When mayhem descends on a tiny logging town, former sheriff Cork O’Connor is called upon to investigate a murder in this “wonderful page-turner” (The Denver Post) that “prolongs suspense to the very end” (Publishers Weekly) by Edgar Award-winning author William Kent Krueger.
Not far from Aurora, Minnesota (population 3,752), lies an ancient expanse of great white pines, sacred to the Anishinaabe tribe. When an explosion kills the night watchman at wealthy industrialist Karl Lindstrom’s nearby lumber mill, it’s obvious where suspicion will fall. Former sheriff Cork O’Connor agrees to help investigate, but he has mixed feelings about the case. For one thing, he is part Anishinaabe. For another, his wife, a lawyer, represents the tribe.
Meanwhile, near Lindstrom’s lakeside home, a reclusive shipwreck survivor and his sidekick are harboring their own resentment of the industrialist. And it soon becomes clear to Cork that danger, both at home and in Aurora, lurks around every corner...
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 WilliamKentKrueger.com.
Read an Excerpt
CORCORAN O’CONNOR WAS PULLED instantly from his sleep by the sound of a sniffle near his head. He opened his eyes and the face of his six-year-old son filled his vision.
“I’m thcared,” Stevie said.
Cork propped himself on one arm. “Of what, buddy?”
“I heard thomething.”
“Where? In your room?”
“Let’s go see.”
Jo rolled over. “What is it?”
“Stevie heard something,” Cork told his wife. “I’ll take care of it. Go back to sleep.”
“What time is it?”
Cork glanced at the radio alarm on the stand beside the bed. “Five o’clock.”
“I can take him,” she offered.
“Go back to sleep.”
“Mmmm.” She smiled faintly and rolled back to her dreaming.
Cork took his son by the hand, and together they walked down the hallway to where the night-light in Stevie’s room cast a soft glow over everything.
“Where was the noise?”
Stevie pointed toward the window.
Cork knelt and peered through the screen. Aurora, Minnesota, was defined by the barest hint of morning light. The air was quite still, not even the slightest rustle among the leaves of the elm in Cork’s backyard. Far down the street, the Burnetts’ dog Bogart barked a few times, then fell silent. The only thing Cork found disturbing was the smell of wood smoke heavy on the breeze. The smoke came from forest fires burning all over the north country. Summer had come early that year. With it had come a dry heat and drought that wilted the undergrowth and turned fields of wild grass into something to be feared. Lake levels dropped to the lowest recorded in nearly a century. Rivers shrank to ragged threads. Creeks ceased to run. In shallow pools of trapped water, fish darted about wildly as what sustained them rapidly disappeared. The fires had begun in mid-June. Now it was nearly the end of July, and still the forests were burning. One blaze would be controlled and two others somewhere else would ignite. Day and night, the sky was full of smoke and the smell of burned wood.
“Do you still hear it?” Cork asked.
Stevie, who’d knelt beside him, shook his head.
“Probably an early bird,” Cork said.
“After a worm.” Stevie smiled.
“Yeah. And he must’ve got that worm. Think you can go back to sleep?”
“Good man. Come on.”
Cork got him settled in bed, then sat in a chair near the window. Stevie watched his father a while. His eyes were dark brown, the eyes of his Anishinaabe ancestors. Slowly, they drifted closed.
Cork’s son had always been a light sleeper, awakened easily by noises in the night, disturbances in the routine of the household. He was the only one of the O’Connor children who’d needed the comfort of a night-light. Cork blamed himself. In Stevie’s early years, when the dark of his closet or under his bed first became vast and menacing, Cork wasn’t always there to stand between his son and the monsters of his imagination. There were times, he knew, when the monster was real and was Cork. He thought often these days of the words that ended the traditional marriage ceremony of the Anishinaabeg.
You will share the same fire.
You will hang your garments together.
You will help one another.
You will walk the same trail.
You will look after one another.
Be kind to one another.
Be kind to your children.
He hadn’t always been careful to abide by these simple instructions. But a man could change, and watching his son crawl back into his dreaming, Cork vowed—as he did almost every morning—to work at being a better man.
