We've now reached a point where Robert Knott has written four Cole & Hitch novels, the same amount Robert B. Parker wrote before his death. FortunWe've now reached a point where Robert Knott has written four Cole & Hitch novels, the same amount Robert B. Parker wrote before his death. Fortunately, while there have been some rough patches, Knott has improved with this novel, my favorite of his entries to date.
While, of course, neither this novel nor any of Knott's previous novels captures Parker or his characters perfectly, it's not like there are a ton of other Western series on the market to choose from, and this series scratches that itch nicely....more
This being the twelfth book in the Longmire series, I have officially run out of superlatives for its' entries. The quality of the stories hasn't beguThis being the twelfth book in the Longmire series, I have officially run out of superlatives for its' entries. The quality of the stories hasn't begun to waver in the least -- this is actually one of the strongest in the series yet -- and the author's commitment to advancing the character's stories in organic, yet significant ways keeps impressing me, as nobody wants to read a series this long where Status Quo is God. And man, with the unexpected and gut wrenching event halfway through this book, that just can't be said here. If you haven't yet read any of these books, do yourself a favor and start back at the beginning with The Cold Dish, as this series is so much better read in order....more
This book started out very, very slow -- to the point where I nearly abandoned it. But plowing through brought the reward of an action-packed third acThis book started out very, very slow -- to the point where I nearly abandoned it. But plowing through brought the reward of an action-packed third act, complete with shootouts between Cole and Hitch and various outlaws, as well as the culmination of the mystery of who blew up the titular bridge and why. I'm not sure if I'll continue with the series, as I'm pretty sure I have been reading mostly for nostalgia -- the quality has definitely declined since Knott took over for Robert B. Parker -- but all in all, I'm not sorry I stuck through this one, at the very least....more
While I am still enjoying this series, these newer entries written by Robert Knott -- who has done a workmanlike job of attempting to continue the tonWhile I am still enjoying this series, these newer entries written by Robert Knott -- who has done a workmanlike job of attempting to continue the tone, mood, setting, and dialogue of the earlier books -- just don't have the same magic as the Robert B. Parker entries. But they are quick, easy-to-read dalliances with characters I have grown quite fond of, in an oft-neglected genre, so I will likely continue reading them, if only for nostalgic reasons, and not logical ones....more
For as much as I like Leonard's crime fiction, I think his westerns may be even better. This is yet another tightly written short story from the masteFor as much as I like Leonard's crime fiction, I think his westerns may be even better. This is yet another tightly written short story from the master, and I can only wonder at why it wasn't previously published and included in the The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard. It's definitely of equal quality to the stories collected there....more
This book was a return to form after the last entry in the series, A Serpent's Tooth, didn't meet my highest expectations of the Walt Longmire series.This book was a return to form after the last entry in the series, A Serpent's Tooth, didn't meet my highest expectations of the Walt Longmire series. The plot was tight, the characters diverse, the mystery elusive, and the subplot of Walt's daughter's giving birth created a tension -- can Walt crack the case in time to fly to Philadelphia for his grandchild's birth? -- to the entire book. This volume also ties up some loose ends (view spoiler)[how Vic and Walt's relationship was affected by Vic's gunshot wound abortion and inability to have children (hide spoiler)] and left some possibilities for the future of the series (view spoiler)[the revelation that Tomas Bidarte is alive and put out a hit on Walt (hide spoiler)]....more
While there were a lot of interesting aspects to this addition to the series, there were also a lot of little niggling things that bothered me. ThereWhile there were a lot of interesting aspects to this addition to the series, there were also a lot of little niggling things that bothered me. There isn't too much I can say without spoiling the story, but here are a few random thoughts (all of which may have mild spoilers, although I will hide any bigger spoilers):
- Walt went around punching people all book, didn't arrest those that were clearly guilty, and the one guy he did sort-of arrest, he let slip from his control multiple times. Walt was definitely carrying the idiot ball this book.
- The relationship between Walt and Vic that had been glacially developed in fits and spurts over the course of multiple books suddenly took a huge leap forward to a cliffhanging revelation (view spoiler)[There was a huge love-fest confessional between the two of them right before the climax, and then boom, Vic went and got gut shot and her pregnancy, which Walt had not known about, was terminated. Of course, this is exactly where this book leaves off with this relationship. (hide spoiler)].
