*Read between 19th – 23rd August 2018
I have to confess to being quite smitten with Walt Longmire and his posse.
Immediately after closing the covers of “Kindness Goes Unpunished”, I found myself reaching for the fourth book, published in 2009, of this magnificent series. And, once again I find myself deep in the captivating world of Absaroka County, Wyoming.
The body of a young Vietnamese girl is found alongside the interstate. Suspicion falls on a terrifying Crow Indian who has been living in a nearby drainage culvert. The Crow’s guilt is all but confirmed by the discovery of the dead girl’s purse among his meagre possessions. However, Longmire is not so certain this is a simple open and shut case. Especially when a photograph found in the girl’s purse shows a man bearing an uncanny similarity to our sheriff.
The author, Mr Johnson, has woven an intriguing and engaging mystery that slips between Longmire’s present-day investigation and a crime from his days as a military policeman during the Vietnam War in 1967. Both strands of the tale are woven together intricately and the two timelines blend seamlessly in the narrative as the gripping plot hurtles towards a satisfyingly thrilling conclusion.
Along the route, we learn a great deal more about Longmire’s past. We discover some of the reasons that he is the man he has now become. This journey into Walt’s past really solidifies his status as a heroic figure and as a solid, dependable man upon whom the reader can rely on and have faith in.
The story seems, to this reader anyway, to be an especially personal tale. From what few details I have learned about the author from the internet, I know that he is too young to have served in Vietnam himself, but I wonder if Longmire’s experiences in that conflict are drawn from the history of Mr Johnson’s own family members. Maybe this isn’t so. Maybe it is simply that he is a very accomplished writer. Whatever the source of his inspiration, Mr Johnson conveys the experiences and emotions vividly in his writing.
As with the previous tales, this mystery has all the traits required of a first-class crime novel. Suspicious characters, each with their own shady motivations, appear to throw Longmire, and the reader, off the trail. Seemingly insignificant clues are left scattered along the way before, in classic crime fiction style, revealing their importance in the solving of the mystery. And, truly satisfying this is too.
It is with the characters that the author really pulls this reader in. He brings to life those that appear solely in each individual book – the victims, the culprits and the assorted cast needed to propel the tale along – giving each one depth and flavour and sprinkling them with sympathy or villainy as required. But it is in writing and developing, the regulars where Mr Johnson excels. With each passing book, we discover more about Longmire, Vic, Cady et al, as the author gently adds layer upon layer to their individual histories.
We are on passengers with them all. Willingly along for the ride and eager to share and be part of their adventures. And, for me, the adventure continues with book five, as I prepare to saddle up and ride “The Dark Horse”.