on September 5, 2009
Opinion Only - No Story Spoilers
This is the ninth novel in the Cork O'Connor series, and wouldn't be the best starting point for new readers into the series. This book takes a different approach than his others do and depends (to a point) on the reader being familiar with the characters already. Having read the series to date, I really enjoyed the story, and read it in two days. The first half of the book has little character development (ninth book in the series), and jumps right into the story of the disappearance of and search for Jo O'Connor and others, and Cork's coming to terms with the situation. The second part of the book is more like the rest of the series. Overall, I found it captivating and an easy read that became hard to put down.
I had the feeling that Thunder Bay would be the last in the Cork O'Connor series after completing it and was pleasantly surprised by the release of the next book, Red Knife, which I really enjoyed as well. This latest turn in Heaven's Keep may mark the end, or it may in fact mark a turning point toward a new direction in a series that might otherwise be limited by geographic location and relative isolation.
William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor series was recommended to me by Amazon about the time that Blood Hollow came out, because I had enjoyed series novels by Steve Hamilton and C.J.Box. After purchasing and enjoying Iron Lake, I ordered the next three novels in the series and enjoyed each book better than the last, and felt that WKK's writing improved with each one. Each story is built slightly off the last one, as series are prone to do, while still remaining fresh and captivating. While sometimes series characters tend towards unbelievability in terms of the number and type of events over the entire series, Krueger stays on the inside of this curve (and we as readers should generally allow a bit of flexibility -who wants to read books about a 32 year veteran cop who never even had cause to unholster his weapon?).
Good to read on their own, but much better to read in order, the Cork O'Connor series is:
Tamarack County - 2013
Trickster's Point - 2012
Northwest Angle - 2011
Vermilion Drift - 2010
Heavens Keep - 2009
Red Knife - 2008
Thunder Bay - 2007
Copper River - 2006
Mercy Falls - 2005
Blood Hollow - 2004
Purgatory Ridge - 2001
Boundary Waters - 1999
Iron Lake - 1998
She left him angry. And when her flight went down somewhere over Wyoming, all private detective Cork O'Connor could think was that he should have apologized, said something...anything but let their last words be those of love.
In the days immediately following the plane's disappearance, Cork and his teenage son, Stephen, head up to the desolation of Heaven's Keep, Wyoming where the FAA received the doomed plane's last message. With storms coming, and with the huge desolation of snow-covered mountain and Indian reservation, their effort to find Jo is practically hopeless. Still, they're encouraged by the word that a group of snowmobilers had heard a low-flying plane, and that a sometimes drunk Indian had a vision of the plane landing in what looked like a baby's crib.
Cork's hopes fade as more storms set in. Even if Jo had survived the landing, Wyoming's brutal winter would certainly have been fatal. But when he learns that the supposed pilot might not have been the man he was supposed to be, Cork wonders if bad weather and bad luck really explained his wife's disappearance. Could some darker cause related to human greed be responsible? He swears he'll find out, but in a world of brutal poverty, finding anyone to trust becomes dangerous indeed.
Author William Kent Krueger writes convincingly of the desolation of Indian country, of the poverty that afflicts reservation Indians, and of the mixed blessing that gambling casinos, with their addictions and connections to organized crimes, can bring. The story really takes two parts connected only by Cork's ongoing search for his wife--first the hunt for the plane and second, the search for the truth about the substitute pilot. From a mystery perspective, the first half is all setup. We meet the key players, learn about Cork and his problems, and stay with him as he gradually loses hope for his wife's survival. In the second half, Cork goes into detective mode, and faces threats to his life, gradually unraveling the secrets behind the loss of the small plane on which his wife, along with a group of tribal leaders, were flying.
I thought the first half went too slowly, and gave us a few too-obvious clues. In the second half, Krueger picks up the pace, delivering plenty of action. Krueger's writing is smooth and enjoyable, drawing me into the story at the same time as it played off Indian visions with modern forensic science.
"Heaven's Keep" opens one morning as Jo Corcoran, near Casper, Wyoming, prepares to and does board a charter plane which will take her and her fellow passengers to Seattle, Washington. Other than Jo, the others are all Native Americans. They are all "part of a committee tasked with drafting recommendations for oversight of Indian gaming casinos, recommendations they've scheduled to present at the annual conference of the National Congress of American Indians." Except for Jo, all those aboard have a tribal affiliation: Eastern Shoshone, Northern Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ojibwe. They are told that stormy weather is due and snow is moving into the Rockies.
