Whether or not you are a fan of the books in Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire mystery series or the A&E television series based on them, “Longmire,” his newest book is sure to please.
Although “Spirit of Steamboat” is only about half the length of his usual books, Johnson’s characters still give the reader the full measure of emotional impact and grit found in his other books.
Moving between Christmas Eve of 2013 and 1988 in Durant, Wyo., this book is interwoven with quotes and ideas from the heirloom copy of Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” that Longmire carries with him. Elements of both stories are tied to the greater ideas that individuals are capable of the courage to risk everything for the sake of others, and that we often have more regrets about the actions we did not take than we do about the actions we did.
Told from Sheriff Longmire’s point of view, “Spirit of Steamboat” is the story of a desperate struggle to transport a badly burned child from Wyoming to the specialized hospital care in Denver that she needs in order to survive. The book’s title also is the name of the once-mothballed transport version of the Mitchell B-25 bomber used during World War II. Held together with bailing wire, spirit and even handcuffs, and flying in a race against ice and snowstorms, the plane is the setting for an unlikely group of heroes.
Lucian Connally, Longmire’s predecessor as sheriff, is flying the plane. Cranky, profane, with a prosthetic leg and several drinks under his belt, Connally is the only man in town capable of flying the plane. Having served as one of Doolittle’s Raiders, Lucian knows the aircraft he both loves and hates. Julie the copilot works at the Durant Airport and decides her skills and two good legs are needed to assist Lucian in getting Steamboat into the air and safely back on the ground one more time.
Accompanying the badly injured child who was orphaned in the crash that burned her is her Japanese grandmother, who speaks little English. They are joined by Holocaust survivor Dr. Isaac Bloomfield, who will strive to keep the girl alive as they fight the elements in the unheated belly of the plane. Moving between the two groups in the cockpit and the belly is Longmire, who finds he is dealing with situations more frightening than his combat experiences in Vietnam.
Together, these individuals attempt to forge a miracle of human courage and spirit that is at times a nail-biting but ultimately satisfying tale.
Barker is the manager of the Richmond Hill Public Library.