Well, this post is really good news for Louise Penny fans! It’s the classic scenario, “If you liked this, then you’ll love that!”
William Kent Krueger, gifted author of Ordinary Grace and This Tender Land, has a mystery series set in Minnesota that is every bit as good as Penny’s Three Pines. Parallels are many. Both series feature excellent writing, depth of character, insightful portrayal of small town life, tangible descriptions of the beauty and cruelty of nature, sensitive handling of indigenous peoples, and yes, page-turning suspense. Cork O’Connor is a very likeable protagonist, probably because he’s flawed.
Part Irish, part Anishinaabe, Corcoran “Cork” O’Connor is the former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota. Embittered by his “former” status, and the marital meltdown that has separated him from his children, Cork gets by on heavy doses of caffeine, nicotine, and guilt. Once a cop on Chicago’s South Side, there’s not much that can shock him. But when the town’s judge is brutally murdered, and a young Eagle Scout is reported missing, Cork takes on a mind-jolting case of conspiracy, corruption, and scandal. The book is a bit slow in the beginning which is not unusual, given introduction to the characters and the town, but the second half flies.
Lots of mysteries coming up for me! I haven’t yet finished all of the Louise Penny’s series (which I’m reading in order because I came late to the party), but now I can alternate with this series which I will definitely be going through as well. The next instalment in the Cork O’Connor series is called Boundary Waters. In a season where we are feeling a bit distracted and looking for comfort reads, a series is certainly a good choice!
What a wonderful feeling, to be in the hands of a gifted storyteller. Captivating, redemptive, moving…when I started this book I found it instantly compelling and wonderfully paced and it kept a grip on me all the way to the satisfying ending. An ending full of the peace that comes, not from everything working out as planned, but from embracing the journey, wherever the river goes. From the acclaimed author of Ordinary Grace, comes another epic adventure, with the feel of a classic.
The flyfleaf summarizes it best:
“In the summer of 1932, on the banks of Minnesota’s Gilead River, the Lincoln Indian Training School is a pitiless place where Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. Is is also home to Odie O’Bannion, a lively orphan boy whose exploits constantly earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Odie and his brother, Albert, are the only white faces among the hundreds of Native American children at the school.
After committing a terrible crime, Odie and Albert are forced to flee for their lives along with their best friend, Mose, a mute young man of Sioux heritage. Out of pity, they also take with them a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy. Together, they steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi in search of a place to call home.”
This trusted and acclaimed author of Ordinary Grace has done it again–crafted a novel with unforgettable fictional characters set against historical truths in desperate times. Another amazing tale of compassion, courage, self-discovery and hard-won wisdom. But there is a lightness also, a marvellous mystical quality that speaks to the soul.
“He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain, which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
What an excellent novel, I loved it. It is a well written page turner with the best but toughest stuff of life mixed in…tragedy, grace, hope, wisdom, love, and redemption in full measures. I couldn’t put it down until I finished and then I put it down with great satisfaction. This is one not to miss.
The story is set in 1961, small town Minnesota, an unremarkable and typical mid-West kind of place you’d find anywhere–a river runs through it. It reminded me of a prairie town I once lived in. Two little boys who happen to be brothers as well as best friends, are no strangers to mischief, but are shocked by the death of a classmate. He was hit by a train, no one knows how it happened. The boys are thrust that summer, into a world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal and forced to grow up fast. As they try to understand a world that seems to be falling apart, they discover the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.
William Kent Krueger is a new author for me (thanks for the recommendation Ina!) and I will certainly read more of his books. The writing style is thoughtfully structured, simple, calm, and strong. The logic of the plot is easy to follow and the characters are well drawn. Although I guessed the ending early on, it did not detract from the reading. Krueger has a mystery/crime series as well as one other stand-alone novel: here is a list.
Other Books by William Kent Krueger