A SERPENT’S TOOTH
(A Longmire Mystery)
By Craig Johnson
First of all, we really wish we could read these in order, but life has conspired against us with this particular series so we plow ahead reviewing whichever is within arms reach at any given day. Two week-ends ago, we were packing for a flight to Kentucky and wanted a lightweight paperback to read on the plane. The nearest on hand was this Longmire mystery by the ever reliable Craig Johnson. We stuffed it in our bag and headed out.
Having read several Longmire mysteries, we’ve only ever found we really didn’t care for. Not a bad track record and “A Serpert’s Tooth” falls into the positive box in a big way as it delivers all the things we love about this series. When a runaway teenage boy is discovered in Absaroka County Wyoming, it’s left to Sheriff Walt Longmire and his team of deputies to uncover the boy’s identity and get him back to his family. It is soon learned that he escaped from a fanatical religious cult with headquarters in South Dakota. Upon further investigation Longmire learns that the boy’s mother has gone missing about the same time he popped up in the sheriff’s backyard.
When his routine probes into the church’s history, and past run-ins with the law, start to draw some very reactionary actions from the cult, Longmire soon suspects the group is hiding more than just a body. Further investigation links the group to former government agents with connections to illegal oil drilling. Like all good mysteries, this one comes with all sorts of pieces that at the beginning seem totally unrelated; impossible to form into one cohesive image. But Longmire is tenacious if nothing else. He’s got an orphan boy on his hands, a possible dead mother and the shady dealings of a cult group that attempts to impede his investigation at every turn. Then, amidst this convoluted puzzle, a crazy bearded fellow shows up claiming to be a two-hundred years old Mormon gunfighter on a mission for the prophet John Smith.
Johnson’s best stories are those that mix his wry, sarcastic humor with brilliant flashes of intuition that peers into the human psyche like a laser beam. He mixes dark humor with love and loss so brilliantly, you’ll find yourself reading some of his passages out loud like the poetry they really are. “A Serpent’s Tooth,” is classic Longmire and honestly, we couldn’t give it any higher praise.