The very first sentence of Johnson’s latest Longmire adventure mentions coal trains. Shortly afterward Lucian Connally, Longmire’s old boss and retired sheriff of Absaroka County, tells a story about ways to die on a coal train. I’m not giving anything away by saying that Longmire uses another of his (how many?) lives to escape a coal shuttle train in the course of his investigations. A little more ragged, a little more scarred, he limps toward the future that includes a very pregnant and emotional daughter Cady, and that irrepressible and foul-mouthed Under Sheriff Vic Morretti.
I don’t think I was aware of coal in Wyoming. “The single largest source of coal in the United States, the Powder River Basin contains one of the largest deposits in the world and has made Wyoming the top coal-producing state since the late eighties.” We hear a lot about coal in West Virginia, but I hadn’t thought about it in Wyoming. This information gave me the impetus I needed to look into the (unsurprising) Wyoming Senator John Barrasso’s position on recent changes to EPA standards on carbon emissions. I wish Walt would weigh in on the logic of his representatives. Something along the lines of “Which do you think is more important: our livelihoods or our lives?"
The timeline in this novel is short…I think all the action takes place in a matter of days. Longmire is not in Absaroka County, but in the neighboring Campbell County, where an old friend of Lucian’s has apparently killed himself. In investigating the death, Longmire uncovers a series of kidnappings of young women that no one in Campbell County seems to consider connected. Lucian describes Walt Longmire as a gun: “Once you point him and pull the trigger, it’s too late to change your mind…you’re going to find out [what the mystery is], one way or the other…I’ve never seen him quit, which is where most of ‘em ain’t up to snuff.” And Longmire doesn’t quit on this one, either, though he’d have plenty of reason to do so.
A white buffalo makes an appearance again in this episode, a symbol considered holy and rare and meaningful. Walt has two dream sequences of this creature, which might mean one’s desires will come to fruition, once at the beginning of the case and one near the end. The case was solved, but not without damage. You may need to refresh your memory about the myth by rereading a portion of the earlier episode, HELL IS EMPTY, in which Walt follows a band of escaped convicts to the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area to search for the grave of a victim called White Buffalo. The whiteout snow conditions featured in that earlier episode are reprised here as well. It sounds deadly.
We meet some new and unforgettable characters, including a young rookie, Corbin Dougherty, and the villain Curtis Hansen, nicknamed “Thor.” But mostly the legend of Walt Long-Arm-of-the-Law Longmire continues to build. Craig Johnson’s Longmire has a compelling view of law enforcement that considers shades of gray and has a dial for “intent.” We like him on our side, at our back, and on our bookshelves.
You can buy this book here: