Tamarack County (Cork O'Connor Series #13)

Tamarack County (Cork O'Connor Series #13)

by William Kent Krueger


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Cork O’Conner returns for “hold-your-breath suspense” (Booklist, starred review) in the thirteenth novel in the New York Times bestselling mystery series.

During a blizzard one bitter winter night, just days before Christmas, the car belonging to the wife of a retired local judge is discovered abandoned on a rural county road in Tamarack County. After days of fruitless searching, there is little hope that she’ll be found alive, if she’s found at all.

Cork O’Connor, the ex-sheriff of Tamarack County, notices small things about the woman’s disappearance that disturb him. When the beloved pet dog of a friend is brutally killed and beheaded, he begins to see a startling pattern in these and other recent dark occurrences in the area. And after his own son is brutally attacked and nearly killed, Cork understands that someone is spinning a deadly web in Tamarack County. At its center is a murder more than twenty years old, for which an innocent man may have been convicted. Cork remembers the case only too well. He was the deputy in charge of the investigation that sent the man to prison.

With the darkest days of the year at hand, the storms of winter continue to isolate Tamarack County. Somewhere behind the blind of all that darkness and drifting snow, a vengeful force is at work. And Cork has only hours to stop it before his family and friends pay the ultimate price for the sins of others.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451645774
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 07/01/2014
Series: Cork O'Connor Series , #13
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 103,354
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.80(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 WilliamKentKrueger.com.

Read an Excerpt

Tamarack County

  • Like many men and women who’ve worn a badge for a good part of their lives, Corcoran Liam O’Connor was cursed. Twice cursed, in reality. Cursed with memory and cursed with imagination.

    In his early years, Cork had worked for the Chicago PD, the South Side. Then he’d spent a couple of decades in the khaki uniform of the Tamarack County Sheriff’s Department, first as a deputy and finally as sheriff. He’d seen the aftermath of head-on collisions, of carelessness or drunkenness around farm or lumbering equipment, of bar fights with broken bottles and long-bladed knives, of suicide and murder in every manner. And so the first curse: he remembered much, and much of his memory was colored in blood.

    The second curse came mostly from the first. Whenever he heard about a violent incident, he inevitably imagined the details.

    And so, when he finally understood the truth of what happened to Evelyn Carter, he couldn’t keep himself from envisioning how her final moments must have gone. This is what, in his mind’s eye, he saw:

    It was seven o’clock in the evening, ten days before Christmas. The streets of Aurora, Minnesota, were little valleys between walls of plowed snow. It was snowing again, lightly at that moment, a soft covering that promised to give a clean face to everything. The shops were lit with holiday lights and Christmas trees and Santa figures and angels. There were people on the sidewalks, carrying bags and bundles, gifts for under the trees. They knew one another, most of them, and their greetings were sincere good wishes for the season.

    Evelyn Carter was among them. She was small, not quite seventy. All her life she’d been a good-looking woman and had taken good care of herself, so she was attractive still. She wore an expensive coat trimmed with fox fur, purchased when she’d visited her daughter in New York City in October. On her head was a warm gray bucket hat made of rabbit’s fur. In her left hand, she gripped a shopping bag filled with little gifts, stocking stuffers. A cell phone was cradled in the gloved palm of her right hand, and she stood on the sidewalk, looking at a photo of her grandson dressed as a shepherd for the church pageant this coming Sunday. When the door of Lilah Buell’s Sweet Shoppe opened at her back, the smell of cinnamon and cider ghosted around her, and she smiled in the wash of the good spirits that seemed to her a beacon of hope in an otherwise dark winter season.

    Her big black Buick was parked on Oak Street, and by the time she reached it and set her shopping bag in the passenger seat, she was tired. Evelyn had a good but troubled heart. She carried nitroglycerin pills in a tiny bottle in her purse. She was feeling some uncomfortable pressure in her chest, and when she’d finally seated herself behind the wheel, she sat for a moment, letting a nitro pill dissolve under her tongue. She hadn’t yet started the engine, and as she sat, the windows gradually fogged from her slow, heavy breathing.

    She didn’t see the figure approaching her door.

    She was thinking, maybe, about her grandson in Albuquerque, or her daughter in New York City, saddened that all her family had fled Tamarack County and moved so far away. She knew the reason. He was at home, probably staring at the clock, complaining aloud to the empty room that she’d been gone too long and had spent too much. And if it was, in fact, her husband she was thinking of, she probably wasn’t smiling and perhaps her chest hurt a little more. The windows were heavy with condensation, and maybe she felt suddenly isolated and alone, parked a block from the bustle of Center Street and the welcoming lights of the shops. So she finally reached out and turned on the engine. She was undoubtedly startled when the shadow loomed against the window glass near the left side of her face. And that damaged thumper of hers probably started hammering a little harder.

    Then she heard the familiar voice. “Hey, Evelyn, you okay in there?”

    She pressed the button, and the window glided down.

    “Hello, Father Ted.”

    It was the priest from St. Agnes, Father Ted Green, bending toward the window and blowing foggy puffs from where he stood on the curb.

