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The January Read, 2023

You may remember me writing about last year’s read and the tradition that led to that – but this year there it was, another Walt Longmire book waiting for January to be dived into. And so I did. I don’t know how long Craig Johnson will keep writing these books but as long as he does I’ll be there for the January Read, because it is a link back to Deck, because the new Longmire was always in his pile of presents on Christmas morning, and reading that book in January is now something that brings him home to me, close to me, and this year in only a few weeks now it will be two years since I lost him. This is the second Longmire book I’ve “January-read” without him here to pass it onto when I am done. I still feel bereft about that.

But anyway. The new book, called “Hell and Back”.

I mentioned, last time, the aberration where Johnson ripped his sheriff from his Wyoming roots and backdrop and threw him into a Mission Impossible “my name’s Longmire, Walt Longmire” James Bondian adventure (and boy did that not work for me). The last book, which I wrote about in that previous linked post, was better, taking Longmire back where he belonged – and introducing a little bit of that Cheyenne mysticism and mythology which helped to entice me into the books in the first place, the Eveohtse-heomese (forgive the lack of the proper accents I don’t know how to put them in here…) which is  essentially a sort of soul-eating bogeyman  and which plays a very important part in the previous books… and in the new one, it completely takes over.

If the gung ho James Bond Longmire was breaking the genre one way, this book does it in quite a different way – because “Hell and Back” is a full-on Twilight Zone episode , and instead of the superspy and supersoldier that he was in the Bond pastiche Longmire turns into a literal ghost in this book, if not something of a superhero. You are rather left  waiting for the Kryptonite to make its appearance. It’s a book heavy on atmosphere and fairly light on plot (and what plot there is feels oddly like something that got in the author’s WAY dammit all and iconic characters are reduced to making cameo appearances (Henry Standing Bear and Vic Moretti, for instance, not to mention Cady Longmire) while various other characters from previous books are recycled as haints (notably THomas Bidarte, Longmire’s Mexican nemesis, and then, incongruously, Martha, his wife… who also turns out… sigh, okay, spoilers… to be the face that the Eveohtse-heomese chooses to wear in its dealings with the sheriff of Absaroka County although it is less than crystal clear just exactly what that entity’s beef with Walt Longmire actually is in the first place.

The time line is a little muddy, events occur more or less at random in several different time-and-space contexts (Doctor Who makes an appearance in the back of my mind, reminding me that time isn’t linear but more of a ‘timey wimey wibbly wobbly… thing…’). It’s vintage Johnson,, almost vintage Longmire, but I do get the feeling that the writer is trying to get his character to do something NEW, already, dammit, because he’s tired of writing neat little mysteries set in Absaroka county. But those neat little mysteries were what I liked about this series and this character and I kind of wish that he’d get back to writing them… or let his sheriff retire, already.

Pleasant enough read. Eminently forgettable. But then… hello, love. Merry Christmas. Here’s your present, and here’s my January read, and we are now all tied together in an inexorable way, my Deck, Walt Longmire, January, and I…

(as originally appeared on my blog at


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