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Book review: <i>A Serpent's Tooth</i> by Craig Johnson

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the cover of the book

Walt Longmire of Absaroka county is back, and up to his neck like never before in a mystery surrounding one strange family and the religious cult they are spreading across the country. But what do the well guarded men at the top want, and how far will they go to get it?

The story

The day starts out calmly enough; a funeral and some strange talk of angels. Old Barbara Thomas has an guardian angel who fixes her house in exchange for cookies, and while her nephew thinks she's gone completely starkers, Walt and Victoria suspect there's a far more mundane explanation. Upon investigation, the explanation turns out to be so concrete he breaks Victoria's nose trying to escape apprehension.

This handy-man angel is apprehended soon enough, but that is just the beginning of Walt's problems. A fourteen year old boy who came from nowhere, completely unclaimed? Walt smells a bigger storm brewing, and when a strange old homeless man turns up, claiming not only to be the protector of the boy but also the original Orrin Porter Rockwell who lived one hundred and fifty years ago, Walt knows there's something big going down.

The trail of the boy Cord leads to the hills, where a branch of the Lynear family have a heavily guarded Mormon style commune. Walt pushes and gets pushed back, hard enough that he realises there's something very suspicious happening, something only he can solve. But can he solve it in time, with the casualty count and the stakes rising all the time?

The style

I'm a big Walt Longmire fan, and A Serpent's Tooth is certainly no exception to this rule. The plot was certainly full enough, with sufficient twists and turns, to keep me page turning and engaged. I read this book while travelling Cambodia so it was planes, bus rides, waiting rooms, street corners, hotels and I still managed to chow through it in very little time at all.

I think the thing that I like the most about the Walt Longmire stories are the characters. Sure, the plot was great, it really was. But it could have been any detective/crime-fiction plot, that isn't really what makes this story outstanding. It's Walt, and Victoria, and Double-Tough, and of course Henry, and the way they all interact and relate. Walt is a quiet, down to earth hero, modest and always wanting to do what's best. He's endeared himself to me previously, so frankly I'm just happy to read more of him. And the development of his relationship with Victoria, which I was unsure about to begin with, is also great. The way Walt sees her (the book is all written from his point of view, so that is the readers' only measure of her) is so well rounded and dimensional, from his descriptions of her eyes and what he sees in them to her snarling displays of temper that somehow manage to avoid being stereo-typical PMS-y type tantrums (something I despise in books for its lazy characterisation) and just expand on her character as a person. The two of them make a formidable team.

Pretty sure I cried I a little bit while reading this one, perhaps I'm getting soft in my old age. I was definitely disappointed when I got to the end of the book; I just wanted more.

Who is this book for?

People who appreciate crime fiction with a little bit of added personality, a character to follow. It's better than your run of the mill standard.

If you like this book, you would also like...

Craig Johnson has written plenty of other Walt Longmires. Get onto it!

In short

Title: A Serpent's Tooth
Author: Craig Johnson
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0670026456
Year published: 2013
Pages: 352
Genre(s): Crime fiction
Review Type: