Northwest Angle (Cork O'Connor Series #11)by William Kent Krueger
During a houseboat vacation on the remote Lake of the Woods, a violent gale sweeps through unexpectedly,/i>
With his family caught in the crosshairs of a group of brutal killers, detective Cork O’Connor must solve the murder of a young girl in the latest installment of William Kent Krueger’s unforgettable New York Times bestselling series.
During a houseboat vacation on the remote Lake of the Woods, a violent gale sweeps through unexpectedly, stranding Cork and his daughter, Jenny, on a devastated island where the wind has ushered in a force far darker and more deadly than any storm.
Amid the wreckage, Cork and Jenny discover an old trapper’s cabin where they find the body of a teenage girl. She wasn’t killed by the storm, however; she’d been bound and tortured before she died. Whimpering sounds coming from outside the cabin lead them to a tangle of branches toppled by the vicious winds. Underneath the debris, they find a baby boy, hungry and dehydrated, but still very much alive. Powerful forces intent on securing the child pursue them to the isolated Northwest Angle, where it’s impossible to tell who among the residents is in league with the devil. Cork understands that to save his family he must solve the puzzle of this mysterious child whom death follows like a shadow.
“Part adventure, part mystery, and all knockout thriller” (Booklist ), Northwest Angle is a dynamic addition to William Kent Krueger’s critically acclaimed, award-winning series.
A pleasing family vacation in a remote, almost idyllic spot comes to an end when the derecho hits. The derecho, a hurricane on steroids, separates Cork and his daughter Jenny from the rest of the O'Connors, almost kills them andlands them on a seemingly deserted island, and smack in the middle of a blood-soaked mystery.In an old, abandoned trappers' cabin they find a girl, a teenager, murdered. They also find her baby very much alive—howling and hungry. Cork asks the obvious questions—who, how and why?—but Jenny's response is markedly different. She's drawn to the now motherless little boy, a reaction so intense that it startles even her. She will serve and protect the child from all threats and dangers, no matter what forms they take. They arrive, soon enough, in the form of a gunman, stalking them. Is he the murderer returning to the scene of his crime? Is he trying to rid the world of all possible witnesses?Or—to Jenny the thought could hardly be more terrifying—does he want the baby?But first things first. Cork, weaponless, must now invent a strategy for coping with an armed predator who makes no secret of his unequivocal enmity, and then—Cork being Cork—he must find his way back to who, how and why, though he senses almost from the outset that the answers will have unintended, unwelcome consequences.
Dependable Krueger has another all-out go at good versus evil, but in this, the 12th of his much-respected series, the straight-arrow, exemplary O'Connors might strike readers as a shade too exemplary.
Read an Excerpt
Later, when it no longer mattered, they learned that the horror that had come from the sky had a name: derecho.
At the time, all they knew was that the day had begun with deceptive calm. Rose was up early, though not as early as the men, who’d risen at first light and had taken the dinghy across the broad channel to fish. She made coffee and sat on the deck of the houseboat and said her daily prayers while a bright lemon sun rose above the lake and islands. She began with a prayer of thanksgiving for all she had—especially her husband and her family—then, as always, prayed mostly for the people who, in life, despaired. She prayed for those whom she knew personally and for the greater multitude she didn’t. At last, she said her amen and gave herself over to the pure pleasure of the still morning.
Anne was up next and then Jenny, and the three women sat in deck chairs on the forward platform, sipping coffee, talking quietly, watching the sun crawl the sky, waiting for the men.
When she heard the dinghy’s old outboard cutting through the morning calm, Rose got up and said, “I’ll start the potatoes.”
Anne stood up, too. “Let me give a hand, Aunt Rose.”
“No,” she said. “You and Jenny sit. Talk. It’s what sisters should do. You almost never see each other these days.”
She went to the galley to prepare breakfast. She planned to roast potatoes with onions and red peppers and tomatoes. She thought she would scramble eggs with chives and cream cheese. She would slice melons and strawberries and toss them in a bowl with plenty of fat blueberries. And there would be, she was almost certain, fresh fish to fry.
She heard the men as they pulled alongside and tied up to the houseboat and clambered aboard. She heard Cork say, “Beer and pretzels,” and she hoped he wasn’t talking about breakfast.
Mal stepped into the galley, smiling hugely, and held up a stringer full of fat yellow perch. “The hunter home from the hill,” he said.
“You shot them?” Rose replied. “Not very sporting.”
Mal kissed her cheek and started toward the sink.
