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Book review: <i>Wait For Signs</i> by Craig Johnson

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the cover of the book

Here it is: the perfect balance of character-building and mystery in twelve neat stories showcasing Walt Longmire, sheriff of Absaroka County.

The story

Finally, enough Longmire short stories in a single volume! Previously, Craig Johnson has only teased us with mini volumes between his longer novels, featuring four-ish short stories per release. I get why he does it, of course; it's just enough of a taste to get us ready for the next full length Longmire. But Wait For Signs is twelve, that's right, count 'em, TWELVE, of these short stories in one volume. It's great.

Some of these stories were new to me, some, as a longtime Craig Johnson reader, were familiar. They vary greatly; charming little heart-string jerkers about Christmas, honest looks at Walt's grief after losing his wife, and the mysteries of human nature abound in these stories. Dog, Cady, and of course Henry all feature, with a healthy does of Native American mythology.

The style

Johnson's previous short story volumes have been primarily character based. While the full length novels don't neglect character development, they are pretty action packed, story driven creations; the short stories are a breather, a chance to really delve into Walt and his relationships. Obviously, this isn't really sustainable for a full book of short stories, Longmire fans are used to a little bit of action! So these stories are masterfully ordered to keep any Longmire fan happy, whether they want to see development of Walt and Vic's relationship, interactions between Walt and Henry, Walt dealing with small town issues in Abrasoka, or Walt encountering the spirits.

The two things I admire most in Johnson's work are: the authenticity of Walt's voice; Walt the quintessential cowboy, slow talkin', slow movin', thoughtful but able to act when he needs to, and how well he incorporates issues of race so thoughtfully and provocatively into his narrative. I'm not American. Obviously Australia has it's own shameful past with the indigenous people, but I can only comment on Johnson's portrayal of race from the point of view of an outsider. To me, the friendship of Walt and Henry is well played and their differences are also strengths. Johnson allows the characters to demonstrate racial issues without being forceful, and this works to portray some of the day to day incidents that must occur within the setting. Tensions exist, and Johnson deals with them with fair play. It's really well done.

Who is this book for?

Longmire fans. Naturally. It's also probably a good introduction to Longmire, although I think as a reader you get more out of the stories if you already know the characters.

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

Well, that's pretty obvious, isn't it? Craig Johnson has written tons of these. Get on with it!

In short

Title: Wait For Signs
Author: Craig Johnson
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0525427919
Year published: 2014
Pages: 192
Genre(s): Fiction
Review Type: