“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
Walt journeys into the northern Mexican desert alone to save his daughter Cady, who has been kidnapped by the cartel
Welcome to Walt Longmire's worst nightmare. Winter is creeping closer, but for Sheriff Longmire this one is looking to be harsh in a way to which he is wholly unaccustomed. He has found himself in the remotest parts of the northern Mexican desert, a lawless place where no horse or car can travel, where no one speaks his language or trusts an outsider, far from his friends and his home turf back in Wyoming. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Tomas Bidarte, the head of one of the most vicious drug cartels in Mexico, has kidnapped Walt's beloved daughter, Cady. The American government is of limited help and the Mexican one even less so. Armed with his trusty Colt .45 and a father's intuition, Walt must head into the 110-degree heat of the desert, one man against an army.
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 25.
Read an Excerpt
I turned my water glass in the slick circle of condensation on the smooth, red lacquer of the table between us and studied the man across from me. I was afraid that if I didn't pay attention, he might disappear. The Seer was like that; it was as if he simply drifted away, giving him access to places without appearing to be there, making other people's secrets his own.
"You should take in some of the culture while you are here south of the border-go to the bullfights." Adjusting his straw porkpie hat to a jauntier angle, the hunchback smiled. "You might enjoy it."
I said nothing.
He looked in my general direction, the smile slowly fading. "My friend, Miguel Guerra, says you are highly motivated, but that if I can talk you out of this, I should."
I still said nothing.
He stared at me. "Do you speak Spanish?"
I wiped the sweat from under my eyes with a thumb and forefinger-I had a hard time convincing myself it was coming up on November. "Very little."
He had taken his cheap sunglasses off and placed them next to his drink. His eyes were opaque, and they wandered past me, toward the knobby hills to the south that rose from the desert like a bony hand, the fingers spreading to make peaks and battlements, as if the mountains were at war with the flat land. "That's not good, because where you are going there will be places where no one speaks English."
The Seer sipped his soft drink and then batted the white cane between the knees of his threadbare pants at the exact place where his legs ended.
"Your English is very good."
He shrugged. "I have lived my whole life here in Juárez and back before the new drugs, we were just a suburb of El Paso." He glanced down at his truncated legs. "Not the old drugs that did this. My mother traveled to Germany in the sixties and was given the drug that took my legs and my sight and in the process gave me this humped back." He vaguely waved at it sitting there like one of the battlements behind him. "Did you know that hunchbacks are seen as lucky in my country-that we bring good fortune?"
"I hope that's the case."
"Personally, it has never brought me any providence." He paused for a moment and then turned toward the Club Kentucky, seeing it the way it was in his mind's eye. "Juárez used to be Las Vegas before there was a Las Vegas-twenty-four-hour bars, casinos, cabarets, brothels." The Seer sipped his soda. "It is said that this club invented the margarita." He nodded. "Marilyn Monroe sat on that very stool where you sit now."
"How do you know Marilyn Monroe?"
He smiled broadly for the first time, and I was surprised at the blinding perfection of his teeth. "My mother was here."
"In this bar?"
"S’, January twenty-first, 1961. Monroe filed for divorce from Arthur Miller here in Juárez. She was with two men, her lawyers, Aurellano González Vargas and Arturo Sosa Aguilar. They filed a suit of incompatibility of character." He leaned in confidentially. "A marvelous playwright, but she told my mother he was hung like a cocktail sausage."
"She also saw your John Wayne drink himself senseless and walk out onto the sidewalk where he fell face-first like a tree." Sensing my disinterest, the Seer leaned back against the wall. "Most tourists love stories about Hollywood celebrities."
"I'm not here as a tourist."
He waved his cane toward me and changed the subject. "Can you ride a burro?"
"I can ride a horse."
"That does not mean you can ride a burro; there are places where you cannot go by horse or car."
"Fine, I'll walk."
"It is not enough." He studied the problem for a while and then shook his head. "Where you are going you will need a reason to be there, or they will kill you just to hear the sound of their weapons."
"I guess trying to blend in isn't much of a possibility?"
