First Line: I pressed in on the knurled end of my Colt 1911A1 with my thumb at the same time rotating the barrel bushing a quarter turn clockwise to free the plug and recoil assembly, my hands working from rote.
Sheriff Walt Longmire is in Cheyenne, Wyoming ostensibly for his weapons recertification, but the real reason why he's there is for the upcoming parole board hearing for a man Walt put in prison many years ago. When he goes out for a beer, a younger sheriff asks him about a picture hanging on the wall. A photograph of twenty-four veteran sheriffs and brand-new deputy Walt Longmire, all armed and standing in front of a Challenger steam locomotive.
That photograph-- and that parole board hearing-- are the catalysts for Walt's past and present to collide head-on. This is a trip that has only one stop: Revenge.
Before I wax poetic about the latest mystery from my favorite writer, I want to warn you about two things. One, if you hate cliffhangers, you're going to hate the fact that The Western Star has one that's going to make your jaw drop. Even I wanted to shake my fist in Johnson's face just a little bit. Fortunately, I tend to be even-tempered about dangling storylines.
What's the second thing I want to warn you about? If you happen to be readers who judge each Longmire novel on how often your favorite characters appear, you may-- or may not-- be happy with The Western Star. This book is 95% Walt and Lucian and 5% Cady, Henry, and Vic. Me? I go where the writer takes me and see how I feel about it when that last page is turned.
His previous novel, An Obvious Fact, had large stretches of humor that kept me laughing, but The Western Star is quite somber. This fits the tone of both storylines. Yes, there are two storylines in this book, and readers travel between fresh-from-Vietnam, brand-new deputy Walt Longmire on the train with Lucian and all those other sheriffs and the Walt Longmire of the present day. Don't worry, it's not confusing; the chapters are clearly marked so we can all keep track of what year we're in. (Sometimes I need all the help I can get.)
Craig Johnson always seems to be able to surprise me. Yes, Walt is Walt, and a character tells him one of the things that makes him so special: [With all you've done], "you've preserved your humanity." But there are the other surprises, like that cliffhanger, and my being blindsided by whodunit when Johnson gives us clues all along the way. And what about all those scenes where Walt is simply being Grandpa to Lola. Watching this big man feed his tiny granddaughter, talk to her, and just sit quietly with her asleep on his chest can melt your heart.
The Western Star is tricky and action-packed, and it does have homages to both Agatha Christie (Murder on the Orient Express) and John Wayne (Big Jake), but one of the sobering thoughts brought up in its pages is one we long-time Longmire lovers don't want to think about. Walt is, though-- retirement. He's been putting away bad guys for a long, long time, he's tired, and when he holds Lola, the end of the trail is looking mighty fine. This next book is shaping up to be very interesting indeed, and I'm going to be among the first to grab a copy.
The Western Star by Craig Johnson
Viking © 2017
Hardcover, 304 pages
Police Procedural, #13 Walt Longmire mystery
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.