Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Daughter of the Morning Star by Craig Johnson

We pick up the Longmire saga with Walt being asked by tribal police chief Lolo Long in Montana to look into a case with which she has had little luck. Jaya One Moon is a high school phenom basketball player for the Lady Morning Stars. D1 quality. WNBA is not our of the realm of possibility. The team is a bunch of OK players and Jaya. Problem is that Jaya has been receiving threatening messages, many of which threaten her life.

Walt’s first question has to do with her older sister, Jeanie. November, a year ago, Jeanie caught a ride with other locals to Billings for a party. On the ride home, the car had issues. While the guys were trying to figure out what’s wrong, Jeanie said to no one in particular that she was going to walk over the creek . . . and never came back. Just disappeared. Local cops, state cops, FBI found nothing. Like she’d been picked up off the earth as she walked. Lolo Long didn’t think the two were connected.

Walt brought Henry Standing Bear with him because Henry is more familiar with the territory, and it also involved Native American high school girls’ basketball which is a big deal in that part of the world. After first getting to know the surly Jaya, they decide to investigate Jeanie’s disappearance, too. First stop was the other kids in the car. Not much there. Next stop was Jeanie’s and Jaya’s boyfriend. Not plural. Both dated the same guy. But he’s a good guy and doesn’t seem to be connected.

Walt and Henry then look at the parents. Mom is a drunk. Dad is an ex-con. His next conviction is for life. While Dad was in the joint, he got connected with some white supremacists. In Montana, the prime targets are the Native American population. In the towns around Billings is a small cadre that cops would love to exterminate, but the legal proof has been hard to collect.

Percolating underneath Walt’s inquiries lies some Native American mysticism. Èveohtsé-heómesé are the collective of lost souls that hunger for the living. Sounds like the Native American equivalent of purgatory. Souls that have not fully crossed over flip in and out of the present looking for people who might be able to help them ‘get home.’ In their wanderings, some people swear they see the soul in the flesh. The living fear these souls, afraid they will be the next to be pulled in. Seriously scared. Walt may not be a believer, but he's also not close-minded. Particularly after a night search in a narrow canyon.

Jaya is coming apart at the seams. So much so that after one monumental blow-up, the team and coach let her walk away knowing that the team has no chance without her. As the annual tournament is coming up, further tensions bubble to the surface. People are assaulted, including Walt. Then a couple of the Neo-Nazi crowd are killed. The basketball coach is assaulted and put in the hospital forcing a last-minute substitution. And does Jeanie make an appearance at the basketball tournament?

I’ve read all 17 Walt Longmire books. Have also watched all six seasons of the show on Netflix a couple of times. Craig Johnson’s books are my comfort food. Every fall season means a new Longmire book. Another reason to love fall. For me, there is nothing to question. Johnson is splendid storyteller that keeps you engaged from page 1. If life hadn’t interfered, this would’ve been a one sitting read. Five Stars. No. Make that 10 stars. Gold medal. Top shelf. Can’t be beat. For me, Johnson is as close to perfect as an author can get.

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