“Fox Creek” by William Kent Krueger (Astria)
Retired sheriff and part-time private detective Cork O’Connor is working the grill at his Aurora, Minnesota, restaurant when a stranger wanders in search of help in finding his wife, Delores, who is having an affair with a Native American named Henry. Meloux has run to make.
Cork agrees to lend a hand, but he snaps a photo of the stranger because he knows the story happened. Fans of William Kent Krueger’s fine series featuring Cork, now in its 19th installment, know it’s whoie too. After all, Henry, an Ojibwe healer who is a regular in these novels, is at least 100 years old.
Cork visits Henry’s camp at the edge of the Boundary Waters forest and finds that Delores is actually there. She had come to Henry’s help with her troubled marriage and her renewed interest in her native heritage. There, she is under the guidance of Henry’s older niece, Renee, who is also Cork’s wife, in the process of sweating it out.
Dolores confirmed that the man in the picture is not her husband, who appears to have mysteriously disappeared. So Cork returns to Aurora to try to figure out what’s going on. Shortly after, Henry senses impending danger and leads Dolores and Renee into the deep woods and swamps.
When Cork returns to the camp, he receives signs that others have searched the place, and Dolores, Henry and Renee are being tracked down and hunted, so he heads into the woods to track down the poachers. goes.
For more than 300 pages, the Krueger approach varies. We follow Henry as he uses a century of experience as a lumberjack to escape the people who are tracking him. We follow a team of mercenaries determined to find them, led by a skilled Native American. And we follow Cork, who becomes increasingly frightened that he lacks the skills to save Dolores, Henry, and Renee. It soon becomes clear that not everyone will survive the ordeal in one piece.
Why the mercenaries are hunting Dolores, and how her missing husband gets into the story, remains a mystery until Kruger makes an unexpected turn at the very end.
As always in the Kruger novel, the prose is elegant, the landscape of Minnesota’s Northeast Triangle is vividly depicted, the character development is superb, and Henry’s Native American mysticism is treated with understanding and respect.
Bruce D’Silva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of Mulligan crime novels, including “The Dread Line.”