Next two Kruegers

After my fantasy binge, I went back to Cork O’Connor, since I had checked out the first three in one volume from the library and wanted to keep going before my time expired.

The second book is Boundary Waters, and it takes place about nine months after the conclusion of the first. Based on a promise to a friend, Cork has given up cigarettes and taken up running; his relationship with his ex-wife and children has improved; and his burger stand is doing a thriving business.

Then a man, a prominent music producer, comes to town looking for his daughter, a famous singer named Shiloh, who has been on retreat in a remote cabin in the area. The Anishinaabe man who has been bringing her supplies and carrying her letters out into the world has gone missing, and his family is likewise concerned that something is wrong. It turns out a bunch of people are looking for Shiloh, including the FBI, in connection with a murder she may have witnessed as a child. Cork, her father, some FBI agents, and a 10-year-old Ojibwe boy and his father head out into the wilderness to find her, but there are also some hired assassins on her trail, and they’re not going to let Cork and friends stand in their way. Lots of bloodshed and cruelty ensue amidst a high-tension story as various people end up running for their lives.

I liked this book better than the first one—the involvement of Cork was more logical, given his connections with various of the protagonists. Plus, he has the freedom to take independent action, unlike the sheriff, who has multiple responsibilities in various directions and can’t just flit off into the woods after the bad guys. I thought the red herrings were quite effective and kept the mystery going long after one usually guesses what’s up. And the details about nature and woodcraft, including the portage of canoes between bodies of water, were engaging.

The third book, Purgatory Ridge, was better written and plotted than either of its predecessors; I can see why people keep going with this series after the somewhat disappointing debut book. This one has two distinct story lines, the one in the present that directly involves Cork in its drama, and a tragedy from the past that is drawn together with the first as the action progresses.

The first involves a logging operation that is directly counter to the sacred traditions of the Anishinaabe tradition, which seeks to preserve the white pines known as Our Grandfathers. The owner of the lumber mill, Karl Lindstrom, is attempting to reach a compromise with the tribe over selective winnowing of the trees when some environmental activists cross the line and set off a bomb at the mill. The sheriff calls on Cork to investigate, since he is former law enforcement but also a distant member of the tribe, but having ties to both sides makes it a difficult proposition.

The second story is of the sole survivor of a shipwreck on Lake Superior in which he lost his beloved brother. It’s not clear at first how this story relates, but it’s an involving one that approaches ever nearer to the central theme as the book unfolds.

I was completely caught up in this narrative and didn’t see the twist in the story until moments before it was revealed. The involvement of Cork also finally began to make more sense; the current sheriff’s wife is descending ever farther into the fog of Alzheimer’s, and he has plans to retire that include encouraging Cork to re-up in the election for a new sheriff.

Not to harp on one note, but I really hope Krueger quits being such a fat shamer in future volumes. Sister-in-law Rose “lumbered,” short of breath, throughout this book, and as usual I wonder why it’s considered bigotry and prejudice to call people out for their race, their handicaps, and other elements over which they have no control, but completely acceptable to belittle a woman for the size and shape of her body. The days of believing that all it takes is will power to be perfectly svelte and beautiful are over, and I hope Krueger figures this out as this series progresses, because it’s getting really wearing to repeatedly encounter these slurs.

One might consider the beauty and strength of Vermeer’s milkmaid as an example of a woman to whom “the perfect body” is a foreign concept…

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