep him from finding the weapon. It soon becomes clear that not only does Elizabeth’s life hang in the balance, Cromwell’s does too, and Shardlake himself is in grave danger.

But Dark Fire is more than a mystery. In its rendering of the social injustices, political infighting, religious divisions, and racial and class prejudices of Tudor England, the novel brings a tumultuous historical period vividly to life. With only his own moral compass to guide him, Shardlake must navigate these treacherous waters if he is to succeed. And in writing that is at once taut with tension and acutely aware of the large social and political forces bearing down on his protagonist, C. J. Sansom has produced a masterful novel that combines the best elements of suspense and historical fiction.

ABOUT C. J. SANSOM

C. J. Sansom earned a Ph.D. in history and was a lawyer before becoming a full-time writer.

A CONVERSATION WITH C.J. SANSOM

Could you describe the genesis of Dark Fire? What compelled you to write this story?

I had heard of the mysterious ancient weapon, variously known as “Throwing Fire,” “Greek Fire,” and “Dark Fire,” used by the Byzantine armies against the Arabs in the seventh century, the formula for which had been lost but which modern scholars believe was based on petroleum. I thought that having the formula appear in one of the monasteries dissolved by Henry VIII would make a good story. I also wanted to bring back Thomas Cromwell but to show him at a different period, when his power was under threat so that we see a different side to his personality.

How much research did you do for Dark Fire? Does Tudor England have an especially strong hold on your imagination?

Tudor England is a fascinating period to me, especially the reign of Henry VIII with the enormous changes it brought to England. I had already written Dissolution for which my research focused on the Dissolution of the Monasteries. ForDark Fire I had to range more widely, researching Tudor London, the Tudor legal system, and Tudor alchemy and the level of scientific knowledge. However I managed to find books that covered these areas, so as with Dissolution, I spent about two to three months on the research.

What is the main appeal in writing historical fiction? How difficult is it to write about historical figures like Thomas Cromwell in a novel?

If you have a “historical imagination,” if you like to read about past times and imagine what it was like to live then, bringing the period to life in a novel is a very attractive prospect. As for historical figures, especially controversial ones like Thomas Cromwell, I think you have to read the various biographies and other works about them, come to your own conclusion about what they were really like, and set them on the page as characters. That is more restrictive than writing about someone you’ve just created out of thin air, because you have to be true to what is known of their personalities, but rewarding nonetheless.

Did you intend Dark Fire to comment on the politics and increasingly destructive weapons of our own time?

An interesting question. In fact the answer is no, at least not consciously. I had the idea for this book about four years ago, and started working on it at the beginning of 2003. By then the Iraq war, to which I was and remain totally opposed as strategic lunacy, was about to begin, but it wasn’t in prospect when the original idea came to me. Certainly I have tried to portray the dilemmas that a new and destructive technology would bring for members of a society whose technology was primitive—the idea of slaying all one’s enemies as against horror at the destruction that would be caused. But that is more like the dilemma faced by scientists in the Second World War, with the atomic bomb, than anything that is relevant today—after all, the most destructive weapons possible have been in existence since 1945.

On the other hand, the destruction that can be wreaked by religious zealots certain of their cause and prepared to sacrifice anything and anyone to their own vision of revealed truth, is certainly something that is relevant for our time, with the emergence of aggressive fundamentalists in all religions, not least in Christianity where to many “evangelists” today gay marriage is more important than thousands upon thousands of lives wasted in Iraq.

What makes Matthew Shardlake a compelling protagonist and narrator for you?

His mixture of integrity, determination, and vulnerability. He is more vulnerable now that he has lost the religious certainties that he was first starting to question at the opening of Dissolution, but he has a sense of justice and desire for truth that keeps him going for all that part of him would prefer a quiet peaceful life.

Dark Fire is concerned with issues of social justice, class antagonisms, and religious strife. How important are these issues for you personally?

Very important. I’ve touched on that above. England in Henry VIII’s time was in the course of emerging from a feudal to a capitalist society; during the religious revolution of the Reformation the interests of the poor and dispossessed hardly figured either with reformers or traditionalists, at least those in positions of power. Today it seems to me that a theological belief in the effectiveness of barely restrained free markets threatens the present generation with poverty and war, and future generations with fleeing drowned cities in a world consumed by global warming. And now, in the United Kingdom and the United States, those beliefs are bolstered by a sanctimonious religiosity on the part of the rulers. After the re-election of Bush by religious zealots who care everything for their own preoccupations and nothing for the real threats to the world, and who are used and manipulated by those in power, my frame of mind is extremely gloomy. And things are going the same way under Blair in the United Kingdom. He thinks he is a very special man. I think he is a dangerous incompetent, and will be voting next year to get rid of him.

