A decades-dead Vietnamese bar girl plays a starring role in a contemporary Wyoming murder investigation.
Walt Longmire, Sheriff of Absaroka County, has been acting as rehab coach for his daughter Cady, an assault victim (Kindness Goes Unpunished, 2007). But he’s called away to deal with a dead Vietnamese girl alongside the highway. The murder trail leads to a derelict Crow Indian by the name of Virgil White Buffalo, but the case is complicated when a tattered photograph found in the girl’s pocket shows Walt and a young prostitute back in the 1960s. How did this girl come to have this picture? Flashbacks show Walt reliving his war experiences and relationships but hardly prepare him for the arrival of Tran Van Tuyen, who claims to be the dead girl’s grandfather. Meanwhile, Virgil’s in lockup, wolfing down pizzas at the county’s expense. There are indications that Ho Thi Paquet, the dead girl, was here illegally, perhaps a “dust child,” the offspring of an American GI and a Vietnamese woman, and that another girl was traveling with her before she died. The sad resolution will do little to heal Asian/American tragedies past and current.
The back story, with its venality, racism and murder, is riveting, and Johnson dovetails Walt’s life then and now with great skill. Readers who’ve come to admire Walt’s cohort, Henry Standing Bear, will want to award him the Medal of Honor for his war exploits.