    “I saw you get in and then nothing,” he explained with a smile that conveyed both reassurance and concern. “I was afraid maybe you were having some difficulty.”

    He was young and wore a black leather jacket, which looked good on him. To Evelyn Carter, there’d always been something a little James Dean about him (she was fond of saying so over coffee with her friends), and although that unsettled her a bit during Mass, she didn’t find it at all unpleasant.

    “Just tired, Father,” she replied.

    His gaze slid to the shopping bag in the passenger seat. “Busy afternoon, looks like. I hope you’re planning on going straight home and getting a little rest.”

    “A little rest would be good,” she agreed.

    “All right, then. See you Sunday. And please give my best to the Judge.” He straightened and stood erect, smiling a kind of benediction, and he watched as she pulled carefully into the street and drove slowly away. Later, when he reported this conversation, he would say how wan she looked, and that he continued to worry.

    She headed past the high school and the gravel pit and took County 6 into the low, wooded hills west of town. The snow was coming down more heavily then, and maybe she was concerned that if it began to fall in earnest, the way it had so often that December, she’d be trapped, alone with her husband until the plows cleared the rural roads. If this was what she was thinking, there was a good chance she was frowning.

    Two miles out of Aurora, she approached what everyone in Tamarack County called the Orly cutoff. It was washboard dirt and gravel, but it was the quickest way to get to the tiny crossroads known as Orly, if you were in a hurry. Evelyn Carter and her husband, Ralph, whom everyone except Evelyn called the Judge, lived on the cutoff, whose official name was 127th Street. Through a thick stand of birch and aspen long ago blown bare of leaves, Evelyn could see the lights of her home, which had been built a good hundred yards back from the road at the end of a narrow tongue of asphalt. Their nearest neighbor was a full quarter of a mile farther north, and to Evelyn, the lights of her home looked cold and isolated and uninviting. When the Judge finally passed away, she was planning to sell the house and move to New York City, to live where she had family and where there were people all around her instead of trees and emptiness.

    As she approached her driveway, she slowed. It was a difficult angle, and the Buick was enormous and felt awkward in its maneuvering. She always took the turn with great care. When the Judge was with her, he usually complained that she drove like an old woman.

    Once she’d negotiated the turn, she stopped abruptly. Someone was kneeling in the middle of the drive. In the headlights, the snow was like a gauzy curtain, and what lay behind it was vague and uncertain. She couldn’t quite make out who it was on his knees on the snow-packed asphalt, head bowed as if in prayer. But then she recognized the red wool cap she’d knitted for her husband the Christmas before, and although she couldn’t make sense of the whole scene, she relaxed and rolled down her window and called out, “What are you doing there, Ralph?”

    The figure didn’t move or speak.

    “For heaven’s sake, are you all right” Evelyn was suddenly afraid. Not for her own safety, but for the well-being of her husband. The truth was that, as his faculties had declined and his reliance on her had increased, she’d often imagined his passing, imagined it as if it were the pardon of a long prison sentence. But faced with the actuality of some crisis, her natural response was concern. She unsnapped her seat belt, opened the door, and slid from the car, leaving the engine running as she hurried toward the kneeling figure.

    Too late, she saw, in the glare of the headlights, the flash of the knife arcing upward to meet her. The blade, large and sharp and made for gutting deer, sliced easily through her fox-fur-trimmed coat and lodged deep in her belly, where the ice-cold steel quickly warmed. And although she was probably too stunned to speak, maybe with a final bewilderment in a life that she’d never really understood anyway, she looked into the face she knew well and asked herself the unanswerable question: Why?

  • What People are Saying About This

    Dennis Lehane

    “A pitch-perfect, wonderfully evocative examination of violent loss. In Frank Drum's journey away from the shores of childhood—a journey from which he can never return—we recognize the heartbreaking price of adulthood and it's 'wisdoms.' I loved this book.”

