Iron Lake (Cork O'Connor Series #1)
  • Iron Lake (Cork O'Connor Series #1)
  • Iron Lake (Cork O'Connor Series #1)

Iron Lake (Cork O'Connor Series #1)

3.9 714
by William Kent Krueger
     
 

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William Kent Krueger joined the ranks of today's best suspense novelists with this thrilling, universally acclaimed debut. Krueger brilliantly evokes northern Minnesota's lake country and reveals the dark side of its snow-covered landscape.See more details below

Overview

William Kent Krueger joined the ranks of today's best suspense novelists with this thrilling, universally acclaimed debut. Krueger brilliantly evokes northern Minnesota's lake country and reveals the dark side of its snow-covered landscape.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Short-story specialist Krueger brings a fresh take on some familiar elements and a strong sense of atmosphere to his first mystery. Chicago cop Cork O'Connor and his wife, Jo, a lawyer, moved back to his northern Minnesota hometown of Aurora to improve their quality of life, but it didn't work. Cork became the sheriff but lost an election after a disagreement between local Indians and whites over fishing rights turned deadly. Then his marriage broke up, with Jo becoming a successful advocate for tribal rights and Cork reduced to running a scruffy restaurant and gift shop. As the book starts, Cork, feeling guilty about sleeping with a warmhearted waitress, is still hoping to get back with Jo and their three children. Drawn into the disappearance of an Indian newsboy, which coincides with the apparent suicide of a former judge, Cork quickly clashes with some well-connected foes: a newly elected senator (who also happens to be the judge's son and Jo's lover); the town's new sheriff; and some tribal leaders getting rich on gambling concessions. When an old Indian tells Cork that a Windigo (a malign spirit) is fueling events, it becomes an occasion for Krueger to draw some nifty connections between the monsters of the heart and the monsters of myth. Krueger makes Cork a real person beneath his genre garments, mostly by showing him dealing with the needs of his two very different teenage daughters. And the author's deft eye for the details of everyday life brings the town and its peculiar problems to vivid life. (Aug.)
Library Journal
In Krueger's first mystery after a spate of short stories, former sheriff Cork O'Connor deals with a missing boy, a dead judge, and a Minnesota blizzard. Some very strong prepublication reviews (e.g., "the author's deft eye...brings the town and its problem to vivid life," Publishers Weekly) sent this book spinning, and it won some praise from the consumer press as well. It also popped up a few times on LJ's "1999 Adult Book-Buying Survey Among Librarians" as a local title that circulated especially well.
Kirkus Reviews
Cork O'Connor is a man beset with troubles, some of them of his own making. But he's a bend-not-break man: an admirable man. And he needs to be, for it's winter in hardscrabble Aurora, Minnesota. The blizzard that buries the small lakeside town also buries some ugly things with it. Like nasty secretsþand brutal murder. So here's Cork, who used to be sheriff, who used to have a wife who loved him, who used to have a purpose to his life, sort of stumbling into situations that bewilder him to the nth. There's the apparent suicide of Judge Parrant. Suicide? Judge Parrant? Not that cantankerous old misogynist. There's also a missing boy, a good and responsible boy, with no reason in the world for him to have run away. Then there are the murky goings-on over at the casino, where gambling is producing so much wealth for the Native American population that they've begun calling it "the new buffalo." And finally, there's the windigo, a spirit so malevolent that it can unnerve even those who don't actually believe in it. Almost despite himself, Cork is soon behaving like the lawman he no longer is, looking for answers that are very hard to find. And yet he does find some. Some of those he discovers, though, he soon wishes he hadn't. Minnesotan Krueger has a sense of place heþs plainly honed firsthand in below-zero prairie. His characters, too, sport charm and dimension, although things start to get a bit shaky toward bookþs end. Still, this first-timerþs stamina and self-assurance suggest that O'Connorþs got staying power.

From the Publisher
David Housewright Edgar Award-winning author of Practice to Deceive Iron Lake is an explosive brew: one part James Ellroy, one part Stephen King, one part Jack London, and all parts terrific...A truly remarkable first novel.

Stephen Greenleaf Author of Past Tense Iron Lake is as powerful as a Minnesota blizzard...

The Drood Review I can't remember reading a better first novel than this one....

Philip Reed Author of Low Rider Iron Lake is that rare combination: a page turner and a deeply felt character study.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439157282
Publisher:
Atria Books
Publication date:
06/09/2009
Series:
Cork O'Connor Series, #1
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
70,988
Product dimensions:
5.34(w) x 8.26(h) x 1.24(d)

Read an Excerpt

Iron Lake

1

FOR A WEEK THE FEELING had been with him, and all week long young Paul LeBeau had been afraid. Of what exactly, he couldn’t say. Whenever he tried to put the finger of his thinking on it, it slipped away like a drop of mercury. But he knew that whatever was coming would be bad, because the feeling was exactly like the terrible waiting had been before his father disappeared. Each day he reached out into the air with all his senses, trying to touch what was coming. So that finally, on that morning in mid-December when the clouds rolled in thick and gray as smoke and the wind screamed over the pines and tamaracks and the snow began falling hard, Paul LeBeau looked out the window of his algebra class and thought hopefully, Maybe it’s only this.

Shortly after lunch, word of the school closing came down. Students quickly put on their coats and shouldered their book bags, and a few minutes later the yellow buses began to pull away, heading onto roads that threatened to disappear before them.

Paul left the Aurora Middle School and walked home, pushing into the force of the storm the whole way. He changed his clothes, put on his Sorel boots, took five dollars from the small cashbox on his dresser, and left his mother a note affixed with a butterfly magnet to the refrigerator door. Grabbing his canvas newspaper bag from its hook in the garage, he headed toward his drop box. By two-thirty he was loaded up and ready to go.

