When considering “Kindness Goes Unpunished” for my next book to read and review, the fact that Craig Johnson included a road trip to Philadelphia cinched the decision for me. Philly may have the best cheese steak sandwiches in the world, and some great universities, but it also has a mean street or two. There’s a quote near the beginning of the book: "Philadelphia, where no good deed goes unpunished…” (Steve Lopez, The Philadelphia Inquirer) that sets the tone for the case in this third book in the Walt Longmire series.
“Kindness Goes Unpunished” opens with an elementary school classroom scene – Walt is doing his bit in a pre-election campaign stop. He is most comfortable chasing the bad guys and getting justice for the victims in fictional Absaroka County, but when he faces twenty-three 5 year olds, he is decidedly out of his element. Brutal questions and critiques about his reading-aloud skills strike fear in his heart, making him long for backup. It’s a LOL funny scene for any reader who works with young children and Johnson is pitch perfect with both the children and Longmire’s reactions.
Why would Walt leave the safety of Wyoming to visit Philadelphia, the supposed City of Brotherly Love? His best friend, Henry Standing Bear, has been asked to lecture about his collection of photographs at a prestigious Fine Arts Academy and Walt decides to tag along, visit his daughter, Cady, and get a look at the new boyfriend. Sounds much simpler than it turns out to be, because the first time Walt actually sees his daughter, she’s in intensive care at a Trauma Center.
The case central to the story is complex and dangerous, the bad guys are mean, arrogant and devious, the cover-ups clever, and we are not sure which people can be trusted. With Cady near death, Walt is pushed to the breaking point with worry. We feel the distress that a parent would have when facing the possible loss of a child, no matter how old that child is. His anger is palpable and he puts it to work to discover the multi-layered truth about Cady’s accident.
Vic Moretti, Longmire’s deputy, is from Philadelphia and her family wants to touch base with him and Cady during the visit. The Moretti crew is in law enforcement, and is readily supportive when things go south for the Wyoming contingent. The dynamic between Walt and Vic shifts in an interesting way after she arrives in town (in response to him being unreachable) and Walt’s mental reaction to that shift may be the best line quickly capturing a character’s feelings that I’ve read in a while.
Johnson continues to explore the human condition with the core characters in the series. Their frailties are understandable and their quirks believable, and they all have differing strengths upon which Walt relies. We ache as they struggle and cheer when they triumph.
We may not be in Wyoming for much of the book, but in “Kindness Goes Unpunished,” Johnson still places us in living, breathing surroundings. He nails the feel of the Philly neighborhoods, with their pubs and noise and people still on the street late at night. If you’ve ever visited Philadelphia, you will enjoy the many references to famous landmarks.
The "Longmire" TV show is no longer affiliated with the A&E television network (because of a shift in network policy) and as of this writing (September, 2014) is looking for a new home.
“It’s dangerous out there.”
Please check in at www.craigallenjohnson.com for information about the rest of the Longmire series of books, where you can catch Johnson out on the trail, and even a store that stocks Longmire goodies.
My review of Craig Johnson’s “The Cold Dish” can be read here.