A Book Spy Review: ‘The Western Star’ by Craig Johnson

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Bestselling author Craig Johnson pulls out all the stops for his latest Longmire novel, The Western Star

While having a celebratory beer at the LaBonte Hotel, Walt, who ventures into town every four years for his weapons certification, is confronted by a photo from his early days as a deputy sheriff. The photo, however, isn’t the only thing that gets Walt upset. As the story bounces between present day and back to the 1970s, Johnson skillfully lays out Walt’s past history with a violent serial killer. 

The Western Star was a sheriff’s train that ran from 1948 to 1972. On one fateful day, there were twenty-four armed sheriffs on board, along with one deputy–Walt Longmire…

The year was 1972, and Walt, who’d just recently returned from the war in Vietnam, was working under Sheriff Lucian Connelly. Recently married and with a new child on the way, Walt took the deputy job in Absaroka County to help pay the bills. Unsure of his future, or if he even wanted to live in Wyoming any longer, Walt considered quitting on the spot and driving straight to the nearest airport. Instead, he stayed. And later that night, he met the most ruthless, evil criminal he would ever encounter in his long career as a lawman. 

Back in the present day, the killer’s lawyers have filed for a compassionate release, citing that their client is terminally ill and thus would “benefit from obtaining aid outside of the prison system.” Walt and Lucian, who is also on hand, meet with everyone from the judge to the prison physician, trying to convince them that the killer shouldn’t be released under any circumstances. 

While it’s clear early on that Walt has a real grudge against the killer, it’s not until later in the story that Johnson explains why the entire ordeal is so personal for Longmire. The surprise twist will catch readers off-guard, especially longtime fans who’ve followed the sheriff’s adventures over the last twelve novels. 

Carried in paperback form by Walt Longmire early in 1972, Johnson clearly pays homage to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, though Johnson may have thought up the one ending that Christie never accounted for. 

There’s been a lot of talk of a Longmire movie since Netflix announced that the forthcoming season of the hit show would be the series’ final run. Few, if any, of Johnson’s books, are more perfectly suited for the big screen than this one, which reads like a movie from start to finish. 

Smartly-written, deftly-plotted, filled with wit and fun, and topped off with more suspense than past novels in the series, Craig Johnson’s The Western Star chugs full steam ahead to a surprise ending that will leave Longmire fans clamoring for next year’s book. 

Book Details

Author: Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire #13
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0525426957
Publisher: Viking
Release Date: September 5th, 2017
Book Spy Rating: 8.5/10
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