October 20, 2020

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The Next To Last Stand cover by Craig Johnson

Longmire returns in a brilliant The Next to Last Stand

I have been reading the Longmire novels by author Craig Johnson for nearly eight years now. Ever since the A&E Network began the TV series starring Robert Taylor and Katee Sackhoff. Like clockwork the author has published a new novel every year, usually in the late summer. During this COVID-19 pandemic there are many thing I look forward to maintain a feeling of normalcy, and that includes a Walt Longmire novel. The Next to Last Stand was released a few days ago and this is my review. If you are interested you can pick it up for $23.99 on Amazon as a hardcover or for $14.99 in Kindle. I was not disappointed by this books. In many ways it harkens back to the authors earlier work in the series. But of you need more persuasion then read on.

Custer and The Next to Last Stand

In this story, set a couple of months after Land of Wolves, we see a sheriff Longmire who is slowly recovering from the wounds suffered during his sojourn to rescue his daughter Cady in Mexico. Throughout The Next To Last Stand we read how Walt’s inner thoughts are starting to ponder retirement. In this regard he is nudged by Deputy Sherriff Vic and his longtime dispatcher Ruby. They have noted how Walt is frequently absent minded, something the reader also notices from his inner monologue. The story picks up when an old veteran and close acquaintance of Walt dies at the care home for veterans. Amongst his numerous possessions is a shoe-box containing one million dollars. Also found is an art study that is part of the famous painting depicting Custer’s Last Stand. Such a study is made by an artist as a precursor to the real thing.

Walt is single-minded uncovering the facts behind this mystery. Where did the money come from and is there any possibility the real painting still exists? In real-life that particular painting was destroyed in a fire in 1946. Walt’s journey takes him to a number of eccentric characters that have made their way to Wyoming and Western art scene. It is not long before Vic and Henry ponder Walt’s obsession for mystery that is not a murder. In following Walt the reader is also made intimately aware of the details regarding Custer’s death in the Battle of Little Bighorn. Or The Battle of the Greasy Grass as the Lakota and Cheyenne remember it. The author, Craig Johnson, takes a more modern view of the Indian Wars. He favors the line that Custer was out to look to spill blood but got more than he bargained for.

Walt and Vic

The search for the origins of the million dollars and the study takes a turn when an appraiser is hit over the head. The sudden theft of the study makes everyone in the art scene a suspect, including a self-described count from Russia. In true Walt Longmire fashion things escalate when the so called count is presumed killed while his bodyguard is found shot. Meanwhile, the autopsy on the old veteran opens the possibility he was killed with an injection. Much like previous Longmire stories we read how Walt accumulates numerous injuries during his investigation that ends with a chase through the wilderness of Wyoming. The Next To Last Stand is one of the shorter novels. Yet there is a lot going on. Despite Walt’s difficult time there is plenty of humor, often revolving around his relationship with Vic.

It also includes frank talk about their sexual activities which at one time nearly makes Walt crash his car. I really liked The Next To Last Stand. With Walt’s deadly feud with the Cartels over there is time for something new, even as the title alludes the series will conclude soon. That said, there are gripes I have. A lot of the close relations of Walt did not return for this novel and those that did had often minor roles. Walt’s inner monologue really takes up most of the novel. Vic is sadly not much changed from previous incarnations. Despite the fact she is with him for most of the story she doesn’t influence its outcome in any discernable way, neither does Henry. The story ends with one storyline left unfinished. A young Indian woman received numerous death threats. No doubt that will form part of the next novel!