Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth

A SERPENT'S TOOTH (Walt Longmire #9)
Craig Johnson
June 3013

Early in A Serpent's Tooth, Walt Longmire's under sheriff, Vic Moretti, poses the question, "Do you think there are more crazy people in our county than anywhere else?" It certainly seems so when one of Walt's constituents tells him about an angel who is doing home repair for her. She has never seen this angel but she leaves a list for him when she goes out on errands and the chores are done when she returns. This angel likes her fried chicken and sometimes takes a shower, but always cleans up after himself. When Walt and Vic investigate they discover a skinny 15 year-old named Cord Lynear. Cord is a Mormon "lost boy", one supposedly kicked out of his community for undesirable behavior. Cord is dangerously naive and amazingly slippery. He also comes equipped with a "bodyguard", an old man who claims to be 200 year-old Orrin Porter Rockwell, legendary enforcer of the early Mormon Church.

Walt was unaware of any Mormon settlements in the area and sets out to find the boy's mother. When he arrives at the compound he does not find the mother but discovers a polygamous cult, armed to the teeth, run by 400 pound Roy Lynear. Lynear reminded me of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, possessing just that sort of charismatic menace. Walt knows there is much more going on in the compound and it looks like Big Oil and even the CIA might be involved. As usual nothing will stop Walt in his pursuit of the the truth.

While I always enjoy the Longmire books, A Serpent's Tooth is a welcome return to the Absaroka County of earlier books. Henry Standing Bear, Walt's steadfast Cheyenne best friend and unpaid back-up plays a much larger part in A Serpent's Tooth than in recent books. Vic, Ruby, Ferg, Saizarbitoria and all the other local characters that make the series so memorable are present as well. Craig Johnson's signature dry humor is back and Walt is always at his best when he interacts with those people he has sworn to protect.

I highly recommend the entire Walt Longmire series, starting with The Cold Dish. Few writers can draw such indelible characters with such spare and elegant prose. A&E's Longmire series is well worth watching (and I do) but can't hold a candle to the richness and complexity of the books.

RATING- 4.5 Sheriff's Badges

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