Fans of Ace Atkins, Nevada Barr, and Robert B. Parker will love the fourth mystery in New York Times bestselling author Craig Johnson’s award-winning Longmire Mystery series, the basis for LONGMIRE, the hit drama series now streaming on Netflix. It delivers more of the taut prose, engrossing characters, beautiful Wyoming setting, and satisfying depth that reviewers have been hailing since his first book, The Cold Dish. In Another Man's Moccasins, the body of a Vietnamese woman dumped along the Wyoming interstate opens a baffling case for Sheriff Longmire, whose only suspect is a Crow Indian with a troubled past. But things get even stranger when a photograph turns up in the victim’s purse that ties her murder to one from Longmire’s past—a case he tackled as a Marine Corps investigator forty years earlier in Vietnam.
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Taken from Chapter 1
Cady looked at me but didn’t say anything.
It had been like this for the last week. We’d reached a plateau, and she was satisfied with the progress she’d made. I wasn’t. The physical therapist at University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia had warned me that this might happen. It wasn’t that my daughter was weak or lazy; it was far worse than that—she was bored.
“I heard you. . . .” She plucked at her shorts and avoided my eyes. “Your voice; it carries.”
I placed an elbow on my knee, chin on fist, sat farther back on the sit-up bench, and glanced around. We weren’t alone. There was a kid in a Durant Quarterback Club T-shirt who was trying to bulk up his 145-pound frame at one of the Universal machines. I’m not sure why he was up here—there were no televisions, and it wasn’t as fancy as the main gym downstairs. I understood all the machines up here—you didn’t have to plug any of them in—but I wondered about him; it could be that he was here because of Cady.
The kid snickered, and I looked at him. I glanced back at my daughter. This was good; anger sometimes got her to finish up, even if it cost me the luxury of conversation for the rest of the evening. It didn’t matter tonight; she had a dinner date and then had to be home for an important phone call. I had zip. I had all the time in the world.
She had cut her auburn hair short to match the spot where they had made the U-shaped incision that had allowed her swelling brain to survive. Only a small scar was visible at the hairline. She was beautiful, and the pain in the ass was that she knew it.
It got her pretty much whatever she wanted. Beauty was life’s E-ZPass. I was lucky I got to ride on the shoulder.
She picked up her water bottle and squeezed out a gulp, leveling the cool eyes back on me. We sat there looking at each other, both of us dressed in gray. She stretched a finger out and pulled the band of my T-shirt down, grazing a fingernail on my exposed collarbone. “That one?”
Just because she was beautiful didn’t mean she wasn’t smart. Diversion was another of her tactics. I had enough scars to divert the entire First Division. She had known this scar and had seen it on numerous occasions. Her question was a symptom of the memory loss that Dr. Rissman had mentioned.
She continued to poke my shoulder with the finger. “That one.”
Cady never gave up.
It was a family trait, and in our tiny family, stories were the coinage of choice, a bartering in the aesthetic of information and the athletics of emotion, so I answered her. “Tet.”
She set her water bottle down on the rubber-padded floor. “When?”
“Before you were born.”
She lowered her head and looked at me through her lashes, one cheek pulled up in a half smile. “Things happened before I was born?”
“Well, nothing really important.”
She took a deep breath, gripped the sides of the bench, and put all her effort into straightening the lever action of thirty pounds at her legs. Slowly, the weights lifted to the limit of the movement and then, just as slowly, dropped back. After a moment, she caught her breath. “Marine inspector, right?”
I nodded. “Yep.”
“It was Vietnam, and I was gonna be drafted, so it was a choice.” I was consistently amazed at what her damaged brain chose to remember.
“What was Vietnam like?”
“Confusing, but I got to meet Martha Raye.”
Unsatisfied with my response, she continued to study my scar. “You don’t have any tattoos.”
“No.” I sighed, just to let her know that her tactics weren’t working.
“I have a tattoo.”
“You have two.” I cleared my throat in an attempt to end the conversation. She pulled up the cap sleeve of her Philadelphia City Sports T-shirt, exposing the faded, Cheyenne turtle totem on her shoulder. She was probably unaware that she’d been having treatments to have it removed; it had been the exboyfriend’s idea, all before the accident. “The other one’s on your butt, but we don’t have to look for it now.”
The kid snickered again. I turned and stared at him with a little more emphasis this time.
“Bear was in Vietnam with you, right?”
She was smiling as I turned back to her. All the women in my life smiled when they talked about Henry Standing Bear. It was a bit annoying, but Henry was my best and lifelong friend, so I got over it. He owned the Red Pony, a bar on the edge of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, only a mile from my cabin, and he was the one who was taking Cady to dinner. I wasn’t invited. He and my daughter were in cahoots. They had pretty much been in cahoots since she had been born.
“Henry was in-country, Special Operations Group; we didn’t serve together.”
“What was he like back then?”
I thought about it. “He’s mellowed, a little.” It was a frightening thought. “Two more?”
Her gray eyes flashed. “One more.”
I smiled. “One more.”
Cady’s slender hands returned to the sides of the bench, and I watched as the toned legs once again levitated and lowered the thirty pounds. I waited a moment, then lumbered up and placed a kiss at the horseshoe-shaped scar and helped her stand. The physical progress was moving ahead swimmingly, mostly due to the advantages of her stellar conditioning and youth, but the afternoon workouts took their toll, and she was usually a little unsteady by the time we finished.
I held her hand and picked up her water and tried not to concentrate on the fact that my daughter had been a fast-track, hotshot lawyer back in Philly only two months earlier and that now she was here in Wyoming and was trying to remember that she had tattoos and how to walk without assistance.
We made our way toward the stairwell and the downstairs showers. As we passed the kid at the machine, he looked at Cady admiringly and then at me. “Hey, Sheriff?”
I paused for a moment and steadied Cady on my arm. “Yep?”
“J.P. said you once bench-pressed six plates.”
I continued looking down at him. “What?”
He gestured toward the steel plates on the rack at the wall. “Jerry Pilch? The football coach? He said senior year, before you went to USC, you bench-pressed six plates.” He continued to stare at me. “That’s over three hundred pounds.”
“Yep, well.” I winked. “Jerry’s always had a tendency to exaggerate.”
“I thought so.”
I nodded to the kid and helped Cady down the steps. It’d been eight plates, actually, but that had been a long time ago.
My shower was less complicated than Cady’s, so I usually got out before her and waited on the bench beside the Clear Creek bridge. I placed my summer-wear palm-leaf hat on my head, slipped on my ten-year-old Ray-Bans, and shrugged the workout bag’s strap farther onto my shoulder so that it didn’t press my Absaroka County sheriff’s star into my chest. I pushed open the glass door and stepped into the perfect fading glory of a high-plains summer afternoon. It was vacation season, creeping up on rodeo weekend, and the streets were full of people from somewhere else.
I took a left and started toward the bridge and the bench. I sat next to the large man with the ponytail and placed the gym bag between us. “How come I wasn’t invited to dinner?”
The Cheyenne Nation kept his head tilted back, eyes closed, taking in the last warmth of the afternoon sun. “We have discussed this.”
“It’s Saturday night, and I don’t have anything to do.”
“You will find something.” He took a deep breath, the only sign that he wasn’t made of wood and selling cigars. “Where is Vic?”
“Firearms recertification in Douglas.”
I thought about my scary undersheriff from Philadelphia; how she could outshoot, outdrink, and outswear every cop I knew, and how she was now representing the county at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy. I was unsure if that was a positive thing. “Yep, not a safe weekend to be in Douglas.”
He nodded, almost imperceptibly. “How is all that going?”
I took a moment to discern what “all that” might mean. “I’m not really sure.” He raised an eyelid and studied me in a myopic fashion. “We seem to be having a problem getting in sync.” The eyelid closed, and we sat there as a silence passed. “Where are you going to dinner?”
“I am not going to tell you.”
His face remained impassive. “We have discussed this.”
We had—it was true. The Bear had expressed the opinion that for both of our mental healths, it might be best if Cady and I didn’t spend every waking hour in each other’s company. It was difficult, but I was going to have to let her out of my sight sometime. “In town or over in Sheridan?”
“I am not going to tell you.”
I was disconcerted by the flash of a camera and turned to see a woman from somewhere else smile and continue down the sidewalk toward the Busy Bee Café, where I would likely be having my dinner, alone. I turned to look at Henry Standing Bear’s striking profile. “You should sit with me more often; I’m photogenic.”
“They were taking photographs with a greater frequency before you arrived.”
I ignored him. “She’s allergic to plums.”
“I’m not sure if she’ll remember that.”
I thought about that advisory and came clean. “I let her have a glass of red wine last weekend.”
I turned and looked at him. “She told you?”
Cahoots. I had a jealous inkling that the Bear was making more progress in drawing all of Cady back to us than I was.
I stretched my legs and crossed my boots; they were still badly in need of a little attention. I adjusted my gun belt so that the hammer of my .45 wasn’t digging into my side. “We still on for the Rotary thing on Friday?”
Rotary was sponsoring a debate between me and prosecuting attorney Kyle Straub; we were the two candidates for the position of Absaroka County sheriff. After five elections and twenty-four sworn years, I usually did pretty well at debates but felt a little hometown support might be handy, so I had asked Henry to come. “Think of it as a public service—most Rotarians have never even met a Native American.”
That finally got the one eye to open again, and he turned toward me. “Would you like me to wear a feather?”
“No, I’ll just introduce you as an Injun.”
Cady placed her hand on my shoulder and leaned over to allow the Cheyenne Nation to bestow a kiss on her cheek. She was wearing blue jeans and a tank top with, I was pleased to see, the fringed, concho-studded leather jacket I’d bought for her years ago. It could still turn brisk on July nights along the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains.
She jostled the hat on my head and dropped her gym bag on top of mine. She turned to Henry. “Ready?”
He opened his other eye. “Ready.”
He rose effortlessly, and I thought if I got it in quick that maybe I’d get an answer. “Where you going?”
She smiled as the Bear came around the back of the bench and took her elbow. “I’m not allowed to tell you.”
Cady’s current love interest, Vic’s younger brother, was supposed to be flying in from Philadelphia on Tuesday for a Wild West vacation. I still hadn’t gotten a straight answer as to with whom he was staying. “Don’t forget that Michael is calling.”
She shook her head as they walked past me, pausing to lift my hat and plant a kiss on the crown of my head. “I know when he’s calling, Daddy. I’ll be home long before then.” She shoved my hat down, hard.
I readjusted and watched as they crossed the sidewalk, where Henry helped her into Lola, his powder-blue ’59 T-Bird convertible. The damage I’d done to the classic automobile was completely invisible due to the craftsmanship of the body men in South Philly, and I watched as the Wyoming sun glistened on the Thunderbird’s flanks. I had a moment of hope that they wouldn’t get going when the starter continued to grind, but the aged Y-Block caught and blew a slight fantail of carbon into the street. He slipped her into gear, and they were gone.
As usual, I got the gym bags, and he got the girl.
I considered my options. There was the plastic-wrapped burrito at the Kum-and-Go, the stuffed peppers at the Durant Home for Assisted Living, a potpie from the kitchenette back at the jail, or the Busy Bee Café. I gathered up my collection of bags and hustled across the bridge over Clear Creek before Dorothy Caldwell changed her mind and turned the sign, written in cursive, hanging on her door.
“Not the usual?”
She poured my iced tea and looked at me, fist on hip. “You didn’t like it last time?”
I struggled to remember but gave up. “I don’t remember what it was last time.”
“Is Cady’s condition contagious?”
I ignored the comment and tried to decide what to order. “I’m feeling experimental. Are you still offering your Weekend Cuisines of the World?” It was an attempt on her part to broaden the culinary experience of our little corner of the high plains.
“Where, in the world, are we?”
It didn’t take me long to respond. “I’ll pass.”
“It’s really good.”
I weaved my fingers and rested my elbows on the counter. “What is it?”
“Chicken with lemongrass.” She continued to look at me.
“That’s where I got the recipe.”
