“It’s the scenery—and the big guy standing in front of the scenery—that keeps us coming back to Craig Johnson’s lean and leathery mysteries.”
—The New York Times Book Review
The ninth Longmire book from the New York Times bestselling author of Land of Wolves
It’s homecoming for the Durant Dogies when Cord Lynear, a Mormon “lost boy” forced off his compound for rebellious behavior, shows up in Absaroka County. Without much guidance, divine or otherwise, Sheriff Walt Longmire, Victoria Moretti, and Henry Standing Bear search for the boy’s mother and find themselves on a high-plains scavenger hunt that ends at the barbed-wire doorstep of an interstate polygamy group. Run by four-hundred-pound Roy Lynear, Cord’s father, the group is frighteningly well armed and very good at keeping secrets.
Walt’s got Cord locked up for his own good, but the Absaroka County jailhouse is getting crowded since the arrival of the boy’s self-appointed bodyguard, a dangerously spry old man who claims to be blessed by Joseph Smith himself. As Walt, Vic, and Henry butt heads with the Lynears, they hear whispers of Big Oil and the CIA and fear they might be dealing with a lot more than they bargained for.
About the Author
Craig Johnson is the New York Times bestselling author of the Longmire mysteries, the basis for the hit Netflix original series Longmire. He is the recipient of the Western Writers of America Spur Award for fiction, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award for fiction, the Nouvel Observateur Prix du Roman Noir, and the Prix SNCF du Polar. His novella Spirit of Steamboat was the first One Book Wyoming selection. He lives in Ucross, Wyoming, population twenty-five.
Read an Excerpt
I stared at the black-and-orange corsage on Barbara Thomas’s lapel so that I wouldn’t have to look at anything else.
I don’t like funerals, and a while ago I just stopped going to them. I think the ceremony is a form of denial, and when my wife died and my daughter, Cady, informed me that she was unaware of any instance where going to somebody’s funeral ever brought them back, I just about gave it up.
Mrs. Thomas had been the homecoming queen when Truman made sure that the buck stopped with him, which explained the somewhat garish ornament pinned on her prim and proper beige suit. Next week was the big game between the Durant Dogies and their archrival, the Worland Warriors, and the whole town was black-and-orange crazy.
The only thing worse than going to the funeral of someone you knew is going to the funeral of a person you didn’t; you get to stand there and be told about somebody you had never met, and all I ever feel is that I missed my chance.
I had missed my chance with Dulcie Meriwether, who had been one of Durant’s fine and upstanding women—after all, I’m the sheriff of Absaroka County, so the fine and upstanding often live and pass beyond my notice. On a fine October afternoon I leaned against the railing leading to the First Methodist Church, not so much to praise Dulcie Meriwether—or to bury her—but rather to talk about angels.
I reached out and straightened Barbara Thomas’s corsage.
One of the jobs of an elected official in Wyoming is to understand one’s constituency and listen to people—help them with their problems—even if they’re bat-shit crazy. I was listening to Barbara tell me about the angels who were currently assisting her with home repair, which I took as proof that she had passed the entrance exam to that particular belfry.
I glanced at Mike Thomas, who had asked me to bushwhack his aunt on this early high plains afternoon. He wanted me to talk to her and figured the only way he could arrange running into me was by having me stand outside the church and wait for the two of them as they departed for a late lunch after the service.
I was trying not to look at the other person leaning on the railing with me, my undersheriff, Victoria Moretti, who, although she was trying to work off a hangover from too much revelry at the Basque Festival bacchanal the night before, had decided to take advantage of my being in town on a Sunday. The only person left to look at was Barbara, eighty-two years old, platinum hair coiffed to perfection, and, evidently, mad as a hatter.
“So, when did the angels pitch in and start working around your place, Mrs. Thomas?”
“Call me Barbara, Walter.” She nodded her head earnestly, as if she didn’t want us to think she was crazy.
As Vic would say, “Good luck with that.”
“About two weeks ago I made a little list and suddenly the railing on the front porch was fixed.” She leveled a malevolent glance at the well-dressed cowboy in the navy blazer and tie to my left, her youngest nephew. “It’s difficult to get things done around home since Michael lives so far away.”
As near as I could remember, Mike’s sculpture studio was right at the edge of town, and I knew he lived only two miles east, but that was between the two of them. I adjusted the collar of my flannel shirt, enjoying the fact that I wasn’t in uniform today, figuring it was going to be the extent of my daily pleasure. “So, the angels came and fixed the railing?”