By the time Cork finally left Stevie to his dreaming, morning sunlight fired the curtains over the window at the end of the hallway. Cork thought of returning to bed for a little while, but chose instead to head to the bathroom, where he showered, shaved, splashed on aftershave, then looked himself over carefully in the bathroom mirror.
• • •
Corcoran Liam O’Connor was forty-seven years old. Part Irish, part Ojibwe Anishinaabe, he stood five feet eleven inches tall, weighed one hundred seventy-five pounds, and had brown eyes, thinning red-brown hair, and slightly crooked teeth. He suffered from mild rosacea that he treated with prescription ointment. In wet weather, his left shoulder—twice dislocated—was prone to an arthritic aching. He did not consider himself a handsome man, but there were those, apparently, who found him so. All in all, what stared back at him from the bathroom mirror was the face of a man who’d struggled to be happy and believed himself to be almost there.
He returned to his bedroom, a towel about his waist. The radio alarm had gone off and WIRR out of Buhl was playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Cork went to the dresser, pulled open a drawer, and took out a pair of black silk boxers.
Jo stirred. She took a deep breath but kept her eyes closed. When she spoke to him, the words seemed to come reluctantly and from a distant place.
“Stevie all right?”
“Another fire’s started. Up in the Boundary Waters near Saganaga Lake.” She yawned. “I just heard it on the news.”
“Get this. The guy who started it is a lobbyist for the tobacco industry. He was shooting off fireworks. In the Boundary Waters—can you believe it?”
“I hope they fine his ass big time,” Cork said.
“He’s a tobacco lawyer. He can pay from his pocket money.” The room was quiet. Bogart started barking again down the block. “I can feel you watching me.”
“I smell Old Spice.”
“If I had to guess, I’d say you’ve put on your black silk boxers.”
“What a detective you would have made.” He sat on the bed, leaned down, and kissed her shoulder.
“I was dreaming before the radio came on.” She rolled toward him and opened her eyes.
“We were trying to fly, you and I. A plane we had to pedal. But somehow we couldn’t quite get it off the ground.”
Cork reached out and brushed a white-blond strand of hair from her cheek.
She reached up and drifted her hand down his chest. “You smell good.”
“Only Old Spice. You have pedestrian tastes.”
“And, my, aren’t you lucky.”
He bent to her lips. She let him kiss her but kept her mouth closed. “I’m all stale. Give me five minutes.” She slid from the bed. She wore a gray tank top and white cotton underwear, her usual sleep attire. “Don’t start anything without me.” She smiled coyly as she went out the door.
Cork drew back the covers, straightened the bottom sheet, fluffed the pillows, and lay down to wait. The bedroom window was open. Bogart had ceased his barking and the only sound now was the call of a mourning dove perched in the big maple in the front yard. Aurora, Minnesota, deep in the great North Woods, riding the jagged edge of the Iron Range, had not yet wakened. This was Cork’s favorite time of day.
Although he couldn’t actually see it, he could picture the whole town perfectly. Sunlight dripping down the houses on Gooseberry Lane like butter melting down pancakes. The streets empty and clean. The surface of Iron Lake on such a still morning looking solid as polished steel.
God, he loved this place.
And he’d begun to love again, too, the woman who now stood in the doorway with a gold towel wrapped about her and tucked at her breasts. Her hair was wet. Her pale blue eyes were wide awake and interested. She locked the door behind her.
“We don’t have much time,” she said in a whisper. “I think I heard Stevie stirring.”
“We’re the experts at putting a lot into a little time.”
He smiled wide, and widely he opened his arms.
An explosion kept them from beginning anything. The house shook; the windows rattled; the mourning dove fell silent, frightened to stillness or frightened away.
“My God,” Cork said. “What was that?”
Jo looked at him, her eyes blue and shiny. “I think the earth moved. Without us.” She glanced at the window. “Sonic boom?”
“When was the last time you heard a sonic boom around here?”
From the hallway beyond the bedroom door came the sound of voices, then a knock.
“Just a minute, Rose.” She blew Cork a kiss. “Rain check.” She headed to the closet and grabbed a robe from the door hook.