I withered under her continued gaze. “All right.”
She busied herself in the preparation of the entree, and I sipped my tea. I glanced around at the five other people in the homey café but didn’t recognize anyone. I must have been thirsty from watching Cady work out, because a third of the glass was gone in two gulps. I set it back on the Formica, and Dorothy refilled it immediately. “You don’t talk about it much.”
I nodded as she put the tan plastic pitcher on the counter next to me. I turned my glass in the circular imprint of its condensation. “It’s funny, but it came up earlier this afternoon.” I met her eyes under the silver hair. “Cady asked about the scar on my collarbone, the one from Tet.”
She nodded slightly. “Surely she’s seen that before?”
Dorothy took a deep breath. “It’s okay, she’s doing better every day.” She reached out and squeezed my shoulder just at said scar. “But, be careful. . . .” She looked concerned.
I looked up at her. “Why?”
“Visitations like those tend to come in threes.”
I watched as she took the tea and refilled some of the other customers. I thought about Vietnam, thought about the smell, the heat, and the dead.
What People are Saying About This
" Stellar . . . Full of crackling dialogue, this absorbing tale demonstrates that Longmire is still the sheriff in town."
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
" An insightful look at various forms of racism, human trafficking, and confronting your own prejudices."
-Detroit Free Press
Reading Group Guide
"No matter what aspect of law enforcement with which you might be involved, there's always one job you dread," Walt Longmire says near the beginning of Another Man's Moccasins. "For the Western sheriff it's always been the body dump. . . . There you stand by some numbered roadway with a victim, no ID, no crime scene, no suspects, nothing." In this case, it is, incongruously enough: a young Vietnamese woman found murdered along a highway in Absaroka County, Wyoming. And Walt is baffled.
No suspects present themselves at first, but soon enough, Walt is assailed by one. Poking through the brush, he is attacked by what at first appears to be a wild animal but turns out to be something slightly more ferocious—Virgil White Buffalo—a seven-foot tall Crow Indian living in a culvert who appears to be in possession of the dead woman's purse. Despite the evidence and proximity to the crime scene, however, Virgil seems an unlikely suspect. To make matters more complicated, Walt discovers a hauntingly familiar photo in the victim's purse. It shows a woman who looks very much like someone he knew when he was serving in Vietnam. It also shows a man who resembles, and indeed is, a young Walt Longmire. This photo, coupled with the fact that the victim is Vietnamese, that Virgil White Buffalo is a Vietnam vet, and that a Vietnamese man, Tran Van Tuyen, shows up in a local bar, sets in motion a series of reveries in which Walt recalls his first murder case, when he was a Marine investigator in Vietnam. The novel moves deftly back and forth between these parallel timeframes, as the past intrudes upon the present and the cases overlap in uncanny, and uncomfortable, ways.
Like all of Craig Johnson's novels, Another Man's Moccasins investigates not just a particular murder, or murders, but the large social issues that give rise to such crimes. In this case, it is primarily prostitution and human trafficking that set the wheels in motion. But on an ever deeper level the novel explores the tensions between the worst and best aspects of human nature. Though the novel does not lend itself to easy moralizing, it clearly juxtaposes two value systems—one based on greed and selfishness, and the other on loyalty and a deep sense of justice. Walt's own morality is built upon loyalty not only to the living but to the dead, and on his desire to be fair to everyone he encounters—even those who, like Virgil White Buffalo, have tried to harm him. Over the course of the novel, however, Walt is forced to ask himself whether or not he is in fact guilty of racial prejudice. That inner investigation provides a compelling counterpart to the outer search for the killer who is at work in Absaroka County. And with consummate skill, and a relentless nose for the truth, Walt finds the answers to both.
A CONVERSATION WITH CRAIG JOHNSON
Q. In an earlier interview you said injustice is the "burr under your saddle" that motivates you to write. What injustice prompted you to write Another Man's Moccasins?
About 14,000 people, usually women and children, are trafficked into the United States for use in an industry that is third only to arms dealing and drugs as one of the most profitable global commodities. Prostitution is a multi-billion-dollar industry in which women and children, desperate for a better life, are abducted and routinely raped, beaten, and sometimes killed. Their stories are so horrific that I didn't have to fictionalize them. I just needed to change the names to protect the innocent, as it were.
