The 18th entry in Craig Johnson’s series about Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire continues the author’s recent experimentation with structures outside of the standard mystery genre. The whole series has been steeped in Native American culture, particularly of the Cheyenne and Crow tribes, and individual books have dabbled in the mysticism that these cultures embrace.
Hell and Back (2022) goes even further, going so far as to create a sort of parallel universe where Walt — who wakes up lying in the middle of a Montana highway with no memory of how he got there or who he is — encounters people from his forgotten past who regular series readers know (but amnesiac Walt does not) are no longer alive. The answers are bound up in a tragic 19th-century fire that occurred at an infamous Indian boarding school in the town, and it seems that Walt may need to solve that mystery before he can resume his previous life.
I think people familiar with the series who enjoyed the previous forays into Indian spirituality will find this one intriguing and enjoyable. If those aspects of previous books were a little too “woo-woo” for you, this may not be your favorite of Walt’s many adventures. I’m in the former camp, and above all I appreciate how Johnson has been willing to explore storytelling techniques that raise this series a cut above most mysteries that I read.