MP Pick of the Month: A SERPENT’S TOOTH by Craig Johnson

WARNING: While no major plot point is clearly revealed to do this review some are hinted at.

A Serpent’s Tooth is possibly the oddest book in Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series. While it has all the elements of humor, action, and strong characterizations, the tone does a a major, though seamless, shift to extremes. In a lesser authors hands this book would fall apart, but in Johnson’s it may be a landmark book in the series.

Foreshadowing the later half of the the book, A Serpent’s Tooth starts with Walt attending a funeral of one of Durant’s matrons. When one of her peers at the service tells him about the angel who does her household repairs for food, he looks into it and finds Cord Lynear in her home. A teenage “lost boy”, Cord has been kicked out of a polygamy sect because he took the attention of the younger girls away from the elders. Walt decides to help the boy find his missing mother, taking a zig-zag journey around the American west.
The subject of fringe religions gives Johnson great opportunity for Johnson to practice his skill for eccentric characters and the folks who have the patience to deal with them. We get a man who believes he is a two hundred year old gunman for Brigham Young and wait until you meet the UFO man. Fans of Vic Moretti will be happy to know the sexy, wise ass deputy is often on hand for commentary.
The first part of the the book has a curious feel feel to it, since there is no clear crime to investigate. The middle takes on a somewhat intentionally convoluted nature of a James Crumley novel, involving militias, the CIA, the oil business, and a very unique form of theft. The ultimate irony is that the clearer the picture becomes, the darker the story is. When Walt half opens this Pandora’s box of evil, it will change his life and the lives of many of his deputies, ending one.
In many ways, A Serpent’s Tooth is a look at institutions that fail the people. Organized religion and agencies both public and private either ignore, betray, or at times prey on on individuals and communities for their own interest. The only institution that comes off well is local law enforcement. Walt gets a lot of help from fellow sheriffs. They are the last line of defense against corruption.
Set in the Fall, A Serpent’s Tooth also deals with change. It sets up its hero and several of the supporting characters to take a look at the direction in their lives and possibly choose new ones. In a little over three hundred pages it goes from humorous to heartbreaking, capturing life in it’s mess, craziness, nobility, and most of all it’s fragility. Much like the book there is a beauty to it’s strangeness.
Craig Johnson will be at BookPeople, June 11th, 7PM to discuss and sign A Serpent’s Tooth.

One thought on “MP Pick of the Month: A SERPENT’S TOOTH by Craig Johnson

  1. […] Here’s hoping the book and television series continue to be such high quality. I’m halfway through his new book and so far I am loving it. For this article I want to give a special thanks to Scott Montgomery of BookPeople, who helped me get time to talk to Johnson in person. Montgomery wrote a good review of Johnson’s new book here. […]

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