“Uh-uh,” she said. “Those get cleaned on deck.” She took him gently and turned him toward the door. “When you have them filleted, bring them in and I’ll fry them up.”
Stephen came in and went straight to the canister Rose had filled with chocolate chip cookies the day before. He took a handful and said, “Okay, Aunt Rose?”
“Don’t spoil your breakfast.”
“Are you kidding? I could eat a moose. Can I have some milk, too?”
He left with the cookies and a plastic tumbler filled to the brim. Moments later, Rose heard him talking with his sisters on deck and laughing.
The rented houseboat had a table large enough for all of them to gather around, and they ate amid the clatter of flatware against plates and the lively symphony of good conversation. Anne and Jenny offered to clean up, and they gave Stephen a hard time until he agreed to help. Mal showered, then Cork, and afterward both men settled down to a game of cribbage. The kids finished the dishes, put on their swimsuits, and dove into the lake. Rose set a deck chair in the shade under the forward awning of the houseboat. She sat down to read, but her mind quickly began to wander.
Nearly two years had passed since Jo had been lost in the Wyoming Rockies. Nearly two years dead. And Rose stilled missed her sister. Her deep grieving had ended, but there was a profound sense of something lacking in her life. She had taken to calling this the Great Empty. The kids—“kids” she thought them, though Jenny was twenty-four, Anne twenty-one, and Stephen almost fifteen—splashed and laughed in the water, yet she knew that they felt the Great Empty, too. Cork never talked about his own feelings, and Rose understood that the avoidance itself was probably a sign he was afflicted as well. She wished she knew how to help them all heal fully. In the days when he’d been a priest, Mal had often dealt with death and its aftermath, and he advised her that healing came in its own time and the best you could hope for was to help ease the pain along the way.
“And does everyone heal in the end?” she’d asked her husband.
“Not everyone,” he’d said. “At least, not in my experience.”
She watched the kids in the water and Cork at the table slapping down his cards, and she breathed in the pine-scented air above that distant, isolated lake, and she prayed, “Let us heal, Lord. Let us all be whole again.”
In the early afternoon, Cork said, “It’s time, Jenny.”
She looked up from the table where she’d been writing, put the pencil in the crease between the pages, closed her notebook, and stood.
“How long will it take?” she asked.
“Less than an hour, if we go directly. But today we’re going to make a little side trip.”
Her father liked mysteries, large and small. She understood it was part of what drew him through life, the need to find answers. In a way, it was also what drove her, but they went about it differently. He’d been a cop most of his life and now he was a PI. She, on the other hand, was a writer.
Stephen came from the galley, one hand filled with potato chips. “Can I go?”
“Not this time,” his father said. “Jenny and I have things to discuss.”
Things to discuss, she thought. Oh, God.
“Ah, come on,” Stephen said.
Cork shook his head. “Oz has spoken. But if you want to help, go fill the motor on the dinghy with gas.”
“I didn’t say I wanted to help. I said I wanted to go.”
“And now you’re going to help,” Cork said. He turned to Jenny. “Wear your swimsuit and bring your camera.”
Mysteries, she thought with a silent sigh. But maybe, if they were interesting enough, they would keep her father away from the things he wanted to discuss.
Early September. The air thick on the lake and the sky a weighty blue. The weather, he’d been told, was unusual for that time of year so far north. Hot beyond anyone’s memory. Usually by the end of August fall was already solidly in the air. But not this year. The intense heat of the afternoon was bearable only because of the wind generated by the dinghy speeding over smooth water.
Though they were in Canada, Cork knew he could just about throw a stone onto U.S. territory. They were on the Lake of the Woods, a body of water roughly eighty miles long and sixty miles wide, containing over fourteen thousand islands. That’s what he’d been told in Kenora, anyway. The lake straddled the U.S.-Canadian border. Border? Cork shook his head, thinking how easily that international marker was crossed on this lake. There was no line on the water to delineate one nation from the other. Kitchimanidoo, the Creator, had made the land a boundless whole. It was human beings who felt the need for arbitrary divisions and drew the lines. Too often, he thought, in human blood.
He held the tiller of the little Evinrude outboard, guiding the dinghy southwesterly across broad, open water toward a gathering of islands humped along the horizon. In the half hour since they’d left the houseboat, he hadn’t exchanged a word with Jenny. Which, he strongly suspected, was just fine with her.
