The book even begins with Walt and deputy Vic Moretti out in Wyoming back country discussing how they’ve been here before and wondering how that turned out. They’ve been brought in due to the disappearance of sheep; the investigation leads to a large wolf prowling the area, who Vic dubs Larry after Lon Chaney Jr.’s character in The Wolfman, and a shepherd hanging from a tree. The man, Miguel Hernandez, worked for the Extepares, a Basque sheep herding family who was responsible for blowing off the leg of Walt’s predecessor, Lucian Connally. Hernandez was also a political dissident in Chile with reasons and people at home and abroad to kill him.
Larry also plays a major part in the story. Much like his Universal Horror namesake, the town is after him. There are several questions about who he is and where he came from. Walt’s Cheyenne pal, Henry Standing Bear, believes the animal is connected to Virgil White Buffalo, the Vietnam veteran Crow Indian who has served as a spiritual guide for Walt in times past. Walt has doubts, but less than he usually does, yet wonders what he’s trying to say.
Walt is in one of his most fragile states. In Mexico, he pulled out a darker side he’s having difficulty contending with now. A fugue state has taken over him and he finds himself disconnected from those he loves, particularly his daughter Cady. He fears he is returning to that person who shut people off after his wife died and he doesn’t want to go back to to that. The title comes form the Basque proverb “A land of strangers is a land of wolves.” Walt has returned to a land of strangers he knows.
If this all sounds depressing, the book is far from it. Vic gets many great moments, particularly when being forced into the role as Walt’s life coach. Fans of Dog will be happy to see he gets a lot of attention on the page, including one with Walt trying to get him into the bullet that is both funny and poignant. There is also the subplot with Ruby and the deputy’s teaching him to use the desktop computer forced on him, something he fears will lead to a phone.
Land Of Wolves allows Craig Johnson to do what he does best. He is able to to take his time, take in Walt’s friendships and the lay of the land. The result is the reader taking in the life of a survivor and see the benefits and price of being one.
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