A Serpent’s Tooth by Craig Johnson

A Serpent's ToothA Serpent’s Tooth

by Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire, #9

Paperback, 335 pg.
Penguin Books, 2014
Read: October 17 – 19, 2015

So it seems that Craig Johnson had some things about religion that he wanted to get off of his chest. It almost felt like that came first, and the story came second — maybe not, maybe he just took the opportunity that the story gave him, what do I know? Raised by a Methodist mother and an atheistic/agnostic/irreligious father, Walt and Martha repeated that pattern once he came home and married (although it appears Walt attended services fairly frequently with her), after her death, he’s left the Church behind. As he told Henry, he’s spent more time in Indian religious ceremonies than Christian since Martha.

So, he’s in a jaded state of mind when he encounters a LDS splinter group — add in Vic’s lapsed Catholicism, and the Absaroka County Sheriff’s Department spends a lot of time almost offending a few World Religions. It helps (both the insulting, and insulating Walt/Johnson from giving actual offense) that this particular splinter group is a little more unhinged than normal.

On the one hand, there are comic elements involving the cult — a senior citizen of indeterminate age claiming to be a historic figure over 200 years old, a yet-older nude sunbather who builds spaceships in his backyard. There are also heart-tugging elements, the teenager who’s never seen a television or movie before (and becomes obsessed), him and other teens being cast out of their homes/families and left to wander, the little girl with a developmental disability abandoned on the roadside for entire days to sell baked goods. But, at least for Walt, more importantly there suspicious elements surrounding a Texas-based cult that moved to South Dakota and now seems to be expanding in a handful of Western and Mid-Western states — and the missing mother of the movie junkie. And guns, lots of new, expensive guns.

In addition, we get a lot of good time with the citizenry of Absaroka County (not as much time in the diner as usual), learn a little bit more about the youth of Walt and Henry, see things move along for Walt and Vic, and see a major shakeup for the Sheriff’s Department. Throw all this together, and you get a solid, satisfying read.

Absolutely nothing here did anything to remove the worries Walt has for Cady thanks to Virgil’s warning/prophecy/vision from Hell is Empty. Hoping that gets resolved soon, if only so Johnson stops teasing.

Not Johnson’s best, but there’s nothing to complain about here, and plenty to enjoy.

—–

3 Stars

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