The lake was beautiful and, like so many things of beauty, deceptive. The water that day was like glass. The vast size of the lake suggested depth, but Cork knew that beneath the tranquil surface lay reefs and rocks that in the blink of an eye could slit a hull or chew the blades off a prop. He’d been using GPS to follow the main channel between the islands and had been keeping a good speed. But south of Big Narrows he swung the boat west out of the channel, slowed to a crawl, and entered an archipelago composed of dozens of islands, large and small. The shorelines were rocky, the interiors covered with tall pine and sturdy spruce and leafy poplar. Cork eased the boat patiently along, studying the screen of the Garmin GPS mounted to the dash, into which he’d downloaded a program for Lake of the Woods. The water was the color of weak green tea, and he told Jenny, who sat in the bow, to keep her eyes peeled for snags that the GPS couldn’t possibly indicate. After fifteen minutes of careful navigation, he guided the dinghy up to the rocky edge of a small island. He eased the bow next to a boulder whose top rose from the water like the head of a bald man, and he cut the engine.
“Grab the bow line and jump ashore,” he told Jenny.
She leaped to the boulder, rope in hand.
“Can you tie us off?”
She slid a few feet down the side of the boulder and leaped nimbly to shore, where she tied the boat to a section of rotting fallen timber.
Cork stepped to the bow, leaped to the boulder, then to shore.
“Got your camera?” he asked.
Jenny patted her belt where her Canon hung in a nylon case.
“Okay,” Cork said. “Let’s take a hike.”
The island was nearly bare of vegetation and was dominated by a rock formation that rose conelike at the center. Cork led the way along the rock slope, following the vague suggestion of a trail that gradually spiraled upward around the cone. All around them lay a gathering of islands so thick that no matter which way Cork looked they appeared to form a solid shoreline. Between the islands ran a confusing maze of narrow channels.
“Where are we?” Jenny asked.
“Someplace not many folks know about. Probably the only ones who do are Shinnob.”
He used the word that was shorthand for the Anishinaabeg, the First People, who were also known as Ojibwe or Chippewa. Anishinaabe blood ran through Cork and, therefore, through his daughter Jenny.
“On a map, this island doesn’t have a name,” Cork said. “But Shinnobs call it Neejawnisug.”
“What does it mean?”
“I’ll tell you in a minute.”
They reached the top, which was crowned by a great white stone that looked as if it had been cleaved by an ax. The southern side was rounded and pocked, but the north side was a solid face ten feet tall. It lay in full sunlight, golden, and when Jenny saw that glowing face of rock, her eyes went large.
“Pictographs,” she said. “They’re beautiful, Dad. Do you know what they mean?”
Cork studied the figures painted in ocher that covered the face of the stone.
“Henry Meloux told me they’re a kind of invocation to Kitchimanidoo for safety. He said the Anishinaabeg who drew them were being pursued by Dakota and had come to hide. They left the children here, and that’s why they call it Neejawnisug. It means ‘the children.’ They left the women, too, and went off to fight the enemy. They trusted this place because there are so many islands and so many channels that it’s almost impossible to find your way here.”
“You found it easily enough.”
“When I was sixteen, Henry brought me. Giigiwishimowin,” Cork said.
“Your vision quest,” Jenny interpreted.
“By then it was no longer a common practice among the Ojibwe,” Cork said. “But Henry insisted.”
“He never told me.”
“Did you receive your vision?”
Jenny didn’t ask about her father’s dream vision, and if she had, he probably wouldn’t have told her.
“Have you been here since?”
“How did you find it so easily? I mean, after so many years?”
“I spent a long afternoon coming here with Henry. He made me memorize every twist and turn.”
“That had to be forty years ago. A long time to remember.”
“You mean for an old man.”
“I couldn’t find my way back here.”
“If it was important, I bet you could.”
Jenny snapped photos of the drawings on the stone and, for a long time, was silent. “And did Kitchimanidoo hide the children successfully?” she finally asked.
“I don’t know. Nor did Henry.”
He could see her mind working, and that was one of the reasons he’d brought her. Unanswered questions were part of what drove her. He was uncertain how to broach the other reason he’d asked her to come.
“God, it’s hot,” Jenny said, looking toward the sun, which baked them. “Not even a breath of wind.”
“Not technically,” she said.
“Technically?” He smiled. “So when are dog days? Technically.”
“According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the forty days from July third through August eleventh.”
He shook his head. “You’re way too precise in your thinking. Your mom, she was the same way.”
