Spoilers for The Western Star appear below, read at your own risk if you haven’t caught up.
“I wish we had more weapons.”
I thought about the fact that we pretty much just had the Colt at my back, the FN, and the collection of antique weaponry in the gym bag. “Me, too.”
He lit the cigar and pocketed the lighter. “You know he is going to kill you.”
“I know it’s a possibility.”
He took a deep puff, savoring the tobacco, and then slowly exhaled. “I’d say it’s a probability.”
With just a little adjustment to what happened at the end of The Western Star, Johnson picks up shortly after Walt takes off on the trail of Tomás Bidarte who has arranged for the kidnapping of Cady. It’s a suicide mission and not one with much likelihood of success — but Walt’s convinced he has no choice and is determined he will survive long enough to get Cady freed. He has no plan (that we know of) to keep her safe after he’s dead, but seems to believe he’ll have made her safe beforehand.
To do this, he elicits some help from a maverick-y US Border Patrol agent and some interesting characters from a blind and legless man who serves as Walt’s guide, his nephew, and a former spy turned doctor to help him get to and infiltrate Bidarte’s compound. The most intriguing of Walt’s new allies is a young man named Isidro, a Tarahumara and a sharpshooter that puts Vic to shame. Both his mannerisms and backstory really sold me on him — more than I expected.
I’ve pushed off writing this post because I’m not sure what to say about it. Yes, it was exciting. Yes, there’s a lot of good action — and seeing Walt out of his element, dependent upon others to explain the world around him and for backup is a nice change of pace.
But . . .
It’s not Walt Longmire. Walt’s an honorable man. A man of law and order (I know, I know…he’s also going to make exceptions where Cady is concerned). He’s a guy who figures things out, he’s not a one man (or one man with strong support) vigilante army. That Walt is hard to find in this book, replaced with some sort of not-quite Bryan Mills-level action hero.
Bidarte’s become some sort of super-villain. Some sort of strange mashup of a James Bond villain and the head of a CBS procedural’s Drug Cartel. And that was hard to take. I also have a hard time swallowing the idea of . . . well, I can’t talk about that without spoiling anything. But there’s an auction — and I can’t buy: 1. the idea of it; 2. the number of bidders; 3. how that all played out. If you read/will read the book, you’ll know what I mean.
I am so glad I got to meet Isidro, and I wouldn’t mind more time with The Seer and the doctor and their families — or even the Border Patrol agent (he’d be a lot of fun with Walt’s FBI or State Police friends). But under very different circumstances. The story is exciting — there’s some good chuckles, a couple of great fight scenes, a lot of heart. There’s a lot to commend this book for. But it’s not a Walt Longmire book to me, and that’s its fatal flaw.
Going into this, I feared it’d be Johnson’s equivalent to Parker’s A Catskill Eagle, a book that had Parker’s character act out of character on his mission to save the most important woman in his life. But I hoped that Johnson would be able to avoid the problems that Parker ran into. I don’t think he succeeded, I’m sure that others will disagree. This one just didn’t do much for me, and the more time I think about it, the worse it fares. So I’m going to try to not think about it again for a while.
I do look forward to seeing Walt back in Wyoming, dealing with some/all of the fallout and repercussions of the events of this book. But most of all I look forward to seeing Walt be Walt again.