in Western Fiction
A new novel in the beloved New York Times bestselling Longmire series.
Picking up where Daughter of the Morning Star left off, the next Longmire novel finds the sheriff digging further into the mysteries of the wandering without—a mythical all-knowing spiritual being that devours souls.
Walt thinks he might find the answers he’s looking for among the ruins of an old Native American boarding school—an institution designed to strip Native children of their heritage. He has been haunted by the image of the Fort Pratt Industrial Indian Training School ever since he first saw a faded postcard picturing a hundred boys in uniform, in front of a large, ominous building—a postcard that was given to him by Jimmy Lane, the father of Jeanie One Moon.
After Walt’s initial investigation into Jeanie’s disappearance yielded no satisfying conclusions, Walt has to confront the fact that he may be dealing with an adversary unlike any he has ever faced before.
Yikes, this novel takes us to La-La Land, full on mystic, supernatural, spiritual heritage. It’s the continuation of Daughter of the Morning Star, Book 17 that I read in October of ’21. This narrative is a huge departure from any previous in the series, including the last in which he was introduced to the Wandering Without (a Cheyenne spirit).
The intro to the book discloses he will delve heavily in the “Indian Training School,” the Native American boarding school at Fort Pratt where young boys were taken to strip the children of their heritage. The history is horrific and still weighs heavily on the hearts of their people.
In Book 18, Walt wakes lying in the snow, slowly becoming aware he experienced a traumatic accident. It is the first of several different times, this one being when the school was full of boys. In a type of dream-like state, he visits his own early period, now believing he can see his deceased wife. A separate time period includes Henry Standing Bear and Vic on a search for him.
As he navigates the historical period of the school where he decides he must battle an evil spirit, the storyline takes on an ethereal quality, atmospherics, the boys struggling with their school administrators.
Enter Ground Hog Day. He’s moving around, experiencing exchanges with different characters, but each time he sees them it’s 8:17 pm…and doomed to rinse and repeat but he’s gradually becoming weaker (is he dying?)—and Vic and Henry keep searching for him.
“ …he rested the butt of an 1873 Winchester, the rifle that you could load on Sunday, shoot all week long.”
I’m a die-hard Longmire fan series (loved the Netflix series!), most especially the audiobooks with George Guidall narrating, putting himself in the shoes of Henry Standing Bear, firing off glib philosophical spikes. This one though was pretty wild, definitely had my head swirling. It was weird and unique. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea but you can’t say it isn’t gripping.
I downloaded a copy of this audiobook from my local well-stocked library. These are my honest thoughts.
Genre: Western Fiction, Native American Literature
Publisher: Recorded Books
Listening Length: 9 hrs 39 mins
Narrator: George Guidall
Publication Date: September 6, 2022
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Hell and Back [Amazon]
Barnes & Noble
Rosepoint Publishing: 4.5 stars
The Author: Craig Johnson is the New York Times bestselling author of the Longmire mysteries, the basis for the hit Netflix original series Longmire. He is the recipient of the Western Writers of America Spur Award for fiction, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award for fiction, the Nouvel Observateur Prix du Roman Noir, and the Prix SNCF du Polar. His novella Spirit of Steamboat was the first One Book Wyoming selection. He lives in Ucross, Wyoming, population 25.
©2022 V Williams