She nodded again, enthusiastically. “Lots of things—they unclogged my gutters, rehung the screen door on the back porch, and fixed the roof on the pump house.”
Vic sighed. “Jesus, you wanna send ’em over to my place?”
I ignored my undersheriff, which was difficult to do. She was wearing a summer dress in an attempt to forestall the season, and a marvelous portion of her tanned legs was revealed above her boots and below the hem. “Have you ever actually seen the angels, Mrs. Thomas?”
“Barbara, please.” She shook her head, indulging my lack of knowledge of all things celestial. “They don’t work that way.”
“So, how do they work?”
She placed the palms of her hands together and leaned forward. “I make my little list, and the things just get done. It’s a sign of divine providence.”
Vic mumbled under her breath. “It’s a sign of divine senility.”
Barbara Thomas continued without breaking stride. “I have a notebook where I number the things that have to be done in order of importance, then I leave it on the room divider and presto.” She leaned back and beamed at me. “He works in mysterious ways.” She paused for a moment to glance at the church looming over my shoulder and then altered the subject. “You used to go to services here, didn’t you, Walter?”
“Yes, ma’am, I used to accompany my late wife.”
“But you haven’t been since she passed away?”
I took a deep breath to relieve the tightness in my chest the way I always did when anybody brought up the subject of Martha. “No, ma’am. We had an agreement that she’d take care of the next world if I took care of this one.” I glanced at Mike as he smoothed his mustache and tried not to smile. “And there seems to be enough to hold my attention here lately.” I turned my eyes back to her. “So you haven’t ever seen them?”
“The holy handymen, for Christ’s sake.”
Barbara looked annoyed. “Young lady, you need to watch your language.”
I drew Barbara’s attention away from a sure-shot, head-on, verbal train wreck. “So you haven’t actually seen the angels then?”
“No.” She thought about it and stared at the cracks in the sidewalk, the strands of struggling grass having abandoned the hope of pushing through. “They do take some food out of the icebox every now and again.”
I kept my eyes on her. “Food?”
“Yes.” She thought some more. “And they sometimes take a shower.”
She was nodding again. “But they always clean up after themselves; I just notice because the towels are damp or there are a few pieces of fried chicken missing.”
I shot Mike a look, but he was studying the banks of Clear Creek on the other side of the gravel walk a little ways away, probably checking for trout and wishing he was somewhere else. My eyes tracked back to the elderly woman. “Fried chicken.”
“Yes, it would appear that angels really like Chester’s fried chicken.”
I leaned back on the railing and watched the dancing pattern of light on the water for a while myself, the scattered golden leaves of the aspens spinning like a lost flotilla. “I see.”
“And Oreos; the angels like Double Stuf Oreos, too.”
“Vernors Diet Ginger Ale.”
“You must be running up quite a grocery bill feeding the legions.” I smiled and chose my next words carefully. “Barbara, when these things happen . . . I mean, do you make your list and then go to bed and get up and everything is repaired?”
“Oh no, I do my agenda in the morning, then I go out to run my errands or go to my bridge club, and when I get back everything’s done.”
“In the morning?”
“By the middle of the afternoon, yes.”
I pulled out my pocket watch and looked at it, noticing it was ten after one. “So if I were to head over to your place right now, it’s likely that I might catch the angels at their labors?”
She looked a little worried. “I suppose.”
“What is it you’ve got them doing today?”
She thought. “There’s a leak in the trap under the kitchen sink.”
Vic couldn’t hold her peace. “Wait, angels work on Sundays?”
I looked at the nice but crazy old lady. “Where do they get parts on a Sunday; Buell Hardware is closed.”
Her eyes narrowed. “I get them the supplies, Walter. The Lord provides, but I don’t think that extends to plumbing parts.”
“Hmm . . .” I stood up, and she looked concerned.
“Where are you going?”
“I think I’ll drive by your place while you and Mike have lunch.” I shrugged. “Maybe see if we can get Vic here a little divine guidance.”
Barbara Thomas folded her hands like broken-winged birds and spoke in a quiet voice. “I’d rather you didn’t, Walter.”
I waited a moment and then asked, “And why is that?”
