Next to Last Stand | Book Review


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.

Book Reviewed
Craig Johnson, Next to Last Stand (New York: Viking, 2020).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

Land of Wolves | Book Review


Craig Johnson’s fifteenth Walt Longmire novel, Land of Wolves, hit bookstores on September 17, 2019. I didn’t get around to reading it for seven months because, to be honest, I was no longer excited by the series. As I wrote in my review of Depth of Winter, “I’ll give Johnson one more novel in this series to recapture my interest, but at this point, absent a great follow-up novel to this one, I think it’s time for the sheriff to retire.”

I’m happy to report that Walt didn’t retire. With Land of Wolves, we’re back to what made the Longmire novels such page-turners in the first place. It all starts with a dead sheep, killed by a wolf. Or so it appears. But that dead sheep leads to a dead shepherd which leads to the revelation of an unspeakable crime. All this gets peeled back slowly, like taking layers off an onion one at a time.

In my review of Depth of Winter, I complained that Johnson had drawn caricatures rather than believable characters, had tested readers’ willing suspension of disbelief, and had transferred Longmire out of the mystery genre into the suspense genre, which didn’t suit him well. I don’t have those complaints about Land of Wolves.

It’s not a perfect novel. Walt still pulls off too many physical exploits for his age and physical condition. (Especially since he was so badly wounded in the previous novel.) But I’ll give Craig Johnson this: He’s recaptured my interest in the fate of the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming.

I look forward to the next Longmire mystery.

Book Reviewed
Craig Johnson, Land of Wolves (New York: Viking, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

The Western Star | Book Review


The Western Star is the thirteenth novel in Craig Johnson’s series of mystery novels featuring Walt Longmire, sheriff of Wyoming’s (fictional) Absaroka County. It’s also one of the best. How good? I read it in one sitting—four hours glued to my chair wondering what would happen next.

The novel includes three narrative arcs. The first finds Walt in Cheyenne to argue against the parole of a killer he arrested in 1972.

The second takes place in 1972, when Walt is a newly minted deputy of Lucian Connally and accompanies him on a junket of Wyoming sheriffs aboard The Western Star, a steam locomotive from which the book draws its title. When two of the sheriffs go missing, one presumed to have murdered the other, Walt gets dragged into solving the case.

The third narrative arc concerns Tomas Bidarte, a criminal first introduced in A Serpent’s Tooth, who wants to kill Walt, but only after making his family suffer first. These three arcs come together in the book’s explosive conclusion, which, I have to admit, I didn’t see coming. And while they come together, they don’t completely resolve.

In other words, The Western Star made me hope that Craig Johnson finishes his fourteenth Walt Longmire novel really soon. I want to know what happens next.

 

Book Reviewed
Craig Johnson, The Western Star (New York: Viking, 2017).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

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