We’re taught to work independently, but nothing strikes you quite like a 10-78 [Officer Needs Assistance], the urgency to reach a fellow officer in need. It’s instinctual to individuals who are trained to respond and risk their lives for each other and complete strangers.”
Having been in Wyoming Law Enforcement for so long, he knows pretty much every officer in the state. One such person is Rosey Wayman, a Highway patrolman who’s having some problems. She’s taken a new assignment, a jurisdiction once patrolled by a (literally) legendary officer. Since then, well, strange things have been happening. Walt and Henry (as a favor to her and her C.O.) have dropped by to act as sort of independent witnesses — basically to determine if her imagination is getting the best of her, or if there are strange things underfoot.
One of the best parts of this series is the way that Johnson writes about things that can’t be readily and easily explained (generally) without spelling things out for the reader. Yes, a character may be having a psychological problem, a physical problem, or there might be a spiritual dimension to what they experience — maybe all of the above — but what Johnson won’t do is tell you what happened. Henry, Walt, Ruby, Lucian or any number of others just might express their thoughts/opinions/beliefs, but the author won’t.
Which means that when Johnson tells a ghost story? You’re in for a good one. One where you have no idea if the ghost in question is a manifestation of someone’s (or multiple someones’) subconscious.
I will admit I was confused when I saw this was advertised as a novella. The last Longmire novel, Dry Bones was 306 pages long, and this was listed at 200 (190 is my count). How did that qualify as a novella (which is a fairly slippery term, anyway)? And then I picked up a copy. This one measured at 5.3″ x 7.4″ (Dry Bones was 6.2″ x 9.2″). Which explained everything. Reading it made it clear that it wasn’t a novel — one story, no personal drama, no ongoing story/character arcs — just Walt, Henry and Rosey on a ghost hunt.
Lean prose, great characters, a setting that means more than just the place where the action takes place (and is described thusly) — everything you want in a Longmire story.
One other thing that I have to mention — the elderly Arapaho sha-woman that Henry introduces Walt to is a real hoot. Her teasing/harassment of Walt was a needed dash of fun in this book, I can only hope that Johnson finds an excuse to use her again.
If this was a novel, it’d be 3-3 ½ stars, but since it’s supposed to be a novella, I’ll give it a 4. Just what the doctor ordered to tide you over until the next full book.