Copper River (Cork O'Connor Series #6)

Copper River (Cork O'Connor Series #6)

by William Kent Krueger


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Sheriff Cork O’Connor is running for his life—straight into a murderous conspiracy involving teenage runaways in this thrilling installment of William Kent Krueger’s “buy-today-read-tonight series” (Lee Child).

Desperately avoiding the professional hit men who have already put a bullet in his leg, Cork finds sanctuary outside the small Michigan town of Bodine. But while he’s hiding out in an old resort owned by his cousin Jewell DuBois, a bitter widow with a fourteen-year-old son named Ren, the body of a young girl surfaces along the banks of the Copper River. And then, soon after, another teenager vanishes.

Instead of thwarting his assassins, Cork focuses on tracking a ring of killers who prey on innocent children—desperate to catch them before anyone else falls victim. But as his deadly followers close in, Cork realizes he’s made an error any good man might make—and it may be his last.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439157817
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 08/11/2009
Series: Cork O'Connor Series , #6
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 39,624
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

William Kent Krueger is the award-winning author of the New York Times bestselling Ordinary Grace, winner of the Edgar Award for best novel, as well as eighteen Cork O’Connor novels, including Desolation Mountain and Sulfur Springs. He lives in the Twin Cities with his family. Visit his website at

Read an Excerpt

Copper River

A Cork O'Connor Mystery
By William Kent Krueger


Copyright © 2006 William Kent Krueger
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0743278402

Chapter 1

Henry Meloux, the old Ojibwe Mide, might tell the story this way.

He might begin by saying that the earth is alive, that all things on it -- water, air, plants, rocks, even dead trees -- have spirit. In the absence of wind, the grass still trembles. On days when the clouds are dense as gray wool, flowers still understand how to track the sun. Trees, when they bend, whisper to one another. In such a community of spirits, nothing goes unnoticed. Would not the forest, therefore, know that a child is about to die?

She is fourteen years, nine months, twenty-seven days old. She has never had a period, never had a boyfriend, never even had a real date. She has never eaten in a restaurant more formal than McDonald's. She has never seen a city larger than Marquette, Michigan.

She cannot remember a night when she wasn't awakened by nightmares, some dreamed, many horribly real. She cannot remember a day she was happy, although she has always been hopeful that she might find happiness, discover it like a diamond in the dust at her feet. Through all the horror of her life, she has, miraculously, held to that hope.

Until now.

Now, though she is only fourteen, she is about to die. And she knows it.

Somewhere among the trees below her, the man she calls Scorpio is coming for her.

She cringes behind a pile of brush in the middle of a clear-cut hillside studded with stumps like gravestones. The morning sun has just climbed above the tops of the poplar trees that outline the clearing. The chill bite of autumn is in the air. From where she crouches high on the hill, she can see the gleam of Lake Superior miles to the north. The great inland sea beckons, and she imagines sailing away on all that empty blue, alone on a boat taking her toward a place where someone waits for her and worries, a place she has never been.

She shivers violently. Before fleeing, she grabbed a thin brown blanket, which she wrapped around her shoulders. Her feet are bare, gone numb in the long, cold night. They bleed, wounded during her flight through the woods, but she no longer feels any pain. They've become stones at the end of her ankles.

In the trees far below, a dog barks, cracking the morning calm. The girl focuses on a place two hundred yards distant where, half an hour earlier, she'd emerged from the forest and started to climb the logged-over hillside. An hour after dawn, Scorpio's dog had begun baying. When she heard the hungry sound, she knew he'd got hold of her scent. What little hope she'd held to melted instantly. After that, it was a frantic run trying to stay ahead.

Scorpio steps from the shadow of the trees. He's like a whip, thin and cruel and electric in the sunlight. She can see the glint off the blue barrel of the rifle he cradles. Snatch, his black and tan German shepherd, pads before him, nose to the earth, tracking her through the graveyard of stumps. Scorpio scans the hillside above. She thinks she can see him smile, a gash of white.

There is no sense in hiding now. In a few minutes, Scorpio will be on her. Grasshopper quick, she pops from the blind of brush and sprints toward the hilltop. Her senseless feet thud against the hard earth. She lets the blanket fall to the ground, leaves it behind her. Starved for sunlight, the skin of her face and arms looks bleached. Beneath her thin, dirty T-shirt her breasts are barely formed, but the small, fleshy mounds rise and fall dramatically as she sucks air in desperate gasps. Behind her, the dog begins a furious barking. He has seen the prey.

She crests the hill and comes to a dead end. Before her the ground falls away, a sheer drop two hundred feet to a river that's a rush of white water between jagged rocks. There is no place left to run. She casts a frenzied eye back. Scorpio lopes toward her with Snatch in the lead. To her left and right, there is only the ragged lip of the cut across the hill.

Only one way for her to go now: down.

The face of the cliff below is a rugged profile offering handholds and small ledges. There are also tufts of brush that cling tenaciously to the stone, rooted in tiny fissures. She spies a shelf ten feet below, barely wider than her foot, but it is enough. She kneels and lowers herself over the edge. Clinging to the brush and the rough knobs of stone that punctuate the cliff, she begins her descent.

The rock scrapes her skin, leaves her arms bleeding. Her toes stretch for a foothold but, numbed, feel almost nothing. Weakened by an ordeal that has gone on longer than she can remember, her strength threatens to fail her, but she does not give up. She has never given up. Whatever the horror in front of her, she has always faced it and pushed ahead. This moment is no different. She wills a place to stand. Her feet find support, a few inches of flat rock on which she eases herself down.

"Come on, sweet thing. Come on back up."

Scorpio's voice is reasonable, almost comforting. She lifts her face. He's smiling, bone-white teeth between thin, bloodless lips. Beside him, the dog snarls and snaps, foam dripping from his purple gums.

"Hush!" Scorpio orders. "Sit."

Snatch obeys.

"Come on, now. Time to end this foolishness."

He lays down his rifle, bends low, and offers his hand.

In the quiet while she considers, she presses herself to the cliff where the stone still holds the cold of night. She can hear far below the hiss and roiling of the white water.

"We'll go back to the cabin," Scorpio says. "Have a little breakfast. Bet you're hungry. Now, doesn't that sound better than running over these woods, ruining those pretty little feet, freezing your ass off?"

He bends lower. His outstretched hand pushes nearer, a hand that has offered only humiliation and pain. On his wrist is a tattoo, a large black scorpion, the reason for the name she has given him in her thinking. She eyes his hairy knuckles, then looks into his face, which at the moment appears deceptively human.

"Think about it. You find a place to perch on that cliff, then what? It's not so bad out here right now. Sun's up, air's calm. But tonight it'll be close to freezing. That means you, too. You want to freeze to death? Hell, it doesn't matter anyway. I'll just leave old Snatch here to make sure you don't climb back up, go get me some rope, and come down there to get you. But I guarantee if I have to do that, I won't be in a forgiving mood. So what do you say?"

Not taking her eyes off him, she seeks a foothold farther down, somewhere out of his reach, but she cannot feel her toes. Finally, she risks a glance below her. In that instant, Scorpio's hand locks around her wrist.

"Got you."

He's strong, his grip powerful. He drags her kicking up the face of the rock. She struggles, screams as he wraps his arms around her. The dog dances back from the edge, barking crazily. Scorpio's breath smells of tobacco and coffee, but there's another smell coming off him, familiar and revolting. The musk odor of his sex.

"Oh, little darling," he croons, "am I going to make you pay."

She puts all her desperation, all her remaining strength, into one last effort, a violent twist that breaks her loose, sends her tumbling backward over the cliff.

The world spins. First there is blue sky, then white water, then blue sky again. She closes her eyes and spreads her arms. Suddenly she isn't falling but flying. The wind streams across her skin. Her held breath fills her like a smooth balloon. She is weightless.

For one glorious moment in her short, unhappy life, she is absolutely free.

* * *

Meloux would finish gently, pointing out, perhaps, that the fall of the smallest robin is known to the spirits of the earth, that no death goes unnoticed or unmourned, that the river has simply been waiting, and like a mother she has opened wide her arms.

Copyright © 2006 by William Kent Krueger


Excerpted from Copper River by William Kent Krueger Copyright © 2006 by William Kent Krueger. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

COPPER RIVER by William Kent Krueger
Book Summary: The sixth novel in William Kent Krueger's award-winning suspense series finds Cork O'Connor on the run from hitmen hired by a crooked Chicago businessman who blames Cork for the death of his son. As he attempts to flee, they manage to wound him in the leg. He's seriously injured but still manages to make it to the resort camp in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, run by his recently widowed cousin, Jewell. While seeking refuge there, Cork stumbles upon a mystery when a local man is killed and the body of a teenage girl is found on the banks of the Copper River. Can these incidents be related? Cork and his former colleague Dina try and help Jewell, her son, and his runaway friend before another body turns up dead.
Questions for Discussion:
1) Copper River, while being a suspenseful thriller, is also about various forms of relationships — parent to child, friend to friend, colleague to colleague. What do you think of the relationship between Dina and Cork? Do you think it will ever be more than just co-workers? What about the friendship between Charlie and Ren? Ned and Jewell? Even Delmar Bell and Calvin Stokely?
2) The relationship between Dina and Charlie, though brusque at first, becomes quite motherly. In the last chapter, we learn that Dina plans to return to Bodine to see Charlie. On page 308, Cork remarks, "You've only known her a couple of days, Dina." To which she responds, "Her, I've known my whole life." How are these two seemingly different characters alike?
3) Did you suspect Charlie of murdering her father? Given her abusive home life, would she have been justified if she did?
4) How has his father's murder affected Ren? Why do you think Jewell discourages Ren's interest in his Native American background? Do you think Jewell still harbors bad feelings against her cousin, Cork, because he arrested her late husband, Daniel?
5) On page 29, Cork and Ren discuss their fathers and Cork counsels him: "Try to remember that he's never completely gone. He's here." Ren tries to understand his father's heritage and legacy. How does Cork do the same?
6) How important is setting to this story? During their investigation into Sara Wolf's murder, Dina states "Because the river is the key." (p. 217) What does she mean by this? She cites The Odyssey on page 252. How is Odysseus's journey similar to their own?
7) His wife and children are only briefly mentioned in this book, so what can you gather about Cork's relationship with his wife, Jo? Did you think that perhaps he and Dina might get together? Did you want them to?
8) Jewell discovers poetry that Ned Hodder has written for her. Were you surprised when he then became a suspect? Were you relieved when he was cleared? Who did you suspect at that point? Do you think the friendship between Ned and Jewell is a foundation for something more?
9) Did you suspect the recent spate of deaths was connected to the Tom Messinger incident twenty years earlier? Were you surprised by the revelation at the end? Why doesn't Gary Johnson kill himself like he originally planned?
10) This is the sixth book in the Cork O'Connor series. Have you read any of the other books? In the beginning of Copper River, we learn that Cork is on the run from Lou Jacoby who mistakenly thinks Cork is responsible for his son's death. This story was told in the last Cork O'Connor book, Mercy Falls. Now that you have read this one, are you curious to read the others? What do you think about the violence in the story? Did you feel it was appropriate or gratuitous?
Enhance Your Book Club:
1) Many of the characters in Copper River, including Cork O'Connor, are of Ojibwe Indian heritage. You can learn more about this tribe by checking out these websites.
Here, you can learn all about Ojibwe vocabulary: You can print this out for your members so everyone can learn a few new words in their dialect.
You can also learn about their customs here:
2) Screen Anatomy of a Murder, the 1959 film that was shot in Marquette, Michigan, and compare and contrast to Copper River.
3) Has anyone in your book club ever been to the Upper Peninsula? You can find out more information about the area here:
Or if you live nearby, check out this site for fun activities your book club can do:

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Copper River (Cork O'Connor Series #6) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the spirit of full disclosure, I report that Kent is a fellow member of the Minnesota Crime Wave, as well as the critique group I belong to, and we are friends. Having said that, let me assure you that this is a dynamite book. Another in the fine Cork O¿Connor series. Those who have read Mercy Falls will naturally want this book since it completes the arc that begins with the previous book. Nevertheless, Copper River is complete within its own covers. But there is considerably more here than resolution to the turmoil conjured up in Mercy Falls. O¿Connor, wounded by a professional killer, goes to ground in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with distant relatives in an uncomfortable situation. Family relationships are always an important part of Krueger's novels. This book also explores some horrific circumstances that effectively demonstrate that our often common view of bucolic small-town life is sometimes at serious odds with reality. O¿Connor, fearing for his family, has taken refuge with the widow of a man he once arrested. While he heals he is drawn inexorably into the life of his nephew and the boy¿s interesting teen aged companions. That life finally leads to the uncovering of crimes first revealed in one of the most moving open scenes I have ever read in a novel in this or any genre. Krueger is a fine writer and he knows how to build suspense while telling a good story. But his real strength is in the characters he develops and their interactions. But don¿t just take the word of this reviewer. Pick up a copy and read the first page. Just the first page. Not the cover copy, or that on the flaps. Just page one. Then decide.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book of the Cork O'Connor series. I picked up the book while in the store and read the prologue, the next thing I know I was half way througt the book. I bought the book and took it home where I finished reading it in one day! Could nlt put the book down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
They were professionals hired by a man who believes that former Sheriff Cork O'Connor killed his son. Cork¿s efforts to reason with this man and prove he is not the culprit land on deaf ears. Thee hit men actually shoot him in the leg, but he escapes barely. Cork knows he needs a place to hide away and heal, but he fears bringing these paid killers to the only possible safe house, his cousin¿s ranch in remote Bodine, Michigan overlooking the spot where the Edmund Fitzgerald went down in Lake Superior.---------------- Cork manages to reach Jewell DuBois¿ spread where the widow veterinarian and single mother of thirteen years old Renoir fixes his leg. While Cork is a poor patient worried what he may bring to his cousin and her son, his friends seek to prove his innocence. Meanwhile Ren, his best friend tomboy Charlie, and Stash see the corpse of a teenage girl floating in the Copper River. Unable to resist, Cork investigates what seems a homicide rather than an accident, but his efforts endanger those he cares about especially Ren.--------------- In his latest Upper Peninsular Michigan thriller, William Kent Krueger displays his love for the area with his vivid descriptions that enable the audience to feel they are actually looking out at Lake Superior. The story line is fast-paced though the hero is not due to his leg injury however, the crime caper lacks some of the freshness, one of the prime strengths of the previous O¿Connor Corkers (see MERCY FALLS) as the teens in trouble seems overkill with Cork already bringing peril with him as his companion. Still Mr. Kreuger provides a solid whodunit that showcases the stark beauty of Northern Michigan contrasted with the ugliness of a killer.----------------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous 11 months ago
Great read as usual for krueger
jastbrown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
William Kent Kreuger's mystery series featuring Cork O'Connor seemed, in my mind, to start out relatively slowly. I felt that it wasn't until his fourth or fifth book that he really hit his stride. I'm very thankful that I had bought up his complete series before beginning to read them (based on an enthusiastic review I read of a later book).. otherwise I might have given up on the series early on and missed some really great stories. And in hindsight even the early books have a great deal to offer. The novels are set in rural, northern Minnesota for the most part with the action shifting to The U.P. of Michigan in one story and to Wyoming in another. Mr. Kreuger gives Cork O'Connor a family life that is anything but 'storybook'. From one end to the other this is a loving, but modern family, with real life modern problems that they do manage to get resolved. Fairly early in the series, the stories begin increasingly encompassing Cork's and his family's Native American connection to good advantage!This is a very good and satisfying series which I gobbled up faster and faster towards the end. Now I have to sit and eagerly await the next Cork O'Connor adventure. This is a series where the books could be read as stand alones, but for maximum enjoyment I would strongly recommend reading them in the order that they were written.
Talbin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The resolution of the mystery begun in the previous book in the series - Mercy Falls - was anticlimactic, to say the least. The primary mystery was good, but I missed Cork's family. Two very strong teenage characters, Ren and Charlie, were introduced, and it would be nice to "see" them again in the series.
jepeters333 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Part Irish, part Native-American, Sheriff Cork O'Connor serves the remote territory of Tamarack Couunty, Minnesota. But big trouble is brewing: a powerful man believer O'Conor killed his son. Now there's a price on the sheriff's head, and a bullet in his leg. He finds refuge with his cousin Jewell and her teenage son Ren in their tiny Michigan town. But when Ren and his friends are threatened, O'Connor must rick his cover to find out why.
willowwaw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was another wonderful Cork O'Connor mystery! The novel kept me in suspense the whole way through and I loved every minute of it, but the only downfall I can find with it - is that I didn't like how it was just a continuation of the cliff-hanger from the previous book and hand only slight deviations from it. I loved how the other novels were entities upon themselves, but with this one you needed to read the previous one to understand fully and not so much with the others. I loved it none-the-less and can't wait to get my hands on the next one in the series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed COPPER RIVER, but kept thinking I was missing some pieces to the puzzle. I now realize that Nook presented the books in the wrong order. (Series#2) I should have read MERCY FALLS before reading COPPER RIVER but Nook placed the books incorrectly. It takes the joy out of reading the last book knowing so much of what happened. Barnes & Noble, I am greatly disappointed.
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ViolaDB More than 1 year ago
Phenomenal book! I am "hooked" on this series by Kent Krueger, and always wondered about his character, Henry Meloux. "Copper River" gave me all the answers and more suspense, as usual. I love mystery and suspense books, and would recommend the Cork "O'Conner series to anyone else that shares this interest in books. I have never been disappointed yet, and I will most likely, continue to read the entire series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A thin, well worn path leads away from the entrance to a large, hidden dip into forest. Its border surrounded in thick bramble and towering oaks. The dip had a sandy flooring, perfect for practicing battle moves without hurting eachother. The entrance is a hollow log that had fallen but provides a tunnel inside the impenayrable border. This is the training hollow. ~Amberstar
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm on Red Knife now, but Copper River has been by far the best in the series for myself, Ren and Charlie were great additions to the family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoy all the Cork O'Connor Series.
RonnaL More than 1 year ago
After MERCY FALLS, this is a must read.  Cork is running from a hit man.  Jacoby blames Cork for his son's death.  Though Cork got shot in the leg, he was able to make his escape to his cousin's home.  Being a vet, she has been able to patch him up.  She and her son, live in a resort park that was run by her husband before he was killed by the police.  Now, she's not too thrilled by having Cork stay with her.   Cork's friend, ex FBI, Dina Willner, has followed Cork to his hideout, but the threat to Cork takes a break when Ren, his cousin's young teen aged son, and his feisty girl friend, Charlie, find themselves caught up in murders of local children.  Charlie's is a precarious position.  She has been in and out of a volunteer shelter for kids, but it looks like someone wants her dead too. The relationships between the adults and the kids is terrific in this mystery.  The gutsy kids show the foolish bravery of young children, and the adults are pushed to find out why someone wants these kids dead.  The woodsy small town atmosphere is like a character in itself.  Definitely one of Kruger's best books in the Cork O'Conner mysteries.  
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3rdsister More than 1 year ago
Loved it! I'm a fan of William Kent Krueger's "Cork" books. This one might be my favorite so far!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great storytelling, builds beautifully, Cork is a great character!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago