Open the cover and the action starts almost immediately when author Craig Johnson puts Longmire in the presence of a blind man who sees everything—a conundrum that works surprisingly well. From there, we’re incongruously taken in a pink Cadillac to violently dangerous situations that are faintly reminiscent of old-time westerns, and gun smoke that happens to come from some very modern automatic rifles. Indeed, that’s what makes this book so compelling: it’s a super-fast-paced updated throw-back kind of novel that will appeal to lovers of old-school oaters and thrillers alike ... find Depth of Winter if you want action, horses, deserts, and cutthroat cowpokes with AK47s. Really, would you want to miss a book like that?
While his last book was big on misdirection and mystery, Johnson shows off his versatility by switching gears and cramming in tons of action and suspense this time around. Part of the plot takes place during the Day of the Dead celebration, which proves to be quite fitting and offers a great setting ... As the story unfolds, things finally reach a boiling point, setting up an epic showdown between Walt and Bidarte that fans will no doubt be talking about long after turning the final page ... one of his most riveting and explosive novels to date.
Johnson’s prose is as sharp as ever. Plucking Walt from the confines of his home county and dropping him in the desert gives Johnson the chance to get literary...and cinematic. Depth of Winter isn’t so much a mystery as it is a Western, and Johnson gives the action the sort of big-screen treatment it deserves. There are shades of The Wild Bunch ... And the action is big, well-choreographed, and thrilling. There are brawls, shootouts, and some literally explosive moments, and they’re all suspenseful and well-earned. At the heart of the book is Walt’s ongoing internal conflict about when killing is justified ... In fact, Walt finds himself in this quandary so often that, by the book’s end, the motif is repetitive ... None of that is to say Depth of Winter is a ponderous slugfest. The narrative is propulsive and rarely stops, from Walt’s escape from a U.S. border patrol station that opens the novel to the tense finale that’s gripping, though predictable. And though the stakes are high, Johnson deploys his usual wit and humor to lighten the mood.
Johnson's descriptions of the desert landscape, the burning heat of the sun, and the celebratory Mexican festivals are vivid and complement the unfolding plot as Longmire penetrates the cartel's headquarters ... It's a new setting for Longmire, but old scores are settled in this page-turner fans will love.
While Longmire remains the goodhearted stalwart we’ve come to know and love, this novel has a different feel, due in equal parts to the unfamiliar territory, the siege-of-the-fortress plot, and the absence of his Absaroka County supporting cast. Series fans will likely welcome the changes, at least temporarily, as Longmire masters repeated capture and gunpoint negotiations with his usual gruff élan ... it all has the feel of an action serial; no matter how many bodies drop, the good guy’s going to come out OK—and that’s OK with us.
The action spans a few days around the Día de los Muertos, which provides somewhat stereotypical opportunities for masked shenanigans and drink-addled confusion. Longmire himself is a nice creation, as ready with a reference to antiquity or a quote from literature as he is handy in a brawl; his allies are satisfyingly varied and colorful, and the bad guys are ruthless and unprincipled. This is a rip-roaring adventure, and if Longmire seems uncannily able to recover from blows to the head and other injuries that would disable a lesser man, well, that's what it takes to defeat this 'monster among monsters.'
The tension lets up only intermittently as Walt lurches from one dire situation to another. Humorous asides and witty dialogue provide welcome relief from the often grim circumstances in which Walt finds himself, including a stint in the stocks during a Day of the Dead celebration and the climactic confrontation with Bidarte, who plays matador to Walt’s bull. Johnson is in fine form.