I don’t think I can say enough good things about the Walt Longmire series. I’ve been a fan for years, ever since I discovered The Dark Horse on Audible. It’s the fifth book in the series and I immediately went back and started on the first. Hell is Empty is the seventh book in the series.
The book details a harrowing day-in-the-life of a Wyoming sheriff named Walt Longmire. While escorting a group of violent criminals to a team of FBI agents, the most dangerous escapes. Walt is the only man able to track the dangerous, and very crazy, Raynaud Shade up the mountains during a snow storm.
Most of the Longmire books blend rich characterization with compelling detective work. As a reader I really believe there is an intrepid, Vietnam-vet sheriff somewhere in Wyoming, solving crimes with his Cheyenne buddy. The stories are engaging without being saccharine or clichéd. And because it’s an ongoing series, I got to know the characters better than most TV shows.
Hell was a refreshing installment. Johnson manages to bring something new to each book while maintaining a consistent tone. The previous entry Junkyard Dogs felt like a misstep, bordering on comedy. It took a long time for the main case to arise and I was wondering where it all was going. With Hell Longmire’s back on form, jumping straight into a mind-bending challenge almost from the beginning.
Even so, the book drags, especially towards the end. I wanted it to be over with several events earlier. That could have just been my own temperament, or the pace at which I read it. There were plenty of great moments to end the story on, but it kept going. The final climax feels, well anticlimactic, after the harrowing moments leading up to it. But with a writer like Johnson, I’m not entirely surprised. He loves to subvert expectations and throw in twists whenever he can.
A special note about the audiobooks: definitely listen to the audiobooks. Narrator George Guidall is fantastic. He brings Walt to life, along with the many colorful supporting characters. This is simply a series that works best with his voice behind it.
TL;DR: get started on the Walt Longmire series. Be sure to get the audiobooks.