Walt Longmire is back with on the road again, committing Great Acts of Physical Heroism and Lunacy in Hell is Empty. It’s kind of an incredible book, and quite a bit different than the other Longmires, especially the recent ones.
Hell is empty,
And all the devils are here.
- Shakespeare, The Tempest
While the book takes its title and certainly a great deal of its theme from the above quote, its really a love letter to Dante’s Inferno, assuming that the love you’re talking about is cold, gruesome, sad, and nerve-wracking.
Walt and Sancho are part of a multi-county, multi-jurisdictional prisoner transfer of a loosely affiliated gang of very bad guys – the worst being Shade, a Canadian Indian whose appetite for killing is large and indiscriminate. He’s agreed to lead the FBI to the body of a boy he killed about ten years ago and buried in the Big Horn Mountains, in Walt’s county.
The body turns out to be Owen White Buffalo, the grandson of Virgil White Buffalo, the F*cking Big Indian from Another Man’s Moccasins, (my review here.) Virgil disappeared into the wild after being released in that book, and no one has seen him since. Except probably Henry.
The convicts pull off a daring escape and manage to take out enough of the task force that Walt decides to go after them alone, in spite of the fact that law enforcement from three counties, along with the Cheyenne Nation, are rushing to back him up and they’re in the middle of a freak May blizzard. He heads into the Big Horn Mountains alone and mostly on foot, tracking the escapees and their hostages, with a pack on his back containing a couple of candy bars, some water, and Saizerbitoria’s copy of Dante’s Inferno. Mostly as a joke, but it comes in handy when Walt gets bored tracking notorious murderers.
This book is really different from the others. I know in previous posts that I’ve said that while The Cold Dish, the first book, (my review here) was amazing, and all the rest were great, books 2-6 do have a sort of mystery-of-the-week feeling about them. They’re not quite Cozy Mysteries, they’re a bit too violent and sad for that, but they have a steadily growing cast of great characters and sometimes you’d rather just hang out with the characters than figure out the mystery.
Hell is Empty is different. The peripheral characters are there, but not really part of the story. There’s no real mystery, we know from the beginning whodunnit. Like The Cold Dish, this is more of a story about Walt, what he believes in, what he values, and just how far he’ll go. The whole series is solid, but this one in particular is a gem.