He smiled and slowly began shaking his head. "Let's see, shall we?" His face became somber, and his mouth hung open as if he were tasting the air between us like a snake. "From the timbre of your voice and lung capacity I would say you are at least two hundred pounds, and from the way the floorboard creaked when you walked in I would say two-fifty."
"From the angle of your voice, I would say you are six-foot-four or five."
"Facial structure also affects the voice-you are of Northern European descent so I am guessing blondish, but considering your age possibly gray, and with blue eyes-but not pure blue, more likely blue with either green or gray."
"Gray, no blue."
"Ah, eyes are difficult. . . . But you will have to forgive me in that I have never actually seen blue or gray or any other colors for that matter." He glanced toward the bar where he knew without seeing that the entire staff of four aged bartenders were watching and listening to us. "And from the deference of the staff, I am guessing your persona is formidable."
I sighed. "Lately."
"You are armed?"
He shook his head at the antiquity of my sidearm. "Why the .45?"
"Because they don't make a .46."
He smirked and allowed his sightless eyes to rest on the surface of the small table between us. "I regret having to ask . . . but can you shoot?"
"Well enough for whatever needs to be done."
He paused for a moment and then nodded. "Maybe we use this." He tipped his head to one side. "There have always been men who come here from your country mostly for money and women, but other things, too. I propose a safari, but not for animals."
"For what then?"
"There were men like yourself who came to Old Mexico in search of antiquities. Even now. There was a good friend of my cousin's, a Mr. Guzmán, who was here searching for a particular Russian Model P made by your Colt company."
"José Guzmán." I smiled. "Although I think his friends call him Buck."
"I believe that is his name, s’. He was a lawman like you-you know him?"
"My cousin was with him when he bought the single-action pistol from a fat policeman who was directing traffic in the middle of the street in Nogales." He sipped his Guayaba Jarritos. "What kind of lawman are you?"
"Absaroka County Sheriff, Wyoming."
"We don't see many sheriffs." He warmed to his purveyor of antique armaments idea and nodded more vigorously. "This will provide us with an excuse for being in areas where we might not normally be, and it gives us a bargaining reputation without the hazards of drug money." He finished his soda. "I will begin spreading the word that there is a gringo in town looking for vintage armaments and that we will be traveling around the area south of here."
He lowered his eyes. "Yours is a good cause, and I would like to help you."
I shook my head but then spoke, realizing he couldn't see my response. "I can't let you do that. I appreciate your help, but if you go with me you're likely to be killed."
"I am half dead now, so what does it matter?" He folded up his cane and reached out his arms like my granddaughter Lola did when she wanted to get out of her high chair. "We will need a driver."
I finished my water and pushed the old wheelchair, which was painted a vibrant turquoise and orange, toward the door, the cane across his knees. "You're not going, and I don't need a car-I have a truck parked on the other side."
His turn to shake his head at me. "A new truck?"
"I don't know, a rental. It's blue, I think."
He took charge and wheeled past me down the bar toward the front entrance. "Too new for our purposes, and the US plates are too conspicuous; we will need something that blends in, along with a driver who knows the roads."
Hastily, I tossed a few pesos onto the table before following after him. "I thought cars couldn't go on the roads where we are going."
He called back over his shoulder. "Eventually, but first we will need a driver and a vehicle that will not arouse suspicion."
One of the old bartenders opened the glass door for him and then assisted me in getting him over the rubber threshold with a demeanor that read happy-to-be-rid-of-the-both-of-you. Blinking from the bright sun and pulling at my sweat-soaked shirt collar, I joined the Seer on the streets. "Does it ever cool off in this damn place?"
"It snowed here thirty-seven years ago." He replaced his inside sunglasses for the oversized ones that he used outside. "In the winter at night it gets colder." He grinned. "Sometimes."
We had reached the curb when a large, honest-to-God pink, 1959 Cadillac convertible pulled into view and slid up in front of us like a pulsating puddle of Pepto-Bismol, oozing to a stop. A young man with long hair and amazingly thick glasses got out and came around, opened the door, and saluted me. "Hola, Capitán."
The Seer gestured toward the young man. "My nephew, Alonzo-our driver."