She paused, just a little petulant, and then looked up at me with damp eyes. “They do good works, and you shouldn’t interrupt good works.”
“Do you think there are more crazy people in our county than anywhere else?”
We drove west of town in the direction of Barbara Thomas’s house, and I turned down the air in the Bullet so that the fan would not blow Vic’s dress any higher on her smooth thighs as she propped her cowboy boots on the escarpment of the dash. “Per capita?”
I redirected a vent in the direction of Dog, panting in the backseat. “Well, nature hates a vacuum and strange things are drawn into empty places; sometimes oddities survive where nothing else can.” I glanced over at her. “Why?”
“That would include us?”
She glanced out the windshield, her face a little troubled. “I don’t want to end up alone in a house making lists for my imaginary friends.”
I took a left onto Klondike Drive and thought about how Vic had seemed to be given to philosophical musings as of late. “Somehow, I don’t see that happening.”
She glanced at me. “I noticed you didn’t offer to share your experiences with the spirit world with her.”
Vic was referring to the events in the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area that I’d had in the spring, an experience I wasn’t sure I’d even fully processed yet. “It didn’t seem pertinent.”
I gave her a look back and noticed she was massaging one temple with her fingers. “How’s your head?”
“Like hell, thanks for asking.” “You mind if I inquire as to what happened at the Basque Festival?” She adjusted her boots on the dash and confessed. “I was traumatized.”
“The running of the sheep.”
I thought I must’ve misheard. “The what?”
“The running of the fucking sheep, which you conveniently missed by taking the day off yesterday.” “The running of the sheep?” She massaged the bridge of her nose. “You heard me.” “What happened?” “I don’t want to talk about it; you don’t want to talk about
your imaginary friends, and I don’t want to talk about the running of the sheep.” She played with the pull strap on her boot. “Suffice to say that I am not working the Basque Festival ever again.”
I shrugged as we passed the YMCA and continued down the hill and past Duffy, the vintage locomotive in the park at the children’s center. I took a right on Upper Clear Creek Road, then pulled up and parked under the shade of a yellowing cottonwood next to Barbara Thomas’s mailbox.
“There’s shade here, and Dog is hot.” I lowered the windows to give him a little extra air. “Besides, I like to sneak up on my angels. How about you?”
She cracked open the passenger-side door and slipped out, pulling her skirt down. Boots and short skirts—a look for which I held a great weakness. “I’m not exactly dressed for a footrace.”
I closed the door quietly and moved around to the front of the truck to meet her. “I thought angels flew.”
“Yeah, and shit floats.”
Excerpted from "A Serpent's Tooth"
Copyright © 2014 Craig Johnson.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson
AN INDIE NEXT PICK
“Walt continues to be excellent company because he’s always keen to learn something from the strong Indian characters in this series…This time a wizened old medicine woman takes Walt in hand, guiding him through a Native American Church peyote ceremony deep in the woods…he [has] a vision that expands his mind and helps him solve the case.”—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“A top-notch tale of complex emotions and misguided treachery… Crow is a superb novel steeped in the culture of the American West.”—USA Today
“The pleasure of the series rests in Walt’s narration, with its laid-back, observant, bemused recounting of events…Solid landscapes, a mélange of fully fleshed characters (familiar and new), drily laconic dialogue and assorted power struggles—including Walt’s endless war with Rezdawg, Henry’s recalcitrant, falling-apart truck—keep the latest in this rich and satisfying series on engaging course.”—Houston Chronicle
“Walt’s voice lets readers in on his gentle and wry nature, while showcasing his devotion to bringing bad guys or gals to justice…Johnson enriches his narrative by using the setting itself as another well-developed character. Johnson’s Northern Cheyenne characters defy stereotype with self-depreciating humor and strength. Chief Lolo Long and Tribal Chief Lonnie Little Bird are especially well-crafted and appealing.”—The Denver Post
“Johnson expertly highlights his conflicted hero’s dual role as father and sheriff in this deeply satisfying installment.”—Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“All the elements his fans love are present: lively characters, easy banter, and, of course, a touch of the supernatural. In early books, Walt was less sure of himself, but, in his eighth adventure, it makes sense that he’s now the one “giving sheriff lessons.” This book fits the hand like a well-worn glove.”—Booklist
Reading Group Guide
"You know the word of God, Sheriff?" "I know entire sentences." (p. 54)
Sheriff Walt Longmire is accustomed to wrangling with Absaroka County's criminal element, so he is taken aback when a concerned citizen asks him to hunt down an angel. However, when that angel turns out to be a teenage drifter with a complicated past and an uncertain future, Walt will stop at nothing to ensure that the righteous are protected and justice is served.
