Book Review: A Serpent’s Tooth by Craig Johnson

Posted December 25, 2013 by Stormi in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: A Serpent’s Tooth by Craig JohnsonA Serpent's Tooth by Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire, #9, #9
Genres: Mystery
Published by Viking on June 4, 2013
Pages: 335
Format: Hardcover

Also in this series: The Percentages"

It’s homecoming in Absaroka County, but the football and festivities are interrupted when a homeless boy wanders into  town. A Mormon “lost boy,” Cord Lynear is searching for his missing mother but clues are scarce. Longmire and his companions, feisty deputy Victoria Moretti and longtime friend Henry Standing Bear, embark on a high plains scavenger hunt in hopes of reuniting mother and son. The trail leads them to an interstate polygamy group that’s presiding over a stockpile of weapons and harboring a vicious vendetta.

Also by this author: Spirit of Steamboat, Any Other Name, The Highwayman, "Eleven/Twenty-Nine", An Obvious Fact, The Western Star, Depth of Winter, Land of Wolves, The Cold Dish, Death Without Company , Kindness Goes Unpunished , Another Man's Moccasins, "Land of the Blind", The Percentages"

Ninth in the Walt Longmire mystery series based in Durant, Wyoming, and revolving around Sheriff Longmire and his people.

My Take
First off, I want that “angel”, LOL! It’s the epitome of small town living where everyone knows everyone else, and most people get on well, joshing and joking. They know each other’s weaknesses and strengths, their habits, what they wouldn’t do. Where decisions are based on reality, not a rule in a book. It’s a warm group of people you can’t help but love.

Jesus, Lost Boys. Just another example of religion being used to manipulate people and gather power. Is there such a thing as a cult that is actually interested in the well-being of its followers?

It’s odd that none of the Apostolic godfearing men have any clue about the difference between the general public and sheriffs and their deputies. The behavior and weapons that are acceptable. Or not.

“…we can argue as long as you’d like—and then I win.”

It does lead to some funnily interesting confrontations between the cult and Walt and his posse. Especially those with the idiot kids. Oh, lordy. Pretty sad about Cord not knowing about My Friend Flicka or other movies…!?!

Orrin Porter Rockwell certainly starts to make me think he might be real…! I did not understand what Johnson was saying at the end about him. About Eleanor sending him. If he didn’t know who he was, why would he respond to what she wanted? Why didn’t she tell Walt what she’d done? It’s just another example of the story not connecting, not hanging together.

What in god’s name is going on with Big Wanda? That woman gets around, including, it seems, having children with her own son??

I enjoyed the general thrust of this story; it drops a point for me when it feels like too many leaps to conclusions, even if they do bear out. I still expect there to be a good reason, one I can follow. It’s too much ignorance that I can’t buy into. Too much of Walt’s diving into situations that are too big simply because he doesn’t want to share. Or he has such faith in Johnson keeping him alive!

I’ve been having a hard time as well with Walt and Vic. They’re an odd couple: Vic’s hot for Walt and lets him know it while Walt is always backing off. I know that Johnson says that they’re hot for each other, but I’m not feelin’ it. And it didn’t really hit me that I didn’t believe until this story when events go as far as they do.

Still, it’s a good story that I enjoyed for the most part. Johnson certainly knew how to draw up that tension at the start and at the end.

The Story
Seems Mike Thomas is worried about his mom as she’s talking about “angels” cleaning up Barbara Thomas’ to-do list. And Walt and Henry have been invited to the Homecoming Game; their numbers are being retired.

In trying to learn more about the “angel”, Walt is in touch with a few other sheriffs and learns about problems the Apostolic Church of the Lamb of God is causing from abuse to Child Services issues.

Problems that Walt quickly becomes aware of when he tries to pay a visit. Good thing the trigger-happy Vic and the phlegmatic Cheyenne Nation are along for these rides.

The Characters
Walt Longmire is a widower and the Sheriff of Absaroka County in Wyoming. Cady is his married lawyer daughter who lives in Philadelphia. Dog is his, well, dog. Henry Standing Bear, a.k.a., the Cheyenne Nation, is Walt’s best friend and runs a bar, the Red Pony.

Vic Moretti is the one he’s grooming to take over after him. She’s a tough little thing from Philadelphia, and her brother Michael married Walt’s daughter. Lola is Vic’s mom. And I’m confused what’s happening with her. Is she pregnant?

More of Walt’s deputies include:
Double Tough is an ex-oil rig jockey working the sub-station in Powder Junction along with Frymire. Grace Salinas is Frymire’s fiancée. “Sancho” Saizarbitoria is married to Marie, and they have a baby son, Antonio, a.k.a., The Critter. Ruby is the police dispatcher. Lucian only gets a mention in this.

Doc Isaac Bloomfield, David “Boy Wonder” Nickerson is the doc’s understudy, and Bill McDermott are handling the medical chores this time around. Janine Reynolds, Ruby’s granddaughter, is one of the hospital receptionists.

Tim Berg is the sheriff in Belle Fourche; he’s famous for pencils, pens, and his prodigious beard. Kate is his wife. Van Ross is the town eccentric, given to spaceships, nudity, religious fervor, and helps himself to spare parts from Ellsworth Air Force Base’s salvage yard to prepare. In the past he was married to two women, at the same time: Noemi and Big Wanda. Which is another one of those confusing bits. Just how many Lynears did she marry?

Sheriff Michael Crutchley is the new guy down in Hudspeth County, Texas; Buffy is his wife.

Nancy is the chief therapist for Health Services and was a rock for Walt after Martha died. Dorothy runs the Busy Bee Café when she wants to. Maybe if Cord helps with the dishes… Wally Johnson is counsel for the National Cattlemen’s Association. He and his wife, Donna, run the Lazy D-W. Mike Thomas is a sculptor with whom we’ve crossed paths in the past. Barbara Thomas is his widowed mother. The one with the vintage Mustang all the males (and some females) lust after.

Cord is a fifteen-year-old Lost Boy, Roy Lynear’s son; George and Ronald are his brothers.

Short Drop
Eleanor Tisdale is a widow who runs the bar, mercantile, and library over in Short Drop. Dale Tisdale is the oilman husband who died in a plane crash in Mexico after he sold off most of the family ranch. Dale Atta runs a ranch up north of Short Drop.

The Apostolic Church of the Lamb of God
Roy Lynear is the head honcho, and I think, he’s Ron, George, and Cord’s father. Ronald Lynear runs the East Spring Ranch compound in the Castle Rock area under Berg’s jurisdiction. Bob Lockhart is one of the elders; Tomás Bidarte, the poet lariat of Nuevo Lyon and revolutionary; Big Wanda is Tomás’ mother; George Lynear is the idiot brother with no manners; and, Earl Gloss is Ron’s spiritual adviser.

The children include the susceptible Edmond, Edgar, Merrill, and Joe, all honorary Lynears. Some honor…

Sarah Tisdale Lynear is mother and daughter with Fate returning the favor she paid her own mother.

Bishop Goodman heads up the Church of the Latter-day Saints in Wyoming. Orrin Porter Rockwell, a.k.a., Cousin Itt, believes he’s two hundred years old; the still-living sheriff/assassin/murderer/spy who is very handy to have around. He’ll make you laugh and cry.

The Cover
The cover is a woodcut style with a fanged serpent twined around a grave-style cross, hissing against a distressed orange background, a shadow of cliffs in the background with blue flowers in the foreground.

The title is part of a biblical reference and so appropriate in this tale of cults and family and how they cut so sharp, A Serpent’s Tooth.

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