- Henry Standing Bear, proprietor of the Red Pony Bar, rode along with Walt for most of this book as some sort of volunteer unpaid deputy -- almost taking the role of Dog. I love The Bear's character, and enjoyed spending the extra time with him, but usually he is inserted into the plot more deftly than this, and to greater effect.
- The Powder Junction deputies' plot line(s) were handled awkwardly, although I did enjoy seeing more Double Tough in this book (view spoiler)[And I don't mean that they killed a character, which adds a certain element of gravitas to the series -- even though Frymire was a tertiary character at best -- I mean that they burned Double Tough and had him miraculously survive, only to have Frymire murdered unceremoniously less than a day later. It was an oddly handled bait-and-switch; we got the unearned death of Frymire instead of the earned death of Double Tough. I did like how that plays into Double Tough's macho man nature, though. (hide spoiler)].
- I wish the Mormon splinter cult was explored in greater detail, instead of the left turn that plot-line took (view spoiler)[They wound up being an oblivious front for an illegal oil drilling operation that was siphoning off the Bakken pipeline (hide spoiler)]. Also, the action movie ending didn't fit the tone of the rest of the series (view spoiler)[Especially them not being able to find the body of the bad guy after he'd been shot so many times. That felt like a cheap sequel set-up for a Die Hard movie. (hide spoiler)].
- Did the CIA need to be involved in any way in this already convoluted plot? And did the random rancher that showed up in the beginning really need to turn out to be retired CIA to facilitate that load of coincidences?
- On a less serious note, I loved the introduction of Van Ross Lynear, the crazy patriarch of the Lynear family, that was building spaceships in his yard, and was sure this amazing locale would be revisited for the final showdown, but alas, it was not to be. (view spoiler)[Lynear just fell of his roof naked and died, and the plot-line disappeared completely. (hide spoiler)].
Now that I look back up at that lengthy list, I realize it could be misconstrued that I disliked this book, but that isn't true. I enjoyed it a good deal, I just have high expectations for this series after so many quality entries, and all in all, I think Johnson may have bitten off a bit more than he could chew here. The numerous characters, and their many intertwining actions over the course this book created a bit of dissonance with the overarching theme of parent/child relationships, which is even found in the title, taken from Shakespeare's King Lear:
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is To have a thankless child.
An interesting little story, which could be alternately titled "Stuck Between Three Bears and an Angry Owl," to tide readers over in between As The CrAn interesting little story, which could be alternately titled "Stuck Between Three Bears and an Angry Owl," to tide readers over in between As The Crow Flies and A Serpent's Tooth.
The best part is that a portion of the proceeds go to benefit a charity that helps owls, which will make more sense after reading the story....more
Four unrelated Christmas stories about Walt Longmire:
'Ministerial Aid' featured a hungover Longmire on the New Year's Day following the death of his wFour unrelated Christmas stories about Walt Longmire:
'Ministerial Aid' featured a hungover Longmire on the New Year's Day following the death of his wife being mistaken for a modern day Jesus by a mentally unstable woman. A bit less realism here than in the rest of the series, but enjoyable as a Christmas fable.
'Slick-Tongued Devil' involved Longmire treating a con man with compassion. I didn't care for it, despite the positive message, as I would have preferred reading about Longmire kicking the con man's ass, compassion be damned.
'Toys for Tots' has Longmire meeting a Iraq war vet while out Christmas shopping with his daughter Cady, and brightening his Christmas in a unique way. This was probably my favorite story in the collection.
'Unbalanced' sees Longmire picking up a hitchhiker with a sad story to tell. Not much I can say without spoiling it, but a short enjoyable read, if a bit somber.
While these four stories were each okay, the collection is not a must read, except for Walt Longmire completists....more
Coming after Hell Is Empty, the previous book in the Walt Longmire Mysteries series, this book is a bit of a let down. But that is not much of a knockComing after Hell Is Empty, the previous book in the Walt Longmire Mysteries series, this book is a bit of a let down. But that is not much of a knock, as that book was near perfect.
In this one, sheriff Longmire is preparing -- poorly -- for his daughter's impending wedding and out-of-town in-laws arrival, when he and Henry Standing Bear witness a woman fall off a cliff and die. The death occurring on Rez land leads to confrontations with new tribal police chief Lolo Long, a peyote ceremony with Longmire as the guest of honor, and the involvement of the FBI -- including Walt's old friend Cliff Cly.
While I figured out certain aspects of the mystery quicker than the protagonist, I did not figure out whodunit until the simultaneously tense and satisfying big reveal....more
Considering how well known Abercrombie is for his lengthy novels, he did surprisingly well with this briefer format, a prequel of sorts to Red CountryConsidering how well known Abercrombie is for his lengthy novels, he did surprisingly well with this briefer format, a prequel of sorts to Red Country that introduces the character Shy South. Definitely worth a read before jumping into that novel, to a) see if you like the setting, and b) get acquainted with Shy ahead of the novel.
This story can be found for free on Tor's website here. ...more
The author of this series, Craig Johnson, is not content to churn out paint-by-number mysteries. With each book, he pushes the boundaries of his craftThe author of this series, Craig Johnson, is not content to churn out paint-by-number mysteries. With each book, he pushes the boundaries of his craft -- integrating flashbacks, different settings, non-linear storytelling, playing with tone, etc. -- but what he does in this book may be his crowning achievement.
There is actually no mystery in this Walt Longmire mystery -- it is made clear at the beginning that Raynaud Shade, the prisoner that Walt is transporting, is guilty of killing a child. This book's journey is simply Walt's hunt to find the escaped convict.
The reader, in the absence of a mystery, is treated to a complex and moving character study as said character, protagonist detective Walt Longmire, is put through extensive and numerous trials as he literally climbs more than 13,000 feet to Cloud Peak after Shade in a blizzard, while metaphorically traversing the nine circles of hell accompanied only by -- naturally -- a battered paperback copy of Dante's Inferno, Indian recluse Virgil White Buffalo, and borrowed supplies from big game hunter Omar.
The skill of the writing left me feeling as cold, alone, confused, and exhausted as Walt, but the intensity also left me needing to know what happened next, and how would this resolve when, inevitably, Walt and Shade met at the climax. And despite my earlier insistence that there was not a mystery, there is the very intriguing, if ethereal, mystery of what exactly happened to Walt during his journey up the mountain (view spoiler)[Did he meet up with Virgil at all? Did he hallucinate? Were Indian spirits guiding him? Was that Virgil's hand with the ring on it? Etc. (hide spoiler)].
Note to fans of the Longmire television show: The first episode of season two, Unquiet Mind, is based on this book, with the set-up of that episode being almost identical to the first third of this book, as well as many thematic elements later. If possible, I'd try to read this first, but I didn't do that and I still enjoyed this book immensely. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The best way to highlight what this book is, is by going over what it isn't -- there is no non-linear storytelling, no flashbacks to Vietnam, and no tThe best way to highlight what this book is, is by going over what it isn't -- there is no non-linear storytelling, no flashbacks to Vietnam, and no trips to Philadelphia or anywhere else. While I liked the books that featured those various aspects, I enjoyed this book going back to its roots and what made me fall in love this this series in the first place, a small town character-driven story with its interesting cast of characters in sharp focus....more
This entry into the Walt Longmire Mysteries is an interesting one. While the actual mystery, unraveling the truth of what happened between an unhingedThis entry into the Walt Longmire Mysteries is an interesting one. While the actual mystery, unraveling the truth of what happened between an unhinged wife and the loathsome husband she already confessed to killing, doesn't take him far from home -- just into the next county -- it gives us a number of new perspectives on the protagonist and the setting. This is a reoccurring theme of the series, which, to its credit, is far more character driven than most mysteries.
This book serves as a bit of a coming home for Longmire, as he grew up in on a ranch in this very same neighboring county he returns to here. It also serves as a fish-out-of-water tale, as he makes his first attempt at going undercover -- and likely his last, as he realizes his shortcomings in this department rather early on.
This book also highlights the hardscrabble, frontier town of Powder Junction, a harsher, sparser, piece of Wyoming than where Longmire normally sheriffs. The wonderfully written supporting cast that populates this town includes an aging cowboy, a jackass bar owner, a four-foot tall child bandito, his illegal barmaid mother, and, of course, a dark horse. The only let down is how little of the Absaroka residents -- Henry Standing Bear, Vic, Lucian -- are present, and even then only in brief, unnecessary flashbacks.
Overall, another excellent entry in an excellent series. As I've said before, the highest compliment I can give it, as with any series, is that I have already started the next Walt Longmire Mystery, Junkyard Dogs....more
While it was really nice to revisit two of my favorite gunslinging lawmen -- Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch -- the writing, while passable, was just noWhile it was really nice to revisit two of my favorite gunslinging lawmen -- Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch -- the writing, while passable, was just not the same as when the late Robert B. Parker wrote the pair. Although this was, in fairness, completely to be expected, it was still mildly disappointing.
Robert Knott, the author that continues the series with this entry, is actually familiar to the characters, having written the screenplay to the film adaptation of Appaloosa, the first book in Parker's series.
Knott's experience as a screenwriter is apparent from the direction the series takes. The action is intensified and hits hard right from the beginning, with the book opening with a train heist gone wrong -- wrong for the robbers, that is, because Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch happened to be on the train at that time.
I won't say more about the plot for fear of spoilers, but will say this is definitely worth reading for fans of westerns, but only after reading the preceding four volumes written by the characters' creator first....more
As I noted in my review of the previous book in the series, Kindness Goes Unpunished, Walt Longmire belongs in Absaroka County, Wyoming, and his spendAs I noted in my review of the previous book in the series, Kindness Goes Unpunished, Walt Longmire belongs in Absaroka County, Wyoming, and his spending the previous book in Philadelphia was just not the same experience.
Well there's good news and bad news for this book. The good news is that he is back in Absaroka County where he belongs. The bad news is that half the book takes place in flashbacks from when Walt was in Vietnam.
Still, we get two inter-connected mysteries, an interesting set piece in the ghost town, a great new character in Virgil White Buffalo, and enough of the supporting cast and setting to tide me over to the next book, The Dark Horse....more
As hard as this is to say, considering how much I lauded the first book, this one is even better. The book was tighter and more focused (with the notaAs hard as this is to say, considering how much I lauded the first book, this one is even better. The book was tighter and more focused (with the notable exception of a romantic sub-plot that was dropped before it could get off the ground), and the mystery was more interesting -- and it gave us insight into Walt, Henry and Lucian's pasts. I cannot wait to start reading the third book in the series, Kindness Goes Unpunished, but am purposely staggering them so I don't run through the series too quickly....more
This book approached perfection. The protagonist was a mix of Raylan Givens and Harry Bosch, and the setting was reminiscent of a Jack London adventurThis book approached perfection. The protagonist was a mix of Raylan Givens and Harry Bosch, and the setting was reminiscent of a Jack London adventure.
All the characters of Absaroka, Wyoming are fleshed out to unexpected degree for what I wrongly assumed was "just another mystery novel" in an offbeat setting. There's recently widowed Vietnam veteran turned lawman Walt Longmire, foul-mouthed female deputy Vic Moretti, one-legged former sheriff Lucian Connally, Walt's closest friend and Cheyenne Indian Henry Standing Bear, and many other memorable supporting cast members.
Without giving anything away, the book's mystery was satisfying and it works well as a stand-alone novel. However, I can't wait to jump back into these characters lives in the next book, Death Without Company.
I am ultimately grateful for A&E for adapting the books into Longmire, as I am not sure I ever would have heard of this series if not for the fledgling show. I am also looking forward to watching the show, and I'll try to update this with my opinions after watching it.
Update: I just caught up with the first two seasons of the show, and it is a really good show. While it's not the most faithful and pure adaptation of the books, as there are many inconsistencies regarding specifics, the main characters and overarching themes feel right....more
How could I not read the return of Logen "The Bloody Nine" Ninefingers, my favorite character from The First Law trilogy?
I wrote that last April whenHow could I not read the return of Logen "The Bloody Nine" Ninefingers, my favorite character from The First Law trilogy?
I wrote that last April when details from Red Country first started appearing on the Internet, and then it was released in the States last November, so why I am just getting around to writing this review now, eight months later? Because I had a tough time getting into this book, and an even tougher time finishing it, for a few reasons:
- The book kept alternating between the chase/revenge plot-line of Shy and Lamb, and the secondary plot-line of Temple escaping The Company of the Gracious Hand. This secondary plot-line could have been mostly eliminated, or at least greatly trimmed, to aid the pacing of this overlong adventure.
- Beyond that, there were tertiary plot-lines that also didn't add much to the narrative, such as the awkward appearances of Shivers interspersed throughout the book. (view spoiler)[Yes, I am aware that Shivers appearance at the end of the book is significant, but read my comment on that scene below. (hide spoiler)]
- The book, for as slow as the first three-quarters of it was, had too many climaxes at the end. (view spoiler)[The battle with the Dragon People, the battle to rescue Savian, the confrontation in Crease, the confrontation with Cosca at the farm, and finally the confrontation between Shivers and Logen in Squaredeal. (hide spoiler)] It was a bit overwhelming how many plot-threads needed wrapping up.
- I didn't like the book's final ending. (view spoiler)[Shivers shows up, yes, but backs down from his fight with Logen, and furthermore, tells Logen he will return to the north and herald his death. So why does this immediately send Logen fleeing? (hide spoiler)] I can only see two reasons to why it ended how it did. First, to set up conflict for a sequel, which could have better been done at the beginning of said sequel, if that is the reason, and second, is the possibility that Joe Abercrombie felt the need to maintain his "gritty" image, despite all logic suggesting a different ending.
Overall, the book felt a bit bloated, which is a shame, because there were some great scenes in this book -- like when Temple jumps out of a window naked, or when a mercenary gets unexpectedly pushed off a cliff, etc. They were just a bit too few and too far between.
I get the overall impression that Abercrombie had too many masters to try to please writing this book. Both the fantasy and western genres have rich histories, and a mash-up is bound to disappoint from one, or both perspectives. Additionally, this being a stand-alone book, and not part of the First Law trilogy, Abercrombie had to account for new readers as well as readers like myself, who were looking forward to revisiting characters such as Logen and Cosca, among others.
That said, I did enjoy every moment I got to spend with Logen/Lamb, which also may explain my bias against the other plot-lines. Maybe I didn't get the fast-paced Logen-goes-beserk-on-a-pseudo-Wild-West book I wanted, but the book still has a lot of redeeming qualities and is impressive solely for its stretching the boundaries of speculative fiction.
I read the following on Joe Abercrombie's blog today.
Though I’m very happy with and proud of the result, Red Country was a difficult book to write. I felt at times somewhat uninspired. Somewhat burned out.
This "burn out" showed, and explains a lot of why I feel how I do about this book.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This should really be labeled Volume 3.5, as it does not follow the main cast of characters -- neither Jesse, Tulip nor Cassidy make an appearance inThis should really be labeled Volume 3.5, as it does not follow the main cast of characters -- neither Jesse, Tulip nor Cassidy make an appearance in this volume -- nor does it push forward the main story line.
That being said, these three unrelated back stories are still engaging and do a good job of fleshing out the ensemble cast of the Preacher universe. The first, chronicling how the Saint of Killers became who he is, is the highlight of the three, but the Arseface story is also revealing and worth reading. The story of Jesse's redneck cousins was the only one that I really didn't love, as it was a little too farcical and over the top.
I also didn't like the fill-in artist, Carlos Ezquerra, as much as Steve Dillon, the regular artist for the series....more
This fast-paced western follows the titular Sisters brothers -- two anti-hero gun thug killers -- on a series of adventures through the west coast froThis fast-paced western follows the titular Sisters brothers -- two anti-hero gun thug killers -- on a series of adventures through the west coast frontier. While the language in the novel was clear and concise, the characters were complex and compelling -- especially the story's narrator, the conflicted Eli Sisters -- giving the book a kind of modern cinematic feel to it....more
A fitting conclusion to the tales of Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch -- one that I didn't expect existed, since Parker died not long after the third ColA fitting conclusion to the tales of Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch -- one that I didn't expect existed, since Parker died not long after the third Cole/Hitch book, Brimstone, was released.
I loved the six stories this volume told, I just couldn't tell when one ended and another began, because the chapter headers and the story headers werI loved the six stories this volume told, I just couldn't tell when one ended and another began, because the chapter headers and the story headers were both exactly the same....more