What is the origin and meaning of some of the unusual oaths—“God’s blood,” “God’s death,” “Jesu,”etc.— that frequently appear in the novel?

English “swear words” today are usually sexual words, which seems odd. In Tudor times oaths were concerned with religion. It is only a guess, but I think these terms were originally used to lend emphasis to an argument and then became used more casually as oaths.

Was the practice of Law in Tudor England really as corrupt and arbitrary as it appears in Dark Fire?

In criminal law, yes. The civil law had developed often overelaborate procedures for dealing with disputes between individuals, which were available only to the wealthy, although some lawyers and judges did charitable work. My reading suggests that criminal law was just as arbitrary as it is portrayed in Dark Fire. The penalties, including pressing to death, are accurate and English criminal law had the reputation of being severe in contemporary Europe. It got much more severe under Henry VIII, who also, while using the forms of law in getting what he wanted, leaned heavily on Parliament and the judges. They were frightened of him and Cromwell—with good reason. All the evidence suggests that there was much corruption in the law, though as I have tried to show there were honest lawyers and judges too.

Could you give readers a glimpse of the next Matthew Shardlake novel? Will Matthew and Barak continue to be a team?

The next novel, Sovereign, features the old monster himself—yes, Henry VIII will appear at last. It is set during Henry VIII’s spectacular royal progress from London to York in 1541, when Shardlake and Barak find themselves in unwilling possession of some information that could cause damage to the royal family. Shardlake and Barak will continue as a team—I felt they worked together well in Dark Fire.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • In what ways is Matthew Shardlake an atypical hero in the mystery genre? What are his most appealing qualities? What are his weaknesses?
     
  • Matthew Shardlake takes on two daunting tasks in the novel: to save an innocent girl from an almost certain and gruesomely painful death, and to find “dark fire,” the most destructive weapon in the world at that time. What effects does C. J. Sansom create by having Matthew simultaneously immersed in such different cases?
     
  • In what ways does C. J. Sansom create and sustain suspense and mystery throughout the novel? How does the element of time create added pressure for Matthew and Barak? Were you able to guess who was behind the theft of “dark fire” and the plot to topple Cromwell?
     
  • After discussing the Wentworth case, Lady Honor says: “Poor Matthew. How you take the sufferings of others on yourself” (p. 383). Are we meant to see Matthew as a kind of Christ figure? Whose sufferings does he take on? Why does he feel compelled to do so?
     
  • Near the end of the novel, Matthew asks Guy, “Why does faith bring out the worst in so many, Guy? How is it that it can turn men, papist and reformer both, into brutes?” (p. 461). Which men of faith have behaved like brutes in the novel? Do you think they behave brutally because, or in spite of, their faith? Does the novel illuminate the religious violence in the world today?
     
  • Lady Honor says that Marchmount “lusts after nobility as a pig lusts after truffles” (p. 280). Which other characters are motivated by class ambition, the desire to achieve a noble rank? How does this desire affect their behavior? How does Lady Honor herself feel about her aristocratic lineage?
     
  • What picture emerges of sixteenth-century English society in Dark Fire? What tensions exist between men and women, upper and lower classes, papists and reformers, citizens and foreigners, during the Tudor period? What are living conditions like in London at this time?
     
  • The motto on the barrel of “dark fire” is Lupus est homo homini: man is wolf to man. In what ways does the novel confirm, refute, or complicate our interpretation of that motto? Do the acts of courage, compassion, and self-sacrifice outweigh the acts of violence, selfishness, and deceit in the book?
     
  • What kind of relationship does Matthew have with Barak? In what ways do they complement each other? Why do they initially dislike and distrust each other? How and why does their relationship change over the course of the novel? In what ways do they educate each other?
     
  • Late in the novel, Matthew asks: “Where is my own faith? Where did it go? How did it slip away?” (p.432). Why has hisfaith in God been shaken? Why is he able to act with such moral integrity in spite of his weakening faith?
     
  • Why does Lady Honor reject Matthew? Is her rejection justified? Do you think a marriage between them would have been a happy one?
     
  • In what ways can Dark Fire be read as a cautionary tale for our own time? What lessons does the novel hold for us?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 69 )
Rating Distribution

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(46)

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(13)

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(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 69 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 15, 2009

    The Dark Horse is on my keeper list.

    If you've read the previous Walt Longmire mysteries (Johnson is the 2009 Spur Winner for Another Man's Moccasins), you may already have your copy of the next book, The Dark Horse on pre-order. If Craig Johnson's series is new to you, you're in for a treat. If these western mysteries are already on your "must read" list, you know Walt is the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. You also know he's a tough, fair-minded law officer who won't quit until he solves a case, no matter what the odds. This time the mystery involves a woman who has confessed to a murder many, including the sheriff of the neighboring county, don't believe she committed-not that the victim, her husband, didn't deserve it. He did, after all, set the barn on fire with her prized horses inside it. Walt has agreed to go undercover to discover the truth, and he's lacking the back-up of his trusted deputies.