The teenage boy had spent the past two weeks hiding in Barbara Thomas's pump house. In exchange for fried chicken, diet ginger ale, and the occasional shower, he made minor repairs around Thomas's house-effectively convincing the eighty-two-year-old former homecoming queen that she was blessed with an angel. When Walt and his Undersheriff, Vic Moretti, surprise the boy while he's fixing her sink, the "angel" bolts, giving Vic a bloody nose and leaving behind his pants and an 1859 edition of the Book of Mormon dedicated to "Orrin, Man of God, Son of Thunder" (p. 16).
Since a pants-less teen can only get so far, Walt soon has him in custody. The boy-who looks about fifteen and speaks mostly in scripture-claims that his name is Cord Lynear. No one matching his description has been reported missing, and Health Services surmises that Cord is a Lost Boy, "boys that get kicked out of [Mormon] groups for what the elders deem inappropriate behavior, but mostly just to make room for the older men so that they can have their pick of the younger women as multiple wives" (p. 30). Walt's investigation leads him to nearby Butte County, home of Teapot Dome and its eponymous scandal-plus a newly arrived Mormon splinter group called the Apostolic Church of the Lamb of God. Inadvertently, Walt butts heads with the Church leader: a four-hundred pound "God-fearing man in search of peace and solitude" (p. 57) who travels with a cadre of heavily armed men-and just happens to be named Roy Lynear.
The elder Lynear has a pack of sons, both natural and adopted, and it's clear to Walt that he's indifferent to Cord's whereabouts. Fortunately, someone else has designated himself as Cord's bodyguard. And when Walt locks the boy up in the Absaroka County jail for his own protection, a wild-haired, wiry-built man claiming to be a two-hundred-year-old Mormon vigilante busts him out. Walt isn't exactly sure why "Orrin Porter Rockwell, Danite, Man of God, Son of Thunder, and the strong right arm of the prophets of the Church of Latter-day Saints" (p. 72) has come back from the dead to protect a boy who's obsessed with a VHS copy of My Friend Flicka, but, when innocent blood is shed, he's willing to accept help from even the unlikeliest quarter.
New York Times-bestselling author Craig Johnson's tenth Walt Longmire mystery, A Serpent's Tooth, takes on religious chicanery, the CIA, and Big Oil in a riveting tale that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page.
ABOUT CRAIG JOHNSON
Craig Johnson is the New York Times bestselling author of the Walt Longmire mystery series, now the hit A&E series, Longmire. He lives in Ucross, Wyoming, population twenty-five.
(Spoiler Warning: Don't read on if you don't what to know whodunit!)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Author Craig Johnson shares a story in such a way you feel a part of the adventure. In his ninth Walt Longmire Mystery, Johnson once again takes readers to Absaroka County (Wyoming) for suspense, action, humor and a touch of romance. When a ‘helpful angel’ turns out to be teenage runaway Cord Lynear, Sheriff Walt Longmire and his team begin searching for the boy’s mother. It seems the youth has been forced off a nearby polygamist compound for rebelling. The more they search, the more complex and dangerous the case becomes. They encounter an interstate polygamy group, a stock pile of weapons, well-hidden secrets, and more danger than they expected. Johnson has created intriguing characters in Longmire; Victoria ‘Vic’ Morett, his second-in-command; and Henry Standing Bear, his good friend. The secondary characters also add flavor and spark to the story. Their interaction will have you laughing out loud at times as Johnson weaves in bits of humor throughout the story. An excellent eye for detail, Johnson places the reader in the countryside with his vivid descriptions. He keeps the story moving at a steady pace filled with action and tense moments holding readers captive until the unexpected ending. A SERPENT’S TOOTH is the ninth installment in the series, but can be read as a stand alone. Sheriff Walt Longmire is a cordial man that takes his job seriously, while looking out for those he cares about. Readers will be eagerly awaiting the next visit to Absaroka County. FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Great Novel!! Hard to put down - Loved the characters!!
sole compliant - not enough of them - the characters are real, intriguing and the story lines interesting and satisfying
Good story - but too much cussing from female cop.