I gave him my hand. "Walt Longmire."
"Good to meet you." He lifted his uncle from the wheelchair, carefully placed him in the passenger seat, and then put the conveyance into the cavernous rear.
I leaned forward, but the Seer stopped me with his cane. "We have not discussed the fee for our services."
"I figured we'd get to that."
He gestured toward his nephew and stuck a hand out. "One hundred US dollars apiece per day, plus expenses."
"Driving this, gas alone should be another thousand." I shook his hand and noticed how strong his grip was, then reached out and tapped the Longhorn steer horns mounted on the hood. "So is this the inconspicuous vehicle we'll be taking south?"
Alonzo gunned the motor. "This sonless, goat-fornicating, godforsaken, flat-beer-tasting beast will carry us as far as the equator if need be." He grinned, and you could tell that he and the Seer were from the same genetic corral. "We will see you tonight at Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral." He threw an arm over the side of the Caddy and pointed down the street. "I will meet you inside a little before nine p.m." He turned his head. "Any questions?"
"Yep." Running my eyes over the glossy flanks of the hot pink Caddy and the outrageous tailfins, the largest ever produced, I stuffed my hands in my jeans and glanced at him. "How much Mary Kay did you have to sell to get this thing?"
On the long trip back to the Avenue Benito Juárez bridge, I thought about what I was doing. I was a stranger in a strange land, and my backup was a legless, blind humpback and his Coke-bottle-lensed, Caddy-driving nephew, neither man instilling a great deal of confidence.
The sidewalk became more crowded as I approached the Border Patrol building on the right, and I was reminded of the cattle chutes we used in Wyoming as I took the general entrance back into my country instead of the one to the left for Americans with documents.
I had to remember to get a passport.
Standing in the long line, I looked around me and figured that the Seer had been right about my blending in-I was going to have to lose about eight inches, forty pounds, and investigate a pigment transplant.
Behind the Plexiglas, a bored-looking young woman gestured for me to step forward. "American citizen?"
I pulled out my driver's license and handed it through the opening at the bottom. She studied it for a moment, and I watched as her left hand slipped beneath the counter. A moment later another uniformed individual was standing beside her and motioned for me to go to the unmarked door to the right, not the general one to the left.
"Is there a problem?"
"Not really, except that you're supposed to have a passport to enter Mexico, even if you don't really need one to get back in the US." The older man who was stationed behind the young woman motioned again, and she turned back to me with a practiced smile. "Just a routine check-you're the lucky one-millionth customer of the day." I nodded and followed my license; the heavy door buzzed, and I pushed it open and entered a short hallway. The Border Patrol guy appeared from the other side and pointed toward the door at the end of the hall.
"Do I get a prize or anything?"
"Oh yeah, it's in there."
I walked down the hall and just as my hand touched it, the door buzzed and the lock sprang.
FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Mike McGroder sat reading from a file folder at a metal table with his loafered feet on its surface. "I told you not to go by yourself."
"Your socks don't match." I sat in the chair opposite him. "I was just doing a little sightseeing. Did you know that Marilyn Monroe got her divorce from Arthur Miller in Juárez?"
"Did you know he was hung like a cocktail sausage?"
"Walt." He glanced at the camera in the corner of the ceiling behind him. "You were reconnoitering in a foreign country, and you're lucky I've got pull and can get you back in this one."
"As far as I can remember, I'm an American citizen."
"An armed American citizen in Mexico, which means you get the nicest corner cell in the shittiest maximum-security prison in the Free and Sovereign State of Chihuahua."
"I just wanted to get the ball rolling."
"Okay, Sisyphus." He put his feet on the floor, tossed the file onto the table, and ran a palm over his crew cut. "I've got you a meeting with the AIC and the DEA guy here in El Paso tomorrow at four-thirty."
"I'll already be gone."
"Walt." He placed his elbows on the table, lacing his fingers as a chin rest. "They know you're coming. Hell, they're planning on you coming, and they're going to have a very warm reception for you."
"I'm just trying to give you a fighting chance at survival."
"Look, let's set ourselves up for success here. I think getting your daughter out of Mexico and you surviving it is what we're shooting for."
