“No matter what aspect of law enforcement with which you might be involved, there’s always one job you dread. I’m sure at the most complicated venues it’s the terrorists, its serial killers, or it’s gang-related, but for the western sheriff it’s always been the body dump. To the north, Sheridan County has two unsolved, and Natrona County to the south has five; up until twenty-eight minutes ago, we’d had none. There you stand by some numbered roadway with a victim, no ID, no crime scene, no suspects, nothing.” (Page 15)

If you haven’t read a novel in the Sheriff Walt Longmire series written by Craig Johnson you have missed a real treat.  From “The Cold Dish” to “Death Without Company” and the previous novel, “Kindness Goes Unpunished” the author has developed not only a fascinating and complex hero in Walt Longmine, but numerous secondary characters that are just as alive and vital as Walt is to readers. That continues here with his latest release “Another Man’s Moccasins” which begins two months after events depicted in “Kindness Goes Unpunished.”

Sheriff Walt Longmine has returned home to Wyoming and is dealing with the personal and family repercussions of recent events as best as he can. Progress is slow, but steady. At the same time, the recent events have triggered in some way flash backs for Walt of his time in Vietnam shortly before the Tet Offensive in 1968. 

The discovery of a Vietnamese woman in a ditch doesn’t help his contemplative mood or his ability to ignore the past. Summer in Absaroka County is supposed to mean vacation season with folks coming to the rodeo. It isn’t supposed to mean death. The woman was strangled at first and then whoever did it squeezed her neck too hard and broke it, before dumping her lifeless body in the ditch. When Sheriff Longmire checks the nearby culvert he is attacked by a violent homeless man who also has the dead women’s purse. In that purse is a picture of a much younger Walt Longmire, playing a piano half a world away in a bar in Vietnam. A picture that includes a woman who worked in that bar and who bore a striking resemblance to the dead young woman found in the ditch.

With a flashback for nearly every step forward in the investigation, this novel serves to not only tell an interesting contemporary story it also fills in a major part of the Walt Longmire’s life long before he came home and started his 24 years and counting Sheriff’s career. Another election is coming and this is a novel where Walt is not only feeling his age but also finding that so much of his personal life is no longer under his control. The past is never truly past and Walt is attempting to put it back in its tiny compartment and failing because of so many reminders.

Readers that expect the body to fall in a prologue or certainly by paragraph 3 of the first page because that seems to be the rage these days according to writer’s magazines and some publishers will be disappointed as the body doesn’t fall for about 15 pages. Readers that hate flashbacks will be annoyed as the secondary storyline flashbacks number in the double digits and begin before the first body drops.

However, readers who like series featuring characters that become part of the family, books that build on top of each other building depth and life to characters in arcs that carry from one novel to the next, and books that showcase characters that evolve will love this latest novel of the series. Once again Craig Johnson weaves a tale full of the best of people in a morality play set against the backdrop of the Big Horn Mountains.

“Another Man’s Moccasins” is another very good read in a series that is overall very good. Reminiscent of the work by James Lee Burke regarding descriptions, the effect here is just as good and yet at the same time different with Craig Johnson’s own edge. While James Lee Burke’s work these days is pitched against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina, Craig Johnson’s work remains focused more on the basic notion of good and evil and at times, the plight of the American Indian. Unlike Burke who let his editorializing dominate recent releases to the detriment of the story, Craig Jonson consistently puts story first and anything else secondary.

The result is another very good read and one that needs to be read after “Kindness Goes Unpunished.” I would recommend reading the entire series in order if these books are new to you.

Another Man’s Moccasins

Craig Johnson

http://wwwcraigallenjohnson.com

Viking Penguin (Penguin Group USA)

http://www.vpbookclub.com

2008

ISBN #978-0-670-0186-1

Hardback

290 Pages

Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System

http://www.plano.gov/Departments/Libraries/

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

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