Paul had two paper routes covering nearly two and a half miles. He began with the small business district of Aurora and ended just at the town limits out on North Point Road. At fourteen, he was larger than most boys his age and very strong. If he hustled, he could finish in just under an hour and a half. But he knew this day would be different. The snow had been accumulating at a rate of more than an inch per hour and the bitter wind that swept down out of Canada drifted it fast and deep.

He took the routes in the time when his father was drinking heavily and his mother needed money. Delivering the papers, especially on days like this that seemed impossible, was a responsibility he took seriously. In truth, he loved the storms. The energy in the wind and the ceaseless force of the drifting snow thrilled him. Where another boy might see only the plodding task ahead of him, Paul saw challenge. He took pride in his ability to battle against these elements, trudging through the drifts, leaning hard into the wind in order to complete the job expected of him.

He was an Eagle Scout. Order of the Arrow. Member of Troop 135 out of St. Agnes Catholic Church. He had made himself capable in a hundred ways. He could start a fire with flint and steel; hit a bull’s-eye with a target arrow at thirty yards; tie a bowline, a sheepshank, a slip knot; lash together a bridge strong enough to bear the weight of several men. He knew how to treat someone for shock, drowning, cardiac arrest, and sunstroke. He believed seriously in the motto “Be Prepared,” and often as he walked his paper routes, he imagined scenarios of disaster in Aurora that would allow all his secret skills to shine.

By the time he neared the end of his deliveries, lights had been turned on in the houses along the way. He was tired. His shoulders ached from the weight of the papers and his legs felt leaden from wading through knee-deep drifts. The last house on his route stood at the very end of North Point Road, a pine-covered finger of land that jutted into Iron Lake and was lined with expensive homes. The last and most isolated of the houses belonged to Judge Robert Parrant.

The judge was an old man with a hard white face, bony hands, and sharp, watchful eyes. Out of fear Paul treated him with great deference. The judge’s paper was always placed securely between the storm door and the heavy wooden front door, safe from the elements. Whenever Paul came monthly to collect for his service, the judge rewarded him with a generous tip and more stories about politics than Paul cared to hear.

The judge’s house was almost dark, with only the flicker of a fireplace flame illuminating the living room curtains. With the last paper in hand, Paul threaded his way up the long walk between cedars laden with snow. He pulled the storm door open, plowing a little arc in the drift on the porch, and saw that the front door was slightly ajar. Cold air whistled into the house. As he reached out to draw the door closed, he heard the explosion from a heavy firearm discharged inside.

He edged the door back open. “Judge Parrant?” he called. “Are you all right?” He hesitated a moment, then stepped in.

Paul had been inside many times before at the judge’s request. He always hated it. The house was a vast two-story affair built of Minnesota sandstone. The interior walls were dark oak, the windows leaded glass. A huge stone fireplace dominated the living room, and the walls there were hung with hunting trophies—the heads of deer and antelope and bear whose sightless eyes seemed to follow Paul whenever the judge asked him in.

The house smelled of applewood smoke. The sudden pop of sap from a log burning in the fireplace made him jump.

“Judge Parrant?” he tried again.

He knew he should probably just leave and close the door behind him. But there had been the shot, and now he felt something in the stillness of the house from which he couldn’t turn, a kind of responsibility. As he stood with the door wide open at his back and the wind blowing through, he glanced down and watched tendrils of snow creep across the bare, polished floor and vine around his boots like something alive. He knew that a terrible thing had happened. He knew it absolutely.

He might still have turned away and run if he hadn’t seen the blood. It was a dark glistening on the polished hardwood floor at the bottom of the staircase. He walked slowly ahead, knelt, touched the small dark puddle with his fingertips, confirmed the color of it by the firelight. There was a bloody trail leading down the hallway to his left.

Pictures from the manual for his First Aid merit badge that showed arterial bleeding and how to apply direct pressure or a tourniquet came to his mind. He’d practiced these procedures a hundred times, but never really believing that he’d ever use them. He found himself hoping desperately the judge wasn’t badly hurt, and he panicked just a little at the thought that he might actually have to save a life.

The blood led him to a closed door where a dim light crept underneath.

“Judge Parrant?” he said cautiously, leaning close to the door.

He was reluctant to barge in, but when he finally turned the knob and stood in the threshold, he found a study lined with shelves of books. Along the far wall was a desk of dark wood with a lamp on it. The lamp was switched on but didn’t give much light and the room was heavy with shadows. On the wall directly back of the desk hung a map of Minnesota. Red lines like red rivers ran down the map from red splashes like red lakes. Behind the desk lay an overturned chair, and near the chair lay the judge.

Although fear reached way down inside him and made his legs go weak, he forced himself to move ahead. As he neared the desk and saw the judge more clearly, he forgot all about the procedures for a tourniquet. There was nowhere to put a tourniquet on a man who was missing most of his head.

For a moment he couldn’t move. He felt paralyzed, unable to think as he stared down at the raw pieces of the judge’s brain, pink as chunks of fresh watermelon. Paul didn’t even move when he heard the sound at his back, the soft shutting of the door. Finally he managed to turn away from the dead man just in time to see the second thing that night his Scout training could never have prepared him for.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
David Housewright Edgar Award-winning author of Practice to Deceive Iron Lake is an explosive brew: one part James Ellroy, one part Stephen King, one part Jack London, and all parts terrific...A truly remarkable first novel.

Stephen Greenleaf Author of Past Tense Iron Lake is as powerful as a Minnesota blizzard...

The Drood Review I can't remember reading a better first novel than this one....

Philip Reed Author of Low Rider Iron Lake is that rare combination: a page turner and a deeply felt character study.

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