Review: Hell is Empty by Craig Johnson
Hell is Empty is the seventh book of the Walt Longmire series about a wise-cracking sheriff in Wyoming. Walt’s been through some crazy adventures over the years, but none as dangerous and insane as in Hell is Empty. The book starts with him and his deputy, Santiago “Sancho” Saizarbitoria, delivering a group of convicted killers to federal custody. Things escalate fast. The convicts escape, killing most of the officers transporting them, then take off into the wilderness. On the mountain during a blizzard without backup, Walt does the only thing he can—which is usually the stupidest thing he can do—he goes after them. Alone. Did I mention stupid? In fact Walt admits that it’s stupid and that if he doesn’t survive his other deputy, Victoria “Vic” Moretti” will kill him personally.
Walt’s adventure tracking the sociopath, Raynaud Shade, into the Cloud Peak Wilderness tests his physical and mental strength. Blizzard, fire, being shot at—through it all, he manages to keep his patented self-deprecating humor that makes Walt such an enjoyable narrator.
In the book, Sancho is reading Dante’s Inferno which becomes a theme. According to the questions and answers at the end of the book, Johnson wove the events of Inferno into the action of Hell is Empty. He mentions in the answer that he wanted to make sure the novel was enjoyable for those that haven’t read Inferno. Well, he succeeded. Even without knowing the classic, I was glued to the pages of the book, wondering what idiotic predicament Walt would get into next. And his actions were beyond idiotic at times. But that’s part of his charm. His stupidity when it comes to risking his own life is well documented within the series. There were so many times I found myself yelling at the book: WHY ARE YOU BEING SO STUPID, WALT! Then I’d turn the page to find out why.
Johnson writes compelling mysteries and thrillers, but his knowledge of Native American lore and the human condition are what really make the books unique. And the humor. Walt’s penchant for sarcasm and witty commentary had me cracking up even during the most intense parts of the book. The Longmire series is well worth the time invested in reading all ten (I think it is) novels. They will keep you on the edge of your seat and laughing out loud.