The Walt Longmire series is proving extremely satisfying, and the fourth book, Another Man’s Moccasins, is no exception.
What keeps me coming back?
The characters: mature throwbacks to Western cowboy mythology with values of independence, loyalty and trust–but without the abundant sexism and racism. Sheriff Walt Longmire is a former Marine, ex-football player and is as faithful as they come, and his brother-in-arms, Henry Running Bear, is normally centered, thoughtful and self-contained. In this book, Walt relives some of their interactions in Vietnam, giving interesting insight into their personalities now and a sense of how they’ve matured.
“I thought about all the wayward memories that had been harassing me lately, the recrimination, doubt, injured pride, guilt, and all the bitterness of the moral debate over a long-dead war. I sat there with the same feeling I’d had in the tunnel when the big Indian had tried to choke me. I was choking now on a returning past that left me uneasy, restless, and unmoored.”
Then there’s the writing, an enjoyable combination of clear prose and vivid imagery:
“The other [photo] was of the same woman seated at a bus station, the kind you see dotting the high plains, usually attached to a Dairy Queen or small cafe. She was seated on a bench with two young children, a boy and a girl. She wore the same smile, but her hair was pulled back in a ponytail in this photo, so her face was not hidden. She looked straight at the camera as she tickled the two children, who looked up with eyes closed and mouths open in laughing ecstasy.”
Vietnam flashbacks are not a reliable strategy for drawing me into a story. I came of age in a period where Hollywood was enthusiastically revisiting the war, finally acknowledging the hardships of the people who fought there. It began with Apocalypse Now and followed by a string of hits (Platoon, Hamburger Hill, Born on the Fourth of July, Full Metal Jacket, The Casualties of War, Jacob’s Ladder, Good Morning Vietnam), so it’s not easy to play to my sympathies–they’ve already been manipulated to the max by Hollywood. Yet the eerie possible connection of Walt’s past experiences there to the current case works well. By the end, I realized Johnson had some very clever parallels between the two story lines. I was also impressed the way Walt revisiting his memories had him questioning his racial biases, as well as giving him unexpected empathy with a suspect.
Why not five stars? Walt was a bit slow to pick up on several things that could have been dealt with by basic investigation; general over-protectiveness about his daughter, which made sense but isn’t really a palatable storyline; and the complicated situation with Vic, who occasionally feels larger than life. Still, those issues pale in comparison to the rest of the read. Truly, it is an enjoyable story that was worth a second read.