Unlike the introductory novel, The Cold Dish, Johnson is now working with some established characters. Sure, there are plenty of new people to introduce, but the core of the first novel is back: Walt, Vic, Ruby, Ferg, Lucian, the Bear, Dog, they’re all here. The new novel plays with the idea that this many murders in this little time means maybe it is time for Walt to retire. This is a small county in Wyoming, the least populated as well. Yet, here we are a few months removed from the action of the last book and there is another murder investigation. Most people seem to think it is actually a matter of old age, but Lucian claims this is murder. And as a favor to the old sheriff Walt actually investigates.
What I like about Death without Company is that the characters are consistent. There are no new surprises coming our way as readers. Walt is very Walt. Bear is very Bear. Ferg is very absent. Lucian is very ornery. This is not a scenario where the characters are doing something that seems uncharacteristic. Vic is not all of a sudden this sweet lady trying to get some guy’s attention. Ruby is not all of a sudden withdrawn. It makes for a stable universe. Johnson wrote these characters to be consistent. The world may be changing, but the characters are the same. Also, a few people are introduced that might be easy to draw in in the future. You have doctors, people who do autopsies, the staff at the nursing home. There are plenty of people that you now know that Johnson can draw upon in the future, which is important if there are going to be a lot more crimes in the series. You can’t claim to have a small population with murders every week. You eventually run out of people.
I also like that the theme of Walt's healing remains present. Henry isn’t harping on Walt to get in shape, but at one point Walt laments that he wishes he had been running more lately. There is another lady interested in Walt. Walt's house continues to be repaired. The themes from the first book carry through and are not just left hanging out in space. The relationships between people are real. There are also a couple of new characters introduced that can bring some depth to the story. Sancho and Double Tough seem like interesting contrasts to Walt, Vic and Ferg on the force. Lana, if she stays around is a really interesting character. In other words Johnson is not doing too much too fast, but letting Durant unfold while presupposing that Walt has been here most of his life. It is also interesting to finally meet Cady, Walt’s daughter. She barely figures into the story, but she is back home.
Finally, I love the way Johnson plays with mysticism. It is really an interesting take to have a White man communing with Native American spirits in a way that is typically not seen in popular culture. I look forward to seeing how this plays out in the future. Overall, I really liked the book. I plan on reading the third in the series. As I look ahead, Johnson’s novels are well liked by critics and fans alike. That is promising as I agree with their assessments.