Jenny brought her gaze to bear on her father. “She was a lawyer. She had to be precise. Legal strictures. I’m a journalist. Lots of the same strictures apply.” She looked away, down at the water a hundred feet below. “Mind if I take a dip before we go on?”
“No. Mind if I join you?”
They descended the cone and retraced their path to the boulder where the boat was secured. They’d worn their bathing suits under their other clothing, and they quickly stripped. Jenny slipped into the water first and Cork followed.
The lake had been warming all summer, but even so it still held a chill that was a wonderful relief to the heat of the day.
“So?” Cork said, in clumsy opening.
His daughter turned her head to the sky and closed her eyes and lay on her back, so that her ears were below the surface and she could pretend not to hear him.
“I just want to know one thing. And I know you can hear me.”
“It starts with one thing,” she said with her eyes still closed. “It ends up everything. That’s how you operate.”
“Old dog, old trick,” he said, waited a moment, then repeated, “So?”
She righted herself, treaded water, and gave in. “All right, what do you want to know?”
“Are you going to marry him?”
“That’s a complicated question.”
“I think the question is fairly simple.”
“Well, I can’t answer it.”
“Because of you or him?”
“It’s a decision we’re both involved in.”
“You’d tell your mother,” he said.
“She wouldn’t put me on the rack.”
“You will if you don’t get an answer.”
“I suppose you’ve talked to Aunt Rose.”
She didn’t reply, but her silence itself gave him his answer.
“But you won’t talk to me.”
“There are things women understand, Dad.”
“There are things fathers should be let in on. Look, I don’t know why you can’t give me a straightforward answer, and that’s what concerns me.”
“There are issues we need to settle first.”
“Ah, children,” she said, as if she suddenly understood. “That’s why you brought me here to show me those pictographs. This is all about children, isn’t it?”
“Not completely. But you indicated there are issues,” he said. “And I’m betting that’s one. He doesn’t want them, does he?”
“Maybe it’s me who doesn’t.”
“Is it?” Again, her silence was his answer. “You’ve been down this road before, Jenny.”
“See? Right there.” She lifted her arm and pointed an accusing finger at him. Water dripped from the tip in crystal pearls. “That’s why I don’t talk to you.”
“It was only an observation.”
“It was a criticism, and you know it.”
“I didn’t mean—”
“I’m finished swimming. Let’s go.”
He’d blown it. In his imagining, the discussion had gone differently, had ended with them understanding each other, touching heart to heart in the way they used to when she was much younger. Instead he watched her breaststroke away from him to the dinghy, leaving him feeling stupid and treading water.
They threaded their way out of the convoluted gathering of islands. Jenny sat rigid in the bow, fiercely giving him her back. As soon as they hit the open water of the main channel, he headed the dinghy again toward the southwest.
When he saw the sky there, he was, for a moment, stunned breathless.
“Dad?” Jenny said from the bow. She’d seen it, too, and she turned back to him, fear huge in her eyes.
“Good God Almighty,” he whispered.
© 2011 William Kent Krueger
Meet the Author
William Kent Krueger is the award-winning author of fourteen previous Cork O'Connor novels, including Tamarack County and Windigo Island, as well as the novel Ordinary Grace, winner of the 2014 Edgar Award for best novel. He lives in the Twin Cities with his family. Visit his website at WilliamKentKrueger.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
On the Canadian border in the Northwest Angle of Minnesota, former sheriff turned private investigator widower Cork O'Conner and his adult child Jenny go on a houseboat vacation together in the Lake of the Woods. When a major storm strikes the remote area the pair seeks safer shelter on an island in the middle of the Ojibwa reservation. The torrent separates father and daughter. Jenny finds a naked female Native American corpse and nearby the body is her dehydrated baby. The victim obviously was tortured before being executed with a bullet to her head. Cork catches up with Jenny and the infant, but the trio is on the run from someone deadly. They obtain help from their Ojibwa family, which enables Cork to investigate who killed Lily Smalldog as he knows his daughter and the baby are safe? The latest Cork O'Conner whodunit (see Vermilion Drift) is a terrific entry as William Kent Krueger uses the murder mystery to enable the audience to see deeper inside the hero. The story line is action-paced starting with the storm and never slows down as a cat and mouse hunt takes center stage. Series fans will welcome the return of Cork in a fabulous thriller just north of the 49th parallel. Harriet Klausner
I have been reading Mr. Krueger's books for many years and the one thing that stands out with each of his newly released books... they are better than the previous ones. And Northwest Angle is no exception. Cork O'Connor is at his best in the book and this time his daughter Jenny is a major player and, if you will, action star in her own right. With all of Mr. K's books, we learn a great deal of geographical knowledge and area info. He has a way to make everything seem vivid in the mind while not overly dwelling on the description as other authors seem to want to do. His words seem to imbue an idea in your mind that are just right to explain the sights the characters are seeing. I loved this book and read it in 2 sittings in a 36 hour period. Had to work sometime, eh. This is a book to grab and hang onto. Buy it now!!!