    But Longmire's not without resources. There's the little bandit, who has an endearing habit of chewing on his hat's stampede strings; there's an illegal alien named Juana with two years of law enforcement training and a yen to use it; an old cowboy who may himself be involved in the murder; and of course, Henry Standing Bear, also known as "The Cheyenne Nation." And then there's Wahoo Sue, a prominent player as Walt and his crew unravel events and outrun a ticking clock in a race against death.

    Johnson has created a wonderful cast of characters in his Walt Longmire series. Each individual springs to life and fills an important role in the story. Walt is a protagonist who is wearing well even after five books, a law enforcement officer who truly realizes he's there to serve and protect. Johnson nails the Wyoming setting, and includes just enough landscape details to put the reader in the picture.

    The Dark Horse is a book you won't want-no, you won't be able-to put down until the final page.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 27, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Johnson produces another spellbinding story centered around Sheriff Walt Longmire

    Craig Johnson brings another dimension to his character of Sheriff Walt Longmire with a captivating story of an accused woman Walt believes may be innocent. Walt attempts to take his bigger-than-life persona undercover in a small Wyoming town with varying results. Without his usual companions in fairly constant attendance, Walt must work out the murky details he is able to unearth. As usual, Craig Johnson is able to make us see the grit of small town Wyoming and the various colorful people that live there. He shows us once again that things may not always be as they seem on the surface and that a dark horse should never be overlooked.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 31, 2012

    Everyone's a Suspect and Johnson Sketches Them with Lines and Shadows

    With a respect for the Wyoming country life, and especially rodeo, this book creates great portraits of the spousal suspect in this murder and the alleged husband arsonist -quote- victim- unquote that destroyed the homestead and ranch, burning the horses inside the barn. You know the sheriff's a good egg when he tucks the ranch manager into bed and seeks to find alternative explanations for a quote - murderess' confession -unquote that landed a desolate woman in his jail. Recommended highly and the tone IS different from the Longmire series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2012

    Good, but not his best

    I tired if jumping back and forth from accounts of previous events to present day.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 10, 2012

    Excellent!

    Excellent! Excellent characters and excellent plot. Had me guessing until the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2012

    love it

    Craig Johnson has a real talent for making his novels come to life, Eagerly waiting for new releases.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2012

    Average - not as good as previous titles in series

    This title in the Walt Longmire series seemed a bit formulaic and weary. It did not compel the same attention and interest as the others.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 7, 2012

    HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK.

    I've read all the books in the Longmire series and this one did not disappoint. Cannot wait for the series to premier on A&E.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2011

    Fantastic reading. Johnson has done a remarkable job in portraying a strong woman. Really brings out the tender side of Walt Longmire.

    Excellent.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2009

    Johnson is a great action author

    If you don't know Craig Johnson's series with Walt Longmire you should!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2015

    I am a big fan of The Walt Longmire series and Craig Johnson. Da

    I am a big fan of The Walt Longmire series and Craig Johnson. Dark Horse is on my read twice list. One of the best in the series IMO, a must read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2014

    Read the whole series!

    If you love a good mystery intertwined with wilderness and small towns, you'll be hooked!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2014

    Had to read it twice!

    I think there's still a lot about Longmire we don't know! Great character, very thoughtful book.

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  • Posted July 25, 2014

    Would recommend it

    Have been reading the series down to the last one, loved them

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2014

    MAP!

    Res 1: bios, res 2: the barn, res 3: annoucements, res 4: training, res 5: weapon area, res 6: map! Res 7: horse race! Res 8: the awards! Res 9: Cabins/dens start there! ~Hunter

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2014

    Ellie

    So u wanna play with my jig boy u should know wht ur fallen for.... do u dare to do this bc im coming at u like a dark horse r u ready for ready for a perfect storm perfect storm.... Theres No Going Back......

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2014

    G

    Du u wanna play with magic? Boy u shud no watcha fallin 4.
    DARK HORSE BY KATEH PARREH

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  • Posted March 7, 2014

    The best Walt Longmire story so far

    I consider myself an animal lover, but horses are far from my favorite animal. Johnson's believable description of a remarkable animal raised my respect for horses several notches. I am reading the Longmire series in order, and I think this one is my favorite so far. Probably due to minimal blood shed, a glimpse into Walt's early life, and some clever twists.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2014

    Ha

    Listening to dark horse right now! :-)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2014

    I m fireheart got that i hate wafles

    Ha

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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