Cork quickly exchanged his silk boxers for a pair of jogging shorts and went to the window. He stared north over the roofs of Aurora where a column of smoke rose thick and black somewhere beyond the town limits. Just above the ground, the air was calm and the smoke climbed straight up four or five hundred feet until it hit a high current that spread it east over Iron Lake. The sky was a milky blue from the haze of the distant forest fires. Against it, the smoke from the nearer burn was dark as crude oil.
At his back, Cork heard the door unlock. Rose stepped in, Stevie at her heels.
“Whatever that was, it didn’t sound good.” Rose tugged her beige chenille robe tight about her broad waist and stuffed her plump, freckled hands into the pockets. She was Jo’s sister and for more than fifteen years had been part of the O’Connor household.
Stevie ran to his father. “Thomething blew up.”
“I think something did, buddy.” Cork put his arm around his son and motioned the others to the window, where they huddled and stared at the huge smoke cloud fanning out above the lake.
The siren on Aurora’s only fire station began to wail, calling the volunteers to duty.
“See the direction that smoke’s coming from?” He glanced at Jo. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
From the concern on her face, it was clear to him that she was. She straightened and turned from the window. “I’d better go.”
“I’ll come with you.” Cork started toward the dresser to get his clothes.
“Cork.” Jo put a hand on his arm to restrain him gently. “I have clients to protect. I need to be out there. But there’s no reason for you to go. You’re not the sheriff anymore.” She seemed reluctant to add that last bit of a reminder, as if she were afraid that even after all this time, it still might hurt him.
He smiled gamely and said, “Then let’s just chalk it up to morbid curiosity.”
© 2001 William Kent Krueger
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
PURGATORY RIDGE is the third installment of the Cork O'Conner mysteries. Though no longer the sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota, when the local lumber mill is bombed, resulting in the death of a local Native American tribesman, Cork is asked to help in the investigation. Many possibilities for suspects eventually evolve as environmentalists and the local tribes are protesting the lumbering of a sacred stand of old growth trees called the "Old Grandfathers". Then the lumber mill-owner's wife and son, along with Cork's wife and son , are kidnapped with a ransom demand for 2 million dollars. Suspense builds with the addition of another suspect, the only survivor of a sunken ship from a number of years ago, who has been mourning the death of his brother during that sinking. He believes the mill owner's wife's family is responsible for the sinking by sabotaging the ship for the insurance money. With the building of suspects and clues developing into a serious case, the conclusion is a complete surprise. Krueger's mysteries are enhanced by the cultural differences between the Native Americans and the whites, with Cork being mixed blood, and his wife as the lawyer for the tribe. There are also marital issues between Cork and his wife, as they have come together again, after both strayed with other partners. They have three children, two of whom now help Cork run their restaurant. These many and varied issues greatly add to the interest of Krueger's books. The atmosphere of the Minnesota surrounds is also a character in itself, building suspense with the wild weather, and many land formations. Excellent continuation of the Cork O'Conner series!
I got the first in this series as either a freebie or a cheapie, I can't remember. But a quarter of the way into #1, I looked up and bought #2, then halfway thru that, bought #3 and #4. I haven't read 4 yet. I will buy the whole series eventually, I'm sure. Very well written and exciting with just enough personal stuff to keep you rooting for them. The mysteries keep you guessing and sometimes you'll guess the bad guy, but I've been surprised in 2 of 3, as I guessed wrong! I love when that happens! I highly recommend this series.
I do not want to delve into the plot too much. Suffice it to say the book centers on the clash of three cultures-the culture of the modern industrialist who wants to mine the precious ore in the earth, the environmentalists who are rabid in their approach and the Anishinaabs Indians who have cared for Mother Earth for centuries. Krueger's main character in his series of books about Aurora Minnesota and the Indian Reservation that borders the town, is Cork O'Connor. Cork is a real person. He was the sheriff before being voted out of office. He is a good man with a mixed heritage: 3/4 Irish and 1/4 Anishinasb. His heritage frequently draws him into many disputes between the whites and the indians which end in bloodshed on both sids. The book is a real thriller. The plot is well done with an ending that will be a surprise.
