Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Iron Lake: William Kent Krueger

Iron Lake is William Kent Krueger's first novel, starring Cork O'Connor, the former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota, ousted in a recent recall election. Many residents of the small town still think of him as sheriff and ask him for help when they get into trouble. Cork is also half Irish and half Anishinaabe Indian. The Anishinaabe reservation is near to Aurora, and the town and the reservation share usage of nearby Iron Lake.

This story tells us about Cork's connection to the reservation, and his history with his wife and family. Gradually we learn about the political situation in the town and the disputes between the townspeople and the reservation. I like the way the story is slowly revealed. Although we know from the beginning that a death has occurred, we don't know if it is murder or not for quite a while.

This book has it all. Complex characters. A meaningful plot. Lots of surprises. Very good pacing.

At first I found Cork's wife to be a cipher, I could not connect with her. I don't know that I ever liked her, but in the end she was just as complex as any of the other important characters. Sometimes, I didn't like Cork all that much, but the story explains a lot of his behavior, his background, and I found him admirable in the context of what he had experienced.

The family dynamics are very, very good. He has children that he cares about and he wants to be with them; yet he and his wife are separated, so he cannot be a real part of their lives. The children are at different stages of development and I liked his relationship with them and his patience with them.

Another bonus is that the book is set at Christmas. It is not a traditional Christmas mystery by any means but Christmas does play a part in the plot.

And finally, I enjoyed this book for the setting, which not only included the physical setting  of northern Minnesota but also the proximity to an Indian reservation and the juxtaposition of the Indian culture vs the town culture. Cork's mixed race causes issues on both sides.

I am very glad I finally ready this book. I bought my copy of Iron Lake over 5 years ago and it was first published 20 years ago. I was motivated to move it to the top of my TBR pile by a recent recommendation from Richard at Tip the Wink. His review is here. I want to see how a lot of this plays out for Cork. So I will be reading more of the series.


Publisher:  Pocket Books, 1999, orig. pub. 1998.
Length:    438 pages
Format:    Paperback
Series:     Cork O'Connor #1
Setting:    Minnesota
Genre:     Mystery
Source:   I bought my copy.


pattinase (abbott) said...

When someone writes such a great novel, it is hard to surpass it. I am not sure he ever did but he equaled it many times.

Rick Robinson said...

I disagree with Patti, I liked the second novel, Boundary Waters even more. This is an out standing series. Thanks for the nod, Tracy.

Anonymous said...

Krueger really is talented, isn't he, Tracy? And this series is a fine one. I'm glad you enjoyed this so well, and glad you featured it here.

TracyK said...

It sounds like I have good reading ahead of me, Patti.

TracyK said...

I am glad you motivated me to start the series, Rick. I look forward to reading Boundary Waters.

TracyK said...

Just amazing that it took me so long to get to this book, Margot. And I like the setting a lot.

Jason Half said...

I'm so glad you brought this author and book to my attention, Tracy! The setting (I'm from neighboring Wisconsin) and the story's presentation of Native American characters are very intriguing, and I have been looking for more "contemporary" mystery fiction to mix in with the Golden Age titles. Thanks for the good review --

Howard said...

I've got a lot of favorite series in this field, but the Cork O'Connor books are close to the top.

TracyK said...

Jason, I hope you try this series and like it. I would like to know what you think. I have a hard time remembering where all the states are located and now I know more about the colder Northern states.

TracyK said...

I am finding more and more writers I enjoy, Howard, which is hard since I already have too many unread books.

Mathew Paust said...

Sounds right up my alley, Tracy. Gonna check this author out!

TracyK said...

I have only read this one, Matt, and I have the 2nd one ordered. But based on this one, I would say he is an author worth checking out.

col2910 said...

I did consider adding this author to the pile, but despite a few positive recommendations I never took the plunge. Maybe I could give this one a go sometime.

TracyK said...

Definitely worth a try, Col. The author keeps up a fast pace, but it is also fairly long.

Clothes In Books said...

I am surprised that I have never heard of this author or series, when he is obviously highly-rated by so many of you! I will have to look him out.

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