Book: Northwest Angle by William Kent Krueger
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: August 30, 2011
Source: Unsolicited review copy from publisher
Summary: Northwest Angle by William Kent Krueger begins with a family vacation on a houseboat on Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota. Family tensions keep it from being the idyllic retreat that the patriarch, Cork O’Connor, had hoped for when he planned this trip. Those problems seem tame, however, when a derecho, a rare type of massive wind storm system roars through, separating family members and endangering all of their lives. As Cork and his family members slowly find each other again, a foundling child draws them into a mystery more dangerous than the storm.
Cork, a former law enforcement officer who had pledged to never use a gun again, finds himself in situations he had hoped to never encounter.
How very strange, he thought now, his mood still bleak, that circumstance kept bringing him back to the place where his hand ached for the grip of a gun. The destinies of some men and women, he’d decided long ago, were bound to the sulfur stink of cordite and the iron odor of blood. He’d tried his best not to be one of them. Yet here he was again. (p. 70,71)
Thoughts: I had a hard time getting started with this story — too many characters (including one dead one) with scant evidence of their relationships to each other. This book read like what it is: the eleventh book in the series. And I hadn’t read the first ten, so I didn’t know all of these characters already.
I decided to follow Nancy Pearl’s Rule of 50 — read 50 pages and then decide if I would finish the book. I was caught by page 36.
There is a mystery underlying the events, but the first half of the book is more of a wilderness adventure disaster story. By the time that thrill begins to let up, we are well along in a mystery that unravels through the rest of the book in surprising ways.
I really enjoyed the northern Minnesota setting. Since we’ve traveled in that area, although never as far west as Lake of the Woods, reading this book was like taking a vacation. All of the right details were present: types of vehicles, the Minnesota Public Radio station, species of trees, lake resorts and cabins, and the characters that inhabit this environment.
The Northwest Angle is an odd bit of US / Canadian geography. An accident of 19th century map-making, it’s the only part of the contiguous 48 states above the 49th parallel. To get there by road, you have to cross into Canada.
Appeal: An exciting story with a great setting, this book will appeal to mystery readers who like rural locations, professional detectives, and family dramas.
Reviews: Julia Spencer-Fleming, a mystery writer, has an insightful interview of William Kent Krueger about this book and other issues: Jungle Red Writers interview William Kent Krueger.
Have you read this book? What did you think?