Q. Why did you choose to make the parallel story of Walt's investigation in Vietnam so prominent in this book?
Déjà vu all over again. It seems as though a lot of the problems that confronted us in Vietnam continue to face us today, so that is surely a reason to have Vietnam play such an important role. And I figured those years were formative for Walt and explain a lot of the choices that he made, and still makes. I wanted to carry the immediacy of those scenes within the novel, so I thought that if I could think of another crime that took place in the present that was connected to the one that Walt had solved in Vietnam in 1968, I'd be able to push that immediacy. The problem was to do that without it seeming contrived.
Q. During the course of the novel, Walt references Shakespeare, Dante, Virgil, Tennessee Williams, and Harper Lee. He is also a fine pianist and serviceable chess player. Why is it important that Walt have this level of cultural sophistication? Is he a better detective because of it?
I think what you're referring to are symptoms of an active mind. Unlike us, Walt doesn't like mysteries, and that's why he's so good at his job. Another factor is that the books are written in the first person. Would you want to spend three hundred pages in the head of a dullard? Walt may also have just a touch of the Renaissance in him, which reflects my belief that modern mystery readers expect a great deal more than what has been presented historically. They anticipate social conscience, full character development, history, and humor, just to name a few. These things would be difficult to convey in a character unaware of the world around them.
Q. Your vision of the West, and of human nature, is quite different from that of a writer like Cormac McCarthy. Do you see yourself ultimately as an optimist or an idealist?
An idealist possibly, but an optimist, definitely. I guess I subscribe to what Abraham Lincoln used to refer to as "the better angels of our nature." After what I've seen, I feel compelled to have a strong belief in human beings, and that the survival of our species might be indebted to the fact that we are at our best when things are at their worst.
Q. Would you say that your novels present an ideal of community and of the values necessary for a healthy community? Do you think this ideal is achievable in the real world?
I'm not sure if young women are left dead along the roadsides in what I would consider an ideal community, but I see what you're getting at. My beliefs are pretty simple along those lines: If we all look out for each other, we won't have to look out for ourselves. And yes, I do think it's achievable. There is chaos in the universe, and so many of our human conventions are designed to hold that in check, to provide order where there is none. I don't write to display that anarchical given, but I concern myself with the ways we defend ourselves against it with love, hope, and law. The negative aspects of our natures are easy enough to highlight, but the positive ones are more ephemeral and, inevitably, more enlightening.
Q. Virgil White Buffalo is a very compelling character in the novel, even though he utters only a few brief sentences. What drew you to make him part of the story?
My ranch is near the Northern Cheyenne and Crow reservations, and I've said before that Western writers who choose to leave the Indians out of their work are doing themselves a great injustice. There are so many wonderful things to say about the Crow, about their intelligence, humor, and spirituality; but another thing you can say is that a few of them really took to carbohydrates. Suffice to say that when it came time to build my barn and I couldn't afford a tractor, I went and got my friend, Daryl Pretty-On-Top.
With Virgil, I was looking at Walt and Henry's Vietnam experiences through a glass darkly—looking to see what they would've become without all the safety nets. Then the question became, how could this character survive, and what would society do with him?
Q. Has your relationship to the characters in the Walt Longmire mysteries changed over the course of four books? Has your writing process changed in any way?
I think that one of the joys in writing or reading a series is the ability to get to know the characters over a longer arc than a single book can provide. The lifeblood of any series is the complexity of the characters, and I think you have to allow them to change and grow. Walt, Vic, and Henry have all changed over the course of four novels, and that allows them to surprise me, which in turn, might allow me to surprise the reader.
As to the process, I don't think it has changed particularly. I get up in the morning, make coffee, and start writing. To be a writer you have to write, and if you challenge yourself enough, you might even become a better one. I refer to it as the ditch-digging school of literature, and I've never heard of a ditchdigger who got a shovel in his hands and just didn't feel the ditchthat day.