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Spirit of Steamboat: A Walt Longmire Story    by Craig Johnson order for
Spirit of Steamboat
by Craig Johnson
Order:  USA  Can
Viking, 2014 (2013)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Craig Johnson, in his preface, says Spirit of Steamboat is an 'odd little book' that he had begun as a short story but had allowed to grow into a 160-page novella. He also tells readers that his Christmas tale is not a mystery per se but an adventure/thriller with mysterious elements.

Well, all of Johnson's disclosures serve as fair notice to his fans who might be expecting yet another of his very successful Walt Longmire mysteries, but readers - I would hasten to add - ought to understand also that Spirit of Steamboat is something of a paradox: it is a pleasant holiday homage to Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, but it is at the same time (after a dozen or so pages) a rather predictable adventure/thriller without many mysterious elements.

In any case, when Johnson's slender tale opens, a mysterious woman shows up like a ghost of Christmas past in Durant, Wyoming, on Christmas Eve, and she wants very much to speak to Longmire and his predecessor, retired sheriff Lucian Connally. She also says, 'I have something I need to return.'

Then - in the form of an extended flashback to Christmas Eve in 1988 - readers are treated to an exciting adventure featuring Longmire and Connally (and two others in the flight crew), a badly burned young accident victim and her Japanese grandmother, and a desperate medevac flight in a questionably airworthy relic of Doolittle's raid on Tokyo in World War II; the aging B25, by the way, had been appropriately nicknamed Steamboat in honor of one of the toughest bucking horses in the history of rodeo - the same horse whose image has been featured on Wyoming license plates since 1936 - and this particular airplane's mission of mercy is fueled by more than not enough 130-octane aviation gas. As it turns out, only the spirit of Christmas will keep this B25 in the air.

But enough about the story. The bottom line is this: Walt Longmire's fans will enjoy receiving this stocking stuffer, so make sure you add a few copies of Spirit of Steamboat to your Christmas gift list.

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