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SPIRIT OF STEAMBOAT
by Craig Johnson
Viking, September 2013
160 pages
$20.00
ISBN: 0670015784


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The time is Christmas present, and Sheriff Walt Longmire is sitting in his office reading Dickens' A Christmas Carol. His secretary lets him know he has a visitor, who turns out to be an Asian woman carrying a garment bag, who speaks with a wheeze in her voice, and is disappointed that he does not know her. She asks after the previous sheriff, who is currently in a local nursing home, so Longmire takes her to see him. The rest is history, as they say.

When Longmire first took over as sheriff, the previous sheriff, Lucian Connally, took to playing poker and drinking. On that long-ago Christmas Eve, a traffic accident and the storm of the century coincide, leaving a young girl fighting for her life, a life that can only be saved by flying her to facilities in Denver. No plane is available other than an old WWII bomber that has been salvaged and repurposed as a farm plane, and no pilot is available other than the poker playing Lucian Connally (also a WWII bomber). Longmire locates Connally at a local bar and fills him with coffee and an impossible-to-refuse challenge. Then Longmire joins Connally and others on an incredibly suspenseful flight to Denver.

The descriptions of the plane ride are intense, and I found myself rooting for the plane in the midst of the danger, even though I, of course, knew that the trip was successful. How else would the Christmas present be taking place? And, as a reader of the series, I knew that Longmire survived beyond that plane ride. Nonetheless, the trials that take place during the trip are extreme, allowing the book to be classified as suspense. Longmire's strength of character is evident in this novella, and the story provides background to his present-day work as sheriff.

I enjoyed this very quick Christmas read. It doesn't require any familiarity with the series, allowing a new reader to meet Longmire without any previous acquaintance. However, it enhances the seasoned reader's perspective of Longmire. While this book doesn't have a typical cowboy vibe (horses, guns, etc.), it does showcase the cowboy (i.e., untamed) personalities of lawmen in the West.

Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, December 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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