Author: Craig Johnson

Publisher: Viking/The Penguin Group

ISBN: 978-0-670-02645-6

After switching off cable TV in my home, I didn’t feel as if I was going to miss out on too many programs, but the Walt Longmire series on A&E was one I knew I would severely miss. I hadn’t read any of the books from which the TV series draws its stories, primarily because I assumed the TV episodes mirror the books (I still don’t know for sure whether that’s true or not), and I’m not a fan of reading a story after seeing the performance. But when a brand-new installment from Craig Johnson came out in June, I knew I wouldn’t have seen the corresponding screen version, so I was eager to see how the print version came across.

It seems to me that the writers for the TV series must be profoundly grateful to Mr. Johnson for his vibrant style. The plot line played out in my mind just as vividly as if I was watching it on TV. Johnson’s characters, who he says are based on people he knows, are captured in his writing just as surely as they are portrayed by actors.

But dialogue is where A Serpent’s Tooth really shines. The written version of verbal exchanges are handled just as deftly as they are between the actors on TV. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the scripts are constructed whole cloth from the books, as they read as well as they sound.

Sheriff Walt Longmire is dealing this time with a young boy cast out from a polygamy group. The teen has his own bodyguard—a wiry old man who claims to be 200 years old. When Longmire and his assistant, Victoria Moretti, and his friend Henry Standing Bear try to track down answers about the whereabouts of the boy’s mother, they are met with armed resistance from the polygamy camp. It’s obvious there’s more going on than a benevolent religious group’s peaceful coexistence.

 The sheriff and crew venture outside Absaroka County in order to connect the dots. In doing so, they manage to create some notoriety for themselves in South Dakota. It’s just Longmire defending his value system, which involves his own brand of justice and the fight for what’s right. Such well-honed character traits make Longmire a series that attracts many fans. And it doesn’t seem to matter if you partake of it in written form or on TV—either version will hook you into wanting more.

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