Great storytelling, you can picture the beauty of this world and lose yourself in it
The first book was originally a "Free Friday" selection that Barnes & Noble's Nook customers get to enjoy. It helped me to discover a wonderful mystery writer. I am neither a mystery reader nor a series reader, but here I am really enjoying this mystery series! Why do I like this writer? I enjoy books with high quality prose, and mysteries are usually very plot driven, and often the creation of interesting characters and sense of place are not well-developed. But this one does both. Plus this plot IS complex and intriguing as well. The reader really gets a strong sense of north Minnesota and the Lake Superior setting, the small-town life in Aurora and Tamarack County and the Ojibwe Anishinaabe Indians. Their culture and people are main characters that blend in seamlessly with the tapestry of characters. You never feel like you are reading ethnic literature, but really you are! I won't go into the plot here (you can read it yourself on Goodreads), but I will say, each successive book keeps getting better as the author fine tunes his writing style.
These books are awesome! Cork O'Conner is awesome! I'm flying through these books and every page keeps me on the edge of my seat! Being a native Minnesnowtan and my love of the north woods adds to the excitement!
My husband and I just found this series, recently, and love it! Krueger is an intelligent, exciting writer.
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.
Another solid book from Krueger is this 10 book series. This is #3, rated 3 1/2 stars, completed 5/29/11. A central character is a good guy who got some bad breaks, a lot of them, then became a bad guy but with a heart of gold. Didn't grab me, nor did the lengthy descriptions of the wreck of a ship, diving scenes. And I think everybody knows that the evil bad guy is the one who is behind the good guy's troubles, the only one who is surprised is the good bad guy. Got that? Cork's family is involved all the way, and I hope that doesn't become part of the formula for all the remaining books because that will become tiresome fast. There's a kidnapping with a few extra unexpected victims thrown in, guess who. Cork gets shot again, but survives as does his marriage for the time being. I have now read #1, 2, 3, and 10. Think I might jump to #9 (which is a big scene shifter), then await #11. We'll see.....
Not far from Aurora, MN, lies an ancient expanse of great white pines, sacred to the Anishinaabe tribe. When an explosion kills the night watchmen at wealthy industrialist Karl Lindstrom's nearby lumber mill, it's obvious where suspicion will fall. Former sheriff Cork O'Connor agrees to help investigate, but he has mixed feelings about the case. For one thing, he is part Anishinaabe. For another, his wife, a lawyer, represents the tribe. Meanwhile, near Lindstrom's lakeside home, a reclusive shipwreck survivor and his sidekick are harboring their own resentment of the industrialist.
William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor series, of which PURGATORY RIDGE is the third, is well worth your investment in time and dollars. Set in northern Minnesota in the Iron Mountain range, Krueger peoples his books with living, breathing people, people the reader comes to care about. Add to this plots filled with excitement, suspense, mystery and thrills, and the books please on every level.In PURGATORY RIDGE, O'Connor, former sheriff of Tamarack County, is getting his life together after personal and professional crises when he must face another as his wife and son are kidnapped as collateral damage to a twisted plot of revenge and greed. Add in an ecological terrorist and Lake Superior as a character that overshadows all; you won't be disappointed.
Another wonderful Cork O'Connor Mystery! I loved this one! It was a little slow at first and hard to get into, but the ending was well worth the wait. I love this author's mysteries and I can't wait for him to write more! A great book and a great author!
I loved this story!
Follow of the family life of cork o'connor, love the Americans flavor in this series.
Once a branch off the Med Den but now its own seperate cave. You can see where the stones blocked off the other entrance to the med den's cave sistem, this den is smaller than the warriors den. Filled with not as many, and smaller beds. Its entrance is beside the Med Den's, and is now the Apprentices' Den. ~Amberstar
Mr. Krueger is so original. You feel like you are in the setting. He does not follow the usual mystery patterns of story telling. I love the Cork O'Connor character because he is flawed but honorable. The native American history of the families is so interestingly peppered throughout the series. I have looked foforward to each book.
This was another great book in the series - hope there are more coming!Anyone who is interested in mysteries and/or Native American lore will like these. No sex, some descriptive violence, but not too much.