To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from Next to Last Stand, Craig Johnson’s sixteenth novel featuring Walt Longmire, sheriff of (fictional) Absaroka County, Wyoming. The two previous novels—Depth of Winter and Land of Wolves—garnered polar opposite reactions from me: I hated the former and loved the latter. So, would I love or hate the newest installment in the Longmire series?
The book starts with the death of Charley Lee Stillwater, an African American veteran of World War II and the Korean War, who lived at the Veterans Home of Wyoming, which Longmire and his pals call by its old name, the Home for Soldiers and Sailors.
When the home’s administrator begins to process the items in Stillwater’s room, she discovers a Florsheim shoe box with $1 million in cash, an artist’s study for an unknown larger painting, and dozens of carefully annotated books about George Armstrong Custer, his “last stand” at Little Bighorn, and Cassilly Adams’ famous painting of the same. The original painting was destroyed in a fire in 1946, but it is well known due to the million or so copies printed and distributed to bars around the world by Anheuser-Busch.
The administrator calls in Longmire to figure things out, and the sheriff quickly realizes the obvious questions: Where did Stillwater get all this cash? How do the artist’s study and all the annotated books relate to one another? And is Stillwater’s death related to the answers of the first two questions?
As Longmire, his undersheriff and love interest Victoria “Vic” Moretti, and best friend Henry Standing Bear begin to look into things, a museum curator gets knocked out, the artist’s study disappears, Russian oligarchs make an appearance, along with a long lost heir, and Longmire starts to wonder whether that famous painting really burned up in the first place.
You’ll have to read the novel yourself to find out. As far as I’m concerned, this novel has everything that made me like the Longmire series in the first place. A smart sheriff in a small town solving believable crimes, all written up by a master stylist.
So, you could say I loved this novel. I hope Craig Johnson has at least one more Longmire novel in him. I know that Longmire is getting old and contemplating retirement, but there ought to be a sequel to Next to Last Stand. Right? I mean, the title of this novel all but demands one. I’ll be looking for it in the fall of 2021.
Craig Johnson, Next to Last Stand (New York: Viking, 2020).
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