Johnson (Any Other Name) pens a new Longmire tale every December, and now they’re all available in one volume, including a brand new story, “Petunia, Bandit Queen of the Bighorns.” (Petunia is the name of a prized sheep with an unusual wool pattern resembling her floral namesake.) Several entries delve deeper into Walt’s past, especially his relationship with his deceased wife, Martha. In “Slick-Tongued Devil,” set six years after Martha’s death, Walt encounters a Bible salesman who ignites a flare of grief for the sheriff when he insists that Martha just recently ordered a new Bible. .. These brief snippets of Walt Longmire’s life underscore his solid position as one of the most memorable characters in crime fiction today.
There are many profitable detours in this book: the history of female cartoonists; the moral panic over comics and juvenile delinquency; a history of the feminist movement. Looming over it all is Marston, a big, odd, frisky fellow who comes to seem like Alfred Kinsey's well-meaning but weirdo cousin. It's a lot to pack in. But Ms. Lepore, as if piloting an invisible jet of her own in gusty weather, brings everything in for an only slightly bumpy landing.
Slow Regard is the story — or at least a story — of Auri. One of the most compelling, scene-stealing secondary characters in Kingkiller, Auri is a semi-feral young woman whose past is a mystery, and Slow Regard doesn't attempt to diminish that. She lives alone in a secret, sprawling network of tunnels she calls the Underthing, which lies beneath the University, the academy of magic that her friend Kvothe attends.
Slow Regard isn't the first novella set in the Kingkiller world that's appeared this year. A long story featuring the character Bast was published this summer in the anthology Rogues, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Slow Regard is the better of the two, and it wholly warrants the full-book treatment, despite the fact that Rothfuss openly doubts this in his self-effacing foreword. If his doubt is a preemptive defense against readers who might be thrown off by the book's distinct, low-key voice, it's not necessary. Slow Regard is its own defense, a charming, lyrical meditation on the meaning of home: how we define it, how we carry it with us, and how we deal with the lure and fear of what lies beyond.