by Cynthia Chow
Details on how to enter to win a copy of Spirit of Steamboat at the end of this review.
“Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be that I the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless…[than]…this poor…child…” A Christmas Carol
Sheriff Walt Longmire is having a rather lonely Christmas Eve in Absaroka County, as his very pregnant daughter, Cady, is grounded in Philadelphia while his girlfriend/significant other, Undersheriff Victoria Moretti, is spending the holiday with her mother in Belize. So Walt is “bacheloring it up” in his office doing his annual holiday reading of A Christmas Carol when he receives an unexpected visitor in the form of an Asian young woman. Evasive about her identity, the woman asks to see the former sheriff and when told that Lucian Connally is not available, requests to see a picture of him before stating that she needs to return something of his.
While Walt’s curiosity is awakened his threat level is not, so he takes the woman to the Durant home for Assisted Living where Lucian resides and is the cause of television replacements through his habit of shooting Fox News broadcasts. It is only then that the woman utters the word that brings back memories for both Walt and Lucian: “Steamboat.”
On Christmas Eve, 1988, new sheriff Walt Longmire is reading his copy of A Christmas Carol during the Storm of the Century, when he is confronted with the emergency situation of the lone survivor of a car accident needing media transportation to the Children’s Hospital in Denver. With burns over fifteen percent of her body, the child desperately needs medical treatment and when faced with the pleas of her Japanese grandmother–who just lost her sister, son-in-law and daughter in the crash–Walt is forced into a last resort situation. The only plane suitable and available to fly is Steamboat, a VB-25J bomber from World War II that leaks fuel, but could survive the high winds that would down the medivac helicopters. The only pilot who could possibly fly it and who once did during WWII–Lucian Connally, the one-legged former sheriff and not quite sober player of Eusakadi Bar’s poker night.
Along with a doctor and co-pilot, Julie Luehrman (whom Lucian insists in referring to as “Toots), the four take their patients through what will be a harrowing flight to not only navigate an outdated but steadfast plane through deadly conditions, but also to keep their tiny charge alive as her medical condition spirals. An iceberg on the runway, low fuel and the failing health of the child all require a true Christmas miracle for them to survive. One can also not overlook the irony–and perhaps redemption–of a bomber once used to attack Japan now becoming a savior for its two Japanese passengers.
Walt’s relationship with Lucian Connally, the former sheriff whom Walt replaced, is complicated to say the least. Sexist, racist and a law enforcement officer from a time when civil liberties were only a suggestion and interrogations backed by a fist, Lucian is from another era. However, Walt has always had a loyalty to his former superior officer and an undeniable respect for Lucian’s accomplishments and moral code.
In this novella, which the author claims began as a short story but slowly grew into a longer story of action and adventure, Johnson explores the history of World War II aircraft and the challenges their pilots faced. The suspense level is kept high, as Johnson’s trademark banter and quick dialogue entertains through this quick and enjoyable read. Although Vic’s profanity and Henry Standing Bear’s deadpan humor are noticeable for their absence, the relationship between Walt and Lucian, and the fascinating details of the Steamboat ensure that readers will not be disappointed. The passengers of Steamboat are all willing to sacrifice themselves when faced with the question of what they are willing to do and what they would be able to live with if they did not.
Although Walt may make A Christmas Carol his annual read, fans of Craig Johnson and the Longmire Television series based on his books, will now have a new favorite to enjoy during the holidays.
To enter to win a copy of Spirit of Steamboat, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Steamboat,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 26, 2013. U.S. residents only.
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