Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger
#1 in Cork O’Connor Series
Finished on 2/14/14
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
Part Irish, part Anishinaabe Indian, Corcoran "Cork" O'Connor is the former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota (population 3,752). Embittered over losing his job as a cop and over the marital meltdown that has separated him from his wife and 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 a powerful local politician is brutally murdered the same night a young Indian boy goes missing, Cork takes on a harrowing case of corruption, conspiracy, and scandal.
As a blizzard buries Aurora and an old medicine man warns of the arrival of a blood-thirsty mythic beast called the Windigo, Cork must dig for answers hard and fast before more people, among them those he loves, will die.
After reading William Kent Krueger’s amazing stand-alone novel, Ordinary Grace, I was anxious to try this debut novel in his Cork O’Connor series. After a bit of a slow start, I became more interested in the mystery, as well as in Cork’s past, and found the second half quite intense. I couldn’t put the book down and am now eager to try Boundary Waters.
On winter in Minnesota:
He’d always loved winter in the North Woods. The clean feel of a new snow. The icy air almost brittle in his nostrils. The way sound carried forever. He could hear Walleye barking a long way off as he parked his Bronco on the frozen lake, climbed the rocky slope of Crow’s Point, and made for Henry Meloux’s cabin. The world felt empty of everything except that sound.
He was intent on the trail of oil when out of the corner of his eye he caught a flash of orange at the far right fringe of his headlight beam. He realized it was one of the signs warning of open water ahead, and he pumped his brakes, fighting to keep from sliding into an uncontrolled spin as he attempted to turn the Bronco. He felt the wheels drift over the ice as the vehicle slid sideways. A brief, panicked vision came to him of the Bronco gliding unchecked off the ice and plunging into the black depths of Iron Lake. He eased the wheel into the spin and managed to regain control. From behind the curtain of falling snow ahead, the blackness of the open water came at him like a gaping mouth. He continued to slow and to bring the Bronco around. Then he heard the ice groan and crack beneath him. Steadily he pushed down on the accelerator, running parallel for a moment to the open water, trying to keep the weight of the Bronco moving ahead of the breaking ice. His right hand ached, but he held tight and carefully brought the wheel around until he was moving back to safety. He made a wide full circle. When he came across the black train of oil, he centered it in the beam of the headlight, illuminating the stretch of ice between him and the open water. He killed the engine and got out. He could hear wild flailing in the water ahead.
I sort of hate to get interested in another series, as I have so many titles remaining to read in John Sandford’s “Prey” series, as well as the Jack Caffery series by Mo Hayder. However, Krueger is a skilled storyteller with beautiful phrasing (reminiscent of that of Dennis Lehane), and I’m curious to see what’s in store for Cork O’Connor. If you haven’t explored this author’s backlist, I recommend beginning with Ordinary Grace (did I mention I loved that novel?!) and then give Iron Lake a try. You won’t be disappointed.