"Me surviving would be nice, but I doubt it'll happen." I sat back in my chair with the image of a five-year-old girl with reddish hair dancing through a pasture as the horses looked on. "He knows I'm here, he knows I know he's got her, and he'll kill her if I don't play by the rules." I reached under my lightweight jacket and pulled the aforementioned .45 from the small of my back and placed it on the table between us. "That's what I've got. Now I know I'm going into a fight, so I'll gladly trade it for a rifle, a shotgun, an RPG, a Sherman tank, or an atomic bomb-but that's what I've got."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I’m a big fan of Louis LAmour. I think I’ve read just about all of his books. Some of them 2 or 3 times. Craig Johnson is right up there with Louis. I’ve read all the Longmire books 4 or5 times. Can’t wait for the new one to come out in September. Think I just might read the series again. Can’t wait for the new book. Thank you Craig Johnson for the Longmire series
This is the first book I put down one of the Longmire series book. I couldn't connect to this book at all and just felt over the top
Not much of a story with easy too much violence
I’m truly hooked on Walt Longmire! Reminds me of a mix of John Wayne, Tom Seleck, and Clint Eastwood all in one beautiful mix. The story grabs you in the beginning couple of pages then shakes your foundational beliefs all the way through. Although the interplay with Henry, Vic, Cady, and Lucien was missing, there were enough interesting new characters to make the absence nearly bearable. A great read and I’m waiting for the next iteration of Good vs Evil!
There were too many times that Walt would say he would do whatever it takes, but then wouldn’t actually do it. It’s hard to write this review without spoilers, but if he’d just pulled the trigger, the book would have ended much sooner and fewer people trying to help him would have died.
I never know the direction of story but I am always going along for the ride.
The villians in this story seemed rather canned and James Bond like antagonists. I have a hard time imagining real people being that deprived of humanity. Sadly, the news tells me they really do exist.Perhaps the one characteristic of Walt Longmire I love most is his tenacity; his ability to summon that last piece of energy to get to the next step. I find his ability to do that, either through supernatural powers or his undying need to help those close to him as very inspiring.The second best is how he sticks with his morality and always does the right thing despite consequences he can see in the future because of his actions. In the end, he always not only comes out on top but does so with a clean conscience.Please keep the stories coming, Mr. Johnson!
More twists and turns than a can of fishing worms.
Craig Johnson ensured the purchase of Depth of Winter with the horrific ending in The Western Star. Unfortunately, Depth of Winter, does not convey the power and energy of the previous Craig Johnson books, and this reader prayed for the book to end. The book describes all the terrors and hardships of Mexico and shows the reader why so many Mexicans attempt to enter the United States. The Western Star ends with Walt’s daughter kidnapped, so the reader must plunge into the next to discover what happens. Craig Johnson provides numerous supporting characters to aid in the search for Cady, but Henry and Vic have faded into the sunset while waiting for Walt and Cady to return home. The time has come to forego reading Craig Johnson and delve into other authors, for a while.
Enjoyed Walt’s vacation in Mexico.
One book I hated to put down!
Great read. Excellent variation of location and characters! Hope there is more to come from Walt Longmire. Also miss having more of a TV series!
Different but a good departure from Wyoming
Very disappointed. I miss the usual characters, the humor and the Wyoming backdrop. This is too violent and Walt gets into unbelievable situations. Loved every other book in this series and the novellas.
Depth of Winter is the 14th novel in Craig Johnson's Absaroka County Sheriff Walt Longmire series of modern western police procedurals. As usual this is an excellent story, without redundancies. I give up on series that tend to be reruns, and Craig Johnson never does that. This one takes place entirely in Mexico, and without his posse of friends and deputies but is nevertheless a fine tale, told well. Thank you Mr. Johnson for keeping us so well entertained.
This had my attention from the beginning and every time I put the book down I wondered what was next and wanted to get back to reading the book to find out.
Different from usual story line. Hopefully it will be part of the tv series
Always a can't put it down thriller,
Very suspenseful,start to finish. Great read.
I can't wait for the next one!