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....moreThis 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)].(less)
This white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat novella about an emergency flight through a blizzard from Absaroka to Denver puts the author's previous holiday...moreThis white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat novella about an emergency flight through a blizzard from Absaroka to Denver puts the author's previous holiday short stories in Christmas in Absaroka County to shame.
This story, a flashback to when Walt had just become sheriff, was unique in that there was no mystery to solve, and it showed the older-generation of characters -- Walt, Lucian Connally, Doctor Bloomfield -- in a very different scenario than usual, under a great deal of stress.
While the suspense was hollow, as we know Walt and company must have survived the harrowing flight, which (even if you haven't read the series) the novella's framing device gives away, I wasn't put off by that because I read this as Christmas miracle tale, and enjoyed seeing the displayed bravery as a form of heroic, action-packed character background for these older gents in the series. In that respect, I also liked the mentions of A Christmas Carol throughout the novella.(less)
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. There...moreWhile 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 Cr...moreAn 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.(less)
Four unrelated Christmas stories about Walt Longmire:
'Ministerial Aid' featured a hungover Longmire on the New Year's Day following the death of his w...moreFour 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.(less)
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 knock...moreComing 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.(less)
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 craft...moreThe 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"]>(less)
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 t...moreThe 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.(less)
This entry into the Walt Longmire Mysteries is an interesting one. While the actual mystery, unraveling the truth of what happened between an unhinged...moreThis 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.(less)
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 spend...moreAs 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.(less)
This book should be sub-titled and/or stamped with the warning: "Walt Longmire goes to Philadelphia." While it was still well written, and had a decen...moreThis book should be sub-titled and/or stamped with the warning: "Walt Longmire goes to Philadelphia." While it was still well written, and had a decent enough mystery, it was missing the charm of Absaroka County, Wyoming, and the supporting characters that live there. Also, the behavior of the Moretti family -- the mother, the father, and the sons -- neared parody at various points in the story.
I am still very much looking forward to reading the next book in the series -- Another Man's Moccasins -- where Walt is back in Absaroka County where he belongs.
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 nota...moreAs 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.(less)
This book approached perfection. The protagonist was a mix of Raylan Givens and Harry Bosch, and the setting was reminiscent of a Jack London adventur...moreThis 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.(less)