"Do you think I'm a racist?"
[Ruby] smiled and then covered it with a hand. "You?"
"Me." I stuffed my hands in my pockets.
She tipped her head up and considered me, and I felt like I should be wearing a lead vest. "You mean because of your experiences in the war?"
It was a strong response, and one that didn't leave a lot of room for further discussion. I glanced at her unyielding eyes and shrugged, turning to look back as Virgil's arm moved an he looked at the two of us. "Just wondering."
"You do have one prejudice though." I looked back at her again from under the brim of my hat. "You don't care about the living as much as you do the dead."
There's a lot to that observation. It's what makes Walt Longmire, like Harry Bosch, such a good investigator -- and a character that readers want to spend more and more time with. They have friends, family -- even loved ones. But the dead -- murder victims or those they've lost over their lives -- those seem to carry the weight of their attetion and care. Could make a iffy friend, a frustrating spouse -- but (as Arthur Fancy once said of a certain Polish detective) "If a member of my family was murdered, I'd want [him] to catch the case."
The dead in this particular book take two forms -- first and foremost is the young Vietnamese girl dumped off the side of the road and almost baled with hay. It's the kind of thing that Walt -- and similar lawmen dread -- "There you stand by some numbered roadway with a victim, no ID, no crime scene, no suspects, nothing." This woman's ancestry does help her stick out in Absaroka County, and it doesn't take Walt too long before he's able to find a thread to pull. But he has no idea what's on the other end of that thread, and it takes a lot of work to find it.
Walt Longmire books aren't just about what's going on in Absaroka County, Wyoming -- at least not in the physical realm. There's something going on in the spiritual, spectral, or some other realm -- typically tied in with Cheyenne thought. This time there are spirits of a different kind, the ghosts that haunt each of us -- the ones we bring along with us all the time. In particular, the ghosts of Walt's past, specifically his time in Vietnam as a Marine Investigator. The narrative cuts back and forth between the present day investigation and one that young Walt Longmire is involved with as a Marine Inspector in Vietnam in the days immediately preceding the Tet Offensive. The Marine we meet isn't the Sheriff we know -- he doesn't have the experience or authority -- but the essence of the man is there, he just needs a little refining.
Additionally, Walt, Cady and Vic are dealing with the various forms of fallout from Kindness Goes Unpunished, with various levels of success. It's not that Walt necessarily cares more for the dead -- recent or decades old -- it's just that their needs seem far more immediate, and probably more importantly, Walt knows what to do to help them. With the living? He has far less idea what he should do.
You take those three plotlines, mix them together with a giant homeless Crow Indian and you've got yourself one compelling read.
This had a slightly different feel than Kindness Goes Unpunished -- which is good, I don't want to read the same novel over and over. Where Kindness was light and fun (when not harrowing and deadly), this was sober, thoughtful. Walt's not sure what to do on various fronts of his personal life, he's remembering a lot of things he could've done better in Vietnam and trying not to make mistakes with the case in front of him.
This is the fourth installment in this series, and you know pretty much what you're going to get at this point when you pick one up. Which is exactly what this delivers. A straight-forward, thoughtful mystery novel with a protagonist who matches that description. A good choice for fans of Connelly, Crais, or Parker that don't mind urban sprawl being replaced by ghost towns.