In the North Country of Aurora, Minnesota, Corcoran ("Cork") O'Connor, no longer County Sheriff, is now considering seeking employment as Deputy Sheriff, but his replacement, Sheriff Marsha Dross, is unsure how he would like taking orders from an officer he himself had trained. [The other woman unsure of the wisdom of the move is Cork's beloved wife, Jo, and they had a bit of an argument on the subject just as she was above to leave on her mission.] Cork has been building a good reputation as a PI, but there is pending litigation that he fears will drain him and he wants the security of a regular job again. The litigation involved deals with, as do so many things in the "rez" areas, development of the land: how much and what kind, and to what end, and to say there is controversy is to understate the matter, especially where the gaming casinos come into the picture.
All those thoughts fly right out of Cork's mind when he finds that the chartered plane with Jo aboard has disappeared from radar over the Wyoming mountains, and no contact has been made with the pilot. Cork and, of course, his thirteen-year-old son, Stevie [now, insistently, "Stephen"], are devastated, and they soon join the search-and-rescue efforts determined to find the plane and, especially, Jo. Cork, part Ojibwe, should have no problem working with members of the tribal police as well as the County Sheriff's Department, with the help of an unlikely and unexpected colleague. They go into the mountains, in an area called Heaven's Keep: "The mountains became deep blue in the twilight, and the canyons between were like dark, poisoned veins. Though the sun had dropped below the rest of the range, it hadn't yet set on Heaven's Keep, which towered above everything else." In trying to determine how it got its name, Cork said: "I always figured it's because it's so high that it feels connected to heaven. That's my explanation anyway. Now the Arapaho take a whole different approach. They call it "honoocooniinit. Basically means they consider it the devil." When Cork actually sees it, "Its walls burned with the angry red of sunset, and it looked more like the gate to hell than anything to do with heaven."
The writing is absolutely elegant, and frequently poignant, with understated emotion; the novel is no less heart-tugging for that. Well-plotted, and filled with secondary characters about whom small vignettes are woven, such as pilot Jon Rude [pronounced "Roo-day"] and his wife and young daughter, and well as those known to Mr. Krueger's readers from past books, such as Henry Meloux, now in his nineties and the oldest man Cork knew, to whom Cork often turns for his insight and wisdom.
Meloux was an Ojibwe Mide, a member of the Grand Medicine Society, frequently just called "the old Mide" by Cork. But more than anything he is a dear and a trusted friend. Cork tells him than an old Indian man, an Arapaho spirit walker, has had a vision that can be interpreted as showing the crash site: "I seen an eagle come out of a cloud. Not like any eagle I ever seen before. Wings spread, all stiff, like it was frozen. It circled and glided into something looked like a bed only with sides to it. It landed and a white blanket floated down and covered it. That's pretty much it. Except that as it faded away, I heard a scream . . . it sounded to me like a woman." As well, there are visions that have visited Stephen for years that seemed to be about his mother being behind a white door, but how to explain what they mean is another matter. Meloux tells him: "A vision is never seen with eyes, Stephen. Your heart is the only witness, and only your heart understands."
Throughout, the magnificent countryside comes alive in the author's words. As the book approaches its denouement I let out a breath I hadn't realized I was holding, as Cork, and the reader, must put all emotions on hold for a moment, or three, till all becomes clear.
When asked, as I have been numerous times, what make a good book great, I always say something to the effect that of course it always fine writing but, more than that, a fine storyteller, and the two don't often meet in the same person. But in this book, all the ingredients are there.
Not to be repetitious, but I have to conclude this review with the words I used after reading Mr. Krueger's last book, "Thunder Bay": The beauty, elegance, and lyricism of the writing makes this a novel not to be missed, and it is, obviously, highly recommended.
of alienating his loyal readers in this, his tenth entry in the Cork O'Connor series. He does it by putting a recurring character in mortal danger. That he has the guts to follow through is both reasonable and, in a way, predictable. Cork is no longer sheriff and his and Jo's children are growing up, soon to leave the nest. Although he supplements his income from Sam's Place with work provided by his PI license, his life could easily become stagnant. So Krueger reboots him (a favorite term used by the apparently non-techie writer) by forcing drastic changes in his life. As new possibilities and characters become available to Cork, many readers will, no doubt, be eager to see where they lead. Others may be so outraged (as some were by the ending of Mercy Falls) that they will swear to read--and buy--no more of Krueger's books.