The ninth book in the Longmire series is a page turner with a not so obvious plot twists. The relationship with Walt and Vic gets some much needed attention albeit far too brief. The one complaint about the Longmire series as a whole is the inability of Johnson to allow the readers the pleasure of knowing Walt's intimate thoughts about Vic and the complications that entails. Revealing Walt's heart would not betray the western code. Otherwise, fantastic story telling of our favorite Absaroka County Sheriff.
Now in his ninth appearance, Walt Longmire is confronted by dual adversaries when a homeless boy shows up on his doorstep. The youth, Cord Lynear, has been cast out of a Mormon cult enclave searching for his mother. Walt discovers that his mother approached the sheriff of an adjoining county, looking for her son. In attempting to reunite the two, Walt is unable to find the mother, leading him into investigating an interstate polygamy group, well-armed and with something to hide. It is an intricate plot, one fraught with danger for Walt, his pal Standing Bear (also known as “Cheyenne Nation”) and his deputy (and lover), Victoria Moretti. I felt Walt’s overdone bravado, and the resulting violent confrontations, were a bit overdone. But that is Walt. And TV. This entry in the Walt Longmire series, now also in a popular TV dramatic form about to enter its second season, appears to be expressly written to provide another episode. That is not to say it isn’t another well-written novel with all the elements of the Wyoming sheriff’s customary literary observations and acts of derring-do. It just seems to me that it’s a bit too much of a manufactured plot with an overtone of a popular protagonist and his sidekicks. That said, the novel is recommended.
Everything Craig Johnson writes is excellent. He is a great story teller. This series of books is wonderful. I can hardly wait for the next book. His characters have depth, and the plot always leaves one guessing as to the outcome. I would reread these again.
The plot is well done and the ending is a surprise. I had a hard time putting the book down.
Excellent Western literature, as usual, from Craig Johnson
Craig Johnson never disappoints, in fact he keeps outdoing his last books. I just wish he would write faster, I hate waiting for the next exciting tale. Great story, great characters, great settings.
The best Longmire novel yet, rich in detail and texture, building upon the complex characters that were created in the first eight books. Craig Johnson gets better and better with each new volume.
Great looking forward to next one!
A small black furred blue eyed she-wolf padded in
I laughed. I cried. I was interested to the point of intrigue. I couldn't put it down. Craig Johnson continues to improve with each book in the Walt Longmire series, which is shocking when you stop to realize just how excellent the first book, “A Cold Dish”, happened to be! The first paragraph in this review is no exaggeration – Johnson plays the readers' emotions like a musical instrument – one which he has mastered but still loves. In this book, Absaroka County is “blessed” with a visit from an unknown young runaway. And a religious / cult compound. And someone who claims to be the man who served as bodyguard to the founders of the Mormons, but lives on due to the blessing of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. How do all of these combine to form a criminal conspiracy? Read the book. Soon. RATING: 5 stars.
This has been one of my favorite books in the series. I love how this series draws out personal relationships between characters through several books, with romance making only brief appearances in each book. This series, taken as a whole, is a superb example of how romances should be done. No over-kill, no pointless eye-gazing; passages pertaining to romance are brief and to the point. And the end of this book, wow! I wasn't expecting a particular relationship to take the turn that it did. I didn't see it coming and oh, how it made my heart hurt. The last book introduced Ms. Lolo Long, a tribal police chief for the Cheyenne nation, and I mistakenly expected more of her in this book, but her name only comes up in a single conversation between Vic and Walt. I'm still interested in seeing how well the Lady Asskickers (Vic and Lolo) get along but I have the feeling that Johnson will draw this story-line out just like he does with the romances: the personal relationships are background material when Walt is on a case. And this case is complex, with the oil industry, South-American gangs, the CIA, and polygamy groups mucking up Walt's attempts to locate the mother of a "lost boy" who winds up in his care. It takes the whole force, all of Walt's resources, to bring the criminals to justice. Longmire the show is true to the books in the same way that Midsomer Murders is true to Caroline Graham's books: the show captures the essence of the characters but takes liberties with plots, which keeps both formats fresh for viewers. The deviations between Longmire the show and Longmire the book-series continue to grow with each book; the gap between the two is now of Grand Canyon proportions.
Dragon rolls again, Sorrelpaw above. She ran to a tree then flung her back-and Sorrelpaw- into it.