First line: "It was Tuesday, the day before Christmas, and I wasn't expecting visitors."
In the acknowledgements to Spirit of Steamboat, Craig Johnson explains that he set out to write a short story, but what resulted was more of a small novel. Thus, Spirit of Steamboat is a Christmas-themed novella, and it is a perfect little treasure to tuck into your favorite Craig Johnson fan's holiday gift. That is provided your favorite fan doesn't snatch the book up her/himself before Christmas arrives. It would also make a great introduction for someone you've been wanting Walt to meet.
A stranger who shows up at Walt Longmire's office the day before Christmas ignites memories of a life-altering adventure for he and Lucian.
Not long after Walt took office as Sheriff of Absaroka, a fiery car accident took the lives of three people and left a small child badly burned and in need of transportation to Denver. Time was of the essence but mother nature had other plans, like a snowstorm that was grounding all the medical transport helicopters.
Walt recruits Lucian to fly an old VB-25J VIP transport plane that had been refurbished to use for slurry bombing forest fires. It's old, it's questionable and Lucian's the only one who can fly it. But it's also the only option Walt has to get the girl to Denver in order to save her life.
Spirit of Steamboat isn't about a mystery. Johnson tells the story in such a way that the reader knows who the stranger is long before the end. The grip of the story comes as the reader experiences a heart-racing adventure alongside Walt and Lucian. Add to the freezing exploits, Johnson's resonant characters, smart humor, fun little factoids and heart-warming compassion, the result is a tale worthy of the Walt Longmire label.
Johnson builds the novella's theme around a quote from Dickens' A Christmas Carol: "...no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused..." Longtime fans of Walt Longmire know this could be a personal theme for him. But the use in this yarn makes it especially powerful for the holiday season. The strong ironic thread of Lucian's role adds to the impact of the story and drives home the message.
Lucian's always been a great favorite of mine in this series, so I extra enjoyed Spirit of Steamboat. But this is a tale anyone can pick up and appreciate, no Absaroka County background required. If you have a holiday ritual of reading aloud, Spirit of Steamboat would make a perfect choice.
These days, as we read and listen to the news, it can sometimes feel like all hope is lost. Sharing time with Walt gives me faith. I wish that for you, too.
Spirit of Steamboat is available starting tomorrow in a cute little hardcover format (ISBN: 9780670015788) from Viking Penguin.