    Customer Reviews

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    Tamarack County: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 73 reviews.
    RayHubble More than 1 year ago
    I love Cork O'Connor novels. WIlliam Kent Krueger is clearly one of my favorite authors. Tamarack County is another great book in the Cork O'Connor series. You can practically feel the chill of the winter in this story. It is full of may plot twists and the mystery is balanced by a wonderful view of O'Connor's family life. High marks!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This is the first book I've read in this series. The book was excellent, and I plan to read the others in the series.
    Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
    "Tamarack County, Minnesota is the gateway to the pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Within its borders lie a million acres of deep forest, a thousand crystal clear lakes, and a few quiet towns. Nobody builds fences in Tamarack County. It's not the neighborly thing to do. This is the place that, for most of his life, Cork O'Connor has called home. During a blizzard one bitter winter night, just days before Christmas, the car belonging to the wife of a retired local judge is discovered abandoned on a rural county road. The gas gauge reads empty. Judge Carter's wife is seventy years old and has a bad heart. After days of fruitless effort, the Search and Rescue team has little hope that she'll be fhound alive, if she's found at all. Cork O'Connor is part of that team. "(excerpt from inside cover). New York Times Best Selling author, William Kent Krueger once again takes the lead into launching the reader into another compelling murder mystery surrounded by deep forests and great spirits from the Anishinaabeg people who live there. While it all seems to surround the same premise of another crime that came to Tamarack County a few years ago, Cork is convinced this one is different. The dots don't seem to offer up any logical clues to motive that would point to a possible criminal. It seems unrelated until it begins to draw closer to Cork personally. It is possible that the sins that were committed long ago have begun to resurface in hopes of finding not only justice but to bring about the innocent after all these long years? I received Tamarack County by William Kent Krueger compliments of Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster Publishers for my honest review and received no monetary compensation for a favorable one. This novel does contain some profanity and sexual content and thus the reason for my rating of 4 out of 5 stars based on my own review standards. The storyline however is moving, compelling and drew me deeper into the heart of what makes this such a great novel. The character development is amazing and loved the mystery surrounding the Native American tribes that live in Tamarack County. I love how appreciate the land and the living things that dwell within it. I think combining those elements added a level you don't find in most murder mystery novels and for me this is what really sold me on the novel. I would love to have spent more time with the character of Henry and gotten to know a bit more about him. He is the wise Native American sage that the characters ultimately turn to when things get personal. Overall, a wonderful novel for murder mystery fans everywhere.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Once a Cork O'Connor fan, forever it will be. Great story to continue this line. Can't wait for more.
    Star_Prairie_reader More than 1 year ago
    Another winner by William Kent Krueger! I read it in one day. The story moves swiftly and puts the reader right in the middle of the action. Included in the novel are the stressors of life today and a good dose of Native American culture. Tamarack County joins the other Cork O'Connor stories on my bookshelf!
    SilversReviews More than 1 year ago
    Murders, children coming back home, folks getting run off the road, revenge for a 20-year-old murder, and many unusual things happening in the bitter cold county of Tamarack in Northern Minnesota. What was happening in this town that usually was a quiet place to be? No one knew the answer, and the police had no clue either. Even Cork, a retired deputy sheriff, was called in for the investigation that he was more involved with than he knew. Cork O’Connor wasn't aware that his family would be involved and that part of his family was changing. Cork is a character you would personally want as a friend. He is a great father as well as a dedicated law man. TAMARACK COUNTY is the second book I have read by Mr. Krueger. It is quite different from ORDINARY GRACE, but still beautifully detailed and written. Mr. Krueger's characters are always an interesting lot. I enjoyed learning about the Indian traditions and a few Indian words. The landscape descriptions were amazing, but I wouldn't want to live in that cold climate, though, which seemed to be a major theme. TAMARACK COUNTY definitely kept my attention with a good storyline but a storyline that wasn't gripping until the last half of the book when things did heat up in those freezing temperatures as the mystery unraveled as well as the history of the characters. The characters were well developed, authentic, and very plausible. TAMARACK COUNTY is a book about community and family all working together for the good of each other. TAMARACK COUNTY has religious and philosophical themes as subplots. A quote from page 205 is quite meaningful and something I believe needs to be shared: “Anger, hate, jealousy envy, fear. Fill your pockets with these heavy stones and you spend your life trying not to drown. Throw them away, and you float." I hope you get to read this book. It was thought provoking, introspective, and will hold your interest. I enjoyed it. 4/5 This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.
    Cherieq More than 1 year ago
    I love the stories and the family. I love the twists and turns in his books. He has been added to my list of all time favorite authors.
    Anonymous 9 months ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Another delightful story . ..thank you W.K.K. for several hours of enjoyable reading !
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Plot dragged. Too many characters.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    A real page Turner, that defines what life is all about, in every way!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Too much O'Connor family issues, not enough mystery& suspence!! Cork was indecisive and wishy-washy. This is not one of the better Cork O'Connor series. Talk, talk, talk. Little crime plot.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Hate to seethe end of Cork O'Connor but could have done without the lesbian story line in this one . Otherwise great book.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Bookish1KP More than 1 year ago
    Loved it!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This book is excellent! I have read many of the Cork O'Connor books and every one of them is good. The stories are incredible and I like the way they are written! If you want to try them it is best if you read them in order ... but not necessary. Give one a try!
    TC66MN More than 1 year ago
    I love this series as a whole, and couldn't put this book down. I can't wait to read the next one!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Like all his books the descritions are vivid and the mystery always intriguing.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    John_F48 More than 1 year ago
    This novel begins with a reflection on the events that start a process of reflection within the O'Connor family. The senseless death of the wife of a retired cremudgen judge near the Christmas holidays. Anne comes home genuinely shaken to the point of loosing her sense of purpose and Cork now a member of Tamarack County's search and rescue team must wait for his daughter to resolve her issues while he and other try to find Evelyn. The story twists through to the fruitless search for the body of Evelyn, her twisted logic killer and his actions as they affect the O'Connor family. Finally, we have to recoginize that even someone who has renounced the use of guns and blood can be pushed to brink of righteous murder and has to have someone stop the rage, Anne.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I found this book to be below standard when compared to other mystery writers. Endless descriptions of people and places that went nowhere, very weak plot.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    -my clothes fall to the ground as i step in the shower-