Not Johnson's best work but a pleasant composition demonstrating deft brushwork.


Sheriff Walt Longmire investigates a murder associated with a long-lost painting.

When Charley Lee Stillwater, a resident of the Veterans' Home of Wyoming, dies and a shoe box containing $1 million is found among his otherwise modest possessions, Sheriff Longmire, who had known Stillwater for years, is called in. Preliminary questioning of Lee's cronies in the home reveals that he had had shadowy meetings with people who might have an interest in art, and a fragment of a painted canvas among his things reinforces the notion that Lee has somehow been dealing in art. With the help of his Northern Cheyenne friend Henry Standing Bear, Longmire has the fragment analyzed, and he eventually establishes that it is part of a study for Custer's Last Fight by Cassilly Adams, a mural-size painting that was for years an iconic image of the Battle of the Greasy Grass but which was destroyed in a fire in 1946. Traveling with Standing Bear and pursuing, as it were, the ghosts of Custer and Sitting Bull, Longmire explores the complex of invention and fact that looms so large in the American consciousness. The value of the painting, in fact, derives not from its quality as art but from its participation in the creation of the Custer myth. This is good stuff, if a little discursive, and helps redress a historical imbalance. However, the measured tone and leisurely exploration give way to accelerating action and a somewhat fragmented plot. Some characters believe the painting still exists, and one, Count von Lehman, a slightly absurd caricature of art dealers, believes he paid a substantial amount to acquire it. Then von Lehman disappears, apparently murdered, and the niceties of civilized competition drop away. All's revealed in the end, of course. Some of the characters are richly drawn and, in the case of Standing Bear, warmly familiar, and the antics of Lee's Veterans' Home cronies are a sweet tribute to America's better angels, but the villains are disappointing, and while it's more a caper than a gritty tale, mortal crimes are committed, lives are changed or curtailed, and the plotting seems somehow less than the sum of its parts.

Not Johnson's best work but a pleasant composition demonstrating deft brushwork.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-552253-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

The story is sadly familiar, the treatment claustrophobically intense.


Twenty years after Chloe Davis’ father was convicted of killing half a dozen young women, someone seems to be celebrating the anniversary by extending the list.

No one in little Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, was left untouched by Richard Davis’ confession, least of all his family members. His wife, Mona, tried to kill herself and has been incapacitated ever since. His son, Cooper, became so suspicious that even now it’s hard for him to accept pharmaceutical salesman Daniel Briggs, whose sister, Sophie, also vanished 20 years ago, as Chloe’s fiance. And Chloe’s own nightmares, which lead her to rebuff New York Times reporter Aaron Jansen, who wants to interview her for an anniversary story, are redoubled when her newest psychiatric patient, Lacey Deckler, follows the path of high school student Aubrey Gravino by disappearing and then turning up dead. The good news is that Dick Davis, whom Chloe has had no contact with ever since he was imprisoned after his confession, obviously didn’t commit these new crimes. The bad news is that someone else did, someone who knows a great deal about the earlier cases, someone who could be very close to Chloe indeed. First-timer Willingham laces her first-person narrative with a stifling sense of victimhood that extends even to the survivors and a series of climactic revelations, at least some of which are guaranteed to surprise the most hard-bitten readers.

The story is sadly familiar, the treatment claustrophobically intense.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-2508-0382-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

A whodunit upstaged at every point by the unforgettably febrile intensity of the heroine’s first-person narrative.


Emerson’s striking debut follows a Navajo police photographer almost literally to hell and back.

Rita Todacheene sees dead people. Since most of her attempts to talk to someone about her special power while she was growing up on the reservation ended in disaster, she’s tried to keep it to herself during her five years with the Albuquerque Police Department. Her precarious peace is shattered by the death of Erma Singleton, manager of a bar owned by Matias Romero, her common-law husband. Although lazy Detective Martin Garcia has ruled that Erma fell from a highway bridge, her body shattered by the truck that hit her on the roadway below, Erma insists that she was pushed from the bridge. “Help me get back to my baby,” she tells Rita, “or I’ll make your life a living hell.” Since Rita, a civilian employee, has few resources for an investigation, Erma opens a portal that unleashes scores of ghosts on her, all clamoring for justice or mercy or a few words with the loved ones they left behind. The nightmare that propels Rita forward, from snapping photos of Judge Harrison Winters and his wife and children and dog, all shot dead in what Garcia calls a murder-suicide, to revelations that link both these deaths and Erma’s to the drug business of the Sinaloa cartel, is interleaved with repeated flashbacks that show the misfit Rita’s early years on her Navajo reservation and in her Catholic grade school as she struggles to come to terms with a gift that feels more like a curse. The appeal of the case as a series kickoff is matched by the challenges Emerson will face in pulling off any sequels.

A whodunit upstaged at every point by the unforgettably febrile intensity of the heroine’s first-person narrative.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-641-29333-4

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

Did you like this book?