Walt Longmire is back in Wyoming, and he still has a long way to go to recuperate fully from what happened down in Mexico. What he doesn't need is a murder investigation, but that's exactly what he gets. The death of a sheepherder looks like suicide at first, but the dead man's connection to a powerful-- and occasionally violent-- local Basque ranching family leads the sheriff to believe he's investigating a murder.
As he searches for information, Walt keeps coming across signs that make him wonder if the spirit of Virgil White Buffalo is trying to lend him some assistance. Normally Virgil only reaches out when a child is in danger, so the stakes are raised when a young boy with ties to the Basque ranchers arrives in town.
To complicate matters even further, a lone wolf has been haunting the Bighorn Mountains, and the locals want the animal dead, the sooner the better before it has a chance to start killing livestock. Walt has his hands full, and he really should be taking it easy...
Whenever there's a new Walt Longmire mystery, it's a cause for celebration even though some of the books in the series may not be exactly what I wanted. That's the power of Craig Johnson's storytelling ability and the lure of the wonderful characters he has created. Each book is a treasure even though some seem to miss the mark. (Oh, to be inside a writer's mind and be privy to the entire story he intends to tell us!) Land of Wolves is an example of one of these books "that's really good, but..." and I think I know why.
After the gut-wrenching time Walt had down in Mexico, he and all his fans were looking forward to being back in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming and spending a lot of time laughing with Vic and Henry and all the rest of the cast. But Walt is hurting, and he has good cause to contemplate his mortality. Is it time for him to turn in his badge, do some fishing, and spend a lot of time with his daughter and granddaughter? It's a decision he feels he has to make, and with the end of his career possibly being in sight, Land of Wolves is more an elegy than a happy homecoming.
The mystery in Land of Wolves is first-rate, and it really kept me trying to figure out what was really going on. There's also humor throughout the book what with office pools and Ruby trying to teach an old dog new tricks, but it all seems to fall a bit flat. Even Vic's trademark humor lacks sparkle, and Henry Standing Bear is seldom there. That shows you how much Walt's decision about his future is weighing on his mind.
But you know what? Even a trip to Absaroka County that turns out to be depressing is much, much better than no trip at all. I'm learning about these beloved characters in all their different moods-- and I'm hoping that the next time we see Walt, there will be a smile on his face.
Land of Wolves by Craig Johnson
Viking © 2019
Hardcover, 336 pages
Police Procedural, #18 Walt Longmire mystery
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore.