(“Rocky” statue in Philadelphia)
Craig Johnson’s third iteration of Absaroka County Sheriff Walt Longmire finds our Wyoming law enforcement hero driving cross country with his best friend since childhood, Henry Standing Bear, and Dog (yes, he named his dog, Dog!) to the city of brotherly love. As KINDNESS GOES UNPUNISHED begins Henry arrives at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts to speak about his Mennonite photograph collection and is accompanied by Longmire who avails himself the opportunity to visit his daughter Cady who is a lawyer in Philadelphia. In true Longmire fashion as soon as they arrive in town things begin to happen in an unexpected way.
Almost immediately Johnson’s wise cracking and sarcastic dialogue begins to dominate the developing story line as Longmire and Detective Victoria “Vic” Moretti’s mother Lena are chatting when a Philadelphia PD patrolman tracks them down and informed them that Cady has been viciously attacked near the steps of the Franklin Institute. The situation becomes confusing when Devon Conliffe, Cady’s supposed boyfriend was rather disingenuous about their relationship and his actions at the time of the incident. This provokes Longmire to begin his own investigation apart from the Philadelphia PD. As Longmire begins to dig into the assault, Conliffe is thrown off a bridge and dies. What begins to emerge is that his death may be related to the city’s drug trade.
As the story evolves it appears more and more that Cady’s accident and Conliffe’s death are related. When Longmire receives a warning to “but out” the drama begins to escalate as Cady remains in a coma and one of the best story tellers around will have captured your interest.
One of the different aspects Johnson introduces is the entire Moretti family. Lena, Vic’s mother, a beautiful woman who already has had an affair and seems quite taken with Longmire. Victor, the father is Chief Inspector Field Division North of the Philadelphia PD, Vic’s brothers, two of which are policemen and involved in Cady’s investigation. Through these characters we are exposed to a dysfunctional family dynamic that explains Vic’s view of life and how the Philadelphia PD operates.
As the drug trade is introduced as well as a corrupt District Attorney it seems that Longmire may be in over his head. After he gains the confidence of two Philly detectives he has greater access to information to try and figure out why Cady was attacked. What he learns is very disconcerting and forms the core of the novel. As the story progresses it seems that Longmire is doing the work of a Philadelphia cop. He is hindered as the closer he gets to solve the attack, that person is murdered. But as he continues clues are left in unusual places to assist him. Longmire has to overcome corruption, self-interest, and politics to finally achieve success. A success that was encouraged by the concept of hope that permeates the novel.
KINDNESS GOES UNPUNISHED is an entertaining read as it reflects the value of friendship and family. It places Longmire in a milieu he is unfamiliar with and like a “Clint Eastwood character” he navigates with a western chip on his shoulder. The book should be a satisfying read for those who have watched the Netflix version, which differs a great deal from the novels or for those who are reading the books as a standalone.
(“Rocky” statue in Philadelphia)