Book Review: Spirit of Steamboat

Title: Spirit of Steamboat: A Walt Longmire Story
Author: Craig Johnson
Published: 2013
Format: Hardback

Longtime followers of the blog may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. I’m a little ashamed to say that the reason I haven’t posted is that I haven’t *read* in a while. No, really. I haven’t read a book in something like nine months, and I haven’t written more than 3k since December.
And I’ve been itching to, I really have, but life has gotten in the way and I just haven’t managed a book that has held my interest into chapter two.
So, one Friday, I got off early from work (woot!) and decided to take myself on the best kind of date – the library. So I started in adult fiction and I walked the stacks slowly, running my hands down the books, touching the spines, picking stuff up and putting it back down. I took the aisles out of order, coming in in the middle, heading back and forth, dismayed at the fact that they were actually taking shelves out of my library because of a lack of books on them.
That has something to do with this book, I promise.
So anyway, the first row I went down was H-J, and this was one of the first books I touched. I liked that it was small, novella-ish. I had decided that if nothing could hold my attention that a smaller book had a better chance. The dark, teal green of the cover stood out amidst a sea of much more boring black and white and uninspiring.
Until I turned to the front cover, I hadn’t realized that it had anything to do with the TV show – a plethora (okay, two, but they’re big and the book is small) of library stickers covered up half the spine. And I haven’t watched the TV show, so I read the first paragraph of the flap and decided that I could read this without knowing that.
So in the story, Sherriff Longmire is reading Dickens on Christmas Eve (because that is the most overdone Christmas trope ever in books), and somebody shows up in his office that he’s sure he’s never seen before but is adamant that she needs to see the old sheriff and that she knows them all.
So Walt takes her to the old guy and she starts her tale of how they know her, which is pretty much the rest of the book.  [NOTE:  This story takes place at Christmas, but it is most certainly not a Christmas story.]

So, because this was the first piece of fiction that I have held attention to in *nine months* I really wanted to give this book a full five page rating, but I just can’t.
For starters, the book is shelved as a mystery – there’s a sticker from the library that says it and everything – and really the only mystery in the whole thing is who the chick is and we figure that out pretty quick. Even the acknowledgement page says that this is a “weird little book that was supposed to be a short story… and is not a mystery per say, but a thriller with mysterious elements.” And while I’m not necessarily taking off points for expecting a mystery, that’s mostly because the author told me that on the very first page.
Second of all, there was a bit of an issue with the present day/flash back thing. Like when the flashback was over, the story pretty much was, too…there was nothing at all to wrap it up at the end. So either he could have just told the story of the rescue and not flashed back or he could have put a little more meat on the story. I felt that *all* the present day stuff was rushed to get to the 1988 flight.
That said, the 1988 flight part was *fabulous* I could just about feel the snow and having come from somewhere that got blizzards, just reading about it made me cold. That’s a sign of a good author. There was the right amount of suspense and detail, the right balance of slang and explaining things for the reader, and I didn’t feel out of place trying to read about pilots and doctors and whatever else.
And the old Asian woman in the story isn’t a bad stereotype. She’s written as kind and sympathetic.

So, there are a few things that needed help, which I think are an unfortunate product of this starting as a really short story and ending up at this length, but with a little tweaking this story could be perfect.
I loved the author’s writing style, and as such have another book of his waiting for me to pick it up at the library as I type this.
I will give this book a very sold – and very happy – 4 out of 5 pages.

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