Northwest Angle by William Kent Krueger is the eleventh book in the Cork O'Connor series. Cork has taken his family of sister-in-law Rose and her husband, Mal, and three kids: Anne, Jenny, and Stephen, away up north to the Lake of the Woods on vacation, to help them all recover from the events of the past few books. He wants to spend some time alone with Jenny and talk with her about her growing relationship with boyfriend, Aaron, but all of his plans are shaken when a huge storm called a derecho blows up, separating Cork and Jenny from the rest of the family. The pair discover a murdered woman's body and upon hearing some strange noises from the forest, find her weeks old baby boy. They soon find themselves hunted by a mysterious man who may have killed the woman, and Cork is disturbed by Jenny's growing bond with the infant. When the family is finally united they find themselves cut off from the rest of the world and facing an unexpected enemy. Krueger writes thrilling crime novels that are less about the crime and more about the characters. He wants to know how people would react to the horror of murder, and his stories are almost psychological profiles. By focusing on how each character is feeling and reacting, the reader is pulled deeply into the story. Unlike many series that have sequels into the double digits, Krueger's characters still feel very fresh because they grow personally with each story. Revisiting the O'Connor family in this book felt like catching up with good friends, so every twist and turn feels very personal and real.
Kept me captive through the entire story. Krueger just keeps getting better in his stories about Cork and his mysteries to solve. It took me quite a while to figure out who the real bad guys were in this one.
I have read all of Krueger's books and this is in the top three of all his books. It is exciting from page 1 to the end. It is a must read! I enjoyed how strong the personalities of Cork's family were strengthened as they had to deal with all the storm issues in order to save themselves.
This series never lets you down. Always a great story.
The entire series is a must read
I love the area and the book.
"Northwest Angle" is a well-written, well-characterized mystery. Although murder mysteries are not "my genre," this is the second Krueger book I've read and enjoyed immensely. the books are not solely about the solution of the mystery, but are about people you will come to like and situations beyond the murder to be solved. The Northwest Angle is that little northern notch at the northern border of Minnesota. Its unique and interesting geographical make-up plays a large part in this book.
The Cork O'Connor series never gets stale. Here is yet another fresh example of the lives of the O'Connor clan's struggle for normalcy in the wake of a previous tragedy. Their committment to each other and love for one another is enviable. This work contains all of the ingredients that Kent Krueger is so well known for - suspense, wonderful pacing, and lessons of life that all of us should take note of.
I love the series and can't wait for the next one.
William Krueger has out done himself on this one. Love the Northwest Angle! Including the history of the 1999 storm was something I was not aware of (lived in Oregon at that time). GOOD READ
Really like the whole series but this one is the best !!!
Northwest Angle is typical Krueger, fast paced and with just enough twists to keep you interested. Good guys win.
I have already ordered the sequel. Great read!
I began reading Krueger's books because I live in Minnesota, love the North Shore and am an avid mystery fan. The Cork O'Connor series has been fun to follow and I have enjoyed all in the series. The Northwest Angle did not disappoint me. Little is known by most Minnesotans regarding this area of Minnesota geography and therefore the setting interested me. His books are not easy to put down and I look forward to many more.
I live in Minnesota, which makes the Cork O'Connor series even more special!! Most of all I love the blending of the Native culture and modern world. Please give us more wonderful books!
Great book. I have read all of Krueger's books.
This story follows a well used idea of a using another member of the familly in a new location in the old Northwest Territory. The plot is predictable to the extent that I was suspicious of Bascombe and the scenario concerning Noah Smalldog before I was half-way through the story; otherwise, it is well written continuation of the Cork O'Connor familly saga.
After every book I read in this series, I say that it is absolutely the best work of William Kent Krueger. I guess now I have to say that each book tops the one before as this author's writing is continually getting better. I love his attention to detail so you can feel, hear, smell and taste every word he writes. I cannot wait to start the next book in the series! I hope there are many more books because I am hooked! I love, love, love the O'Connor family and their stories and adventures.