Reviews by L. J. Roberts
CRAIG JOHNSON – Next to Last Stand. Walt Longmire #16. Viking, hardcover, 2020. Setting: Contemporary Wyoming/Montana.
First Sentence: Years ago, on one particularly beautiful, high plains afternoon when I was a deputy with the Absaroka County Sheriff’s Department, I propped my young daughter, Cady, on my hip and introduced her to Charlie Lee Stillwater.
Walt receives a call from Carol Williams, the caretaker and administrator of the Veteran’s Home of Wyoming, once Fort McKinney. Charlie Lee Stillwater, the fifth of the group call the Wavers, old Veterans in souped-up electric wheelchairs, has died. Going through his effects, Carol and Walt find a box containing two items of particular note: one million dollars in cash, and a painted canvas which was clearly part of a larger painting. Walt investigates the source of both, and whether the painting, thought to have been long destroyed, was stolen.
The best characters are ones who grow and change over the course of a series. So too has Johnson done with Longmire. This book is more the Walt we love; the events of the prior two books have understandably changed him as he questions his future.
Dog is here! Those who are series readers have come to love Dog. Henry is also here. A joke that runs between him and Walt in this story makes one smile. Vic, Walt’s second and girlfriend, is a character who, for some of us, has become tiring. It is nice to see Lonnie Littlebird, Chief of the Cheyenne Nation and Tribal Elder— “Um humm, yes it is so.” But it’s the “Wavers” who are the stars: four elderly veterans in souped-up wheelchairs who wave to passing traffic in front of the Veterans’ Home of Wyoming.
Walt in evening dress and chasing bad guys through a museum is new, but so are the bad guys. No cowboy hats and boots here— “Do you ever get the feeling that there are people out there who are living lives that we know absolutely nothing about?”
The plot is interesting and filled with historical information. Unfortunately, it was almost too much information and it slows down the first half of the book. Fortunately, once past that, the pace picks up noticeably. One does wonder where the series is going. Were some of Walt’s comments foreshadowing or merely a frustrating tease?
The Epilogue is wonderful and worth the price of the book in itself, except for the last sentence, which is annoying, insulting to his readers, and caused me to reduce my rating.
Next to Last Stand is something of a return to that which fans most love about Johnson’s books. It is interesting, exciting, and filled with excellent characters. However, this is a book one might want to wait to read until the next book is released.