Heaven's Keep, if it really exists, is in Wyoming, where most of this story takes place. Cork travels there first to search for a missing plane and second to search for answers to a carefully orchestrated conspiracy involving the plane and its passengers, an Arapaho Reservation and its people, and local law enforcement. Some of the characters seem so obvious that we, as readers, surely wonder how Cork can be so slow to catch on; on the other hand, Krueger provides enough red herrings that one is never completely sure that a good guy will not turn out to be a bad guy and vice versa. Something I've noticed about Krueger's handling of the denouement in the O'Connor series, though: Cork almost never has to take out the ultimate bad guy himself; a companion or someone who has trailed Cork without his knowledge uusally dispatches the villain, saving Cork from having two many kills on his conscience. The reasons for this, I assume, are: 1) to allow his hero to remain as unsullied as possible, and 2) to promote Krueger's own apparent position on gun control and violence (which he's passed on to Cork, though often unsuccessfully).
I was amused during Heaven's Keep when Cork, investigating a character's disappearance, sees on the man's bedside table, a book entitled STAGGERFORD. The existence of the book is not important, merely a minor bit of character development dropped into the story. But STAGGERFORD is a real book, by Jon Hassler, who was writer in residence at Mankato University in Minnesota a few years ago. I appreciated Krueger's nod to the very talented Hassler and to the excellent STAGGERFORD, which I once described as a "sweet dagger" of a novel.
I'm guessing that Krueger writes fairly rapidly, without agonizing too much over syntax and semantics, and the writing sometimes shows it. He often repeats himself in giving the reader information and in his use of favorite words, such as "slipped," which appears altogether too much. But while his writing can be uneven and he occasionally bogs down in dull description, Krueger manages to keep the narrative flowing well enough to keep the reader involved. His greatest asset is the character of Corcoran O'Connor. We feel we know Cork the way you know someone you admire and respect and want to know better; he appears to have depths unplumbed, so that we take up the next book in the series with the anticipation of visiting an old friend.
Admittedly, this is less a review of Heaven's Keep (others have done that already and better) than of the Cork O'Connor series, and in that vein, I say this: Thunder Bay is, in my opinion, Krueger's best yet. While improbable in many respects, the story of Thunder Bay provides background for another great character, Cork's old Indian friend, Henry Meloux, whose story is both moving and tragic. The story also reveals some of the heartbreaking history of our government's management of northern native American tribes in the early part of the 20th century. And the writing is better, as well--tighter, smoother, more economical (I suspect a better editor).
I predict that most readers who become involved with William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor series will be more than satisfied. Although I am sometimes annoyed enough to mentally edit while reading, I know I'm hooked by his characters and that I will be sad when Mr. Krueger finally decides Cork O'Connor has reached retirement age.
on September 14, 2009
Cork O'Connor --- half Irish, half Ojibwe Indian --- is a private investigator in his Northern Minnesota birthplace. The former sheriff knows his neighbors and his people, and he and Jo, his attorney wife and mother of their three children, enjoy wide respect in the community. When Jo accompanies a delegation of Northern American Indian tribal officials to an important meeting in Seattle, Cork sees her off on the chartered plane at the local airport. It is the last he will see of her as the plane takes off under darkening skies and then vanishes hours later in a blinding blizzard over the Northern Rockies.
Cork and his 13-year-old son, Stephen, fly out to Western Wyoming to search in the region where the plane vanished from radar. Reports from snowmobilers of hearing a low-flying plane during the storm seemed to pinpoint the area in which searchers were gathering. Cork and Stephen join with the Owl Creek Sheriff's Department and volunteers in an air search to try to spot any sign of a downed plane. After nearly a week of flying over thousands of miles of the rugged wilderness, searchers give up as winter settles in and hopes of finding any clues dwindle. The sheriff's department is very accommodating, even flying Cork and Stephen over an area seen in a vision by a local Indian shaman.
As another heavy storm moves in, heralding the beginning of winter in the Rockies, Cork and Stephen head back home, saddened by the fact that not only their beloved Jo is dead, but that the other six passengers and pilot, some of them friends, may not be found until spring, if ever.
They start to pick up the pieces of their lives, but rumors begin that the pilot and owner of the small plane had been seen drinking heavily the night before at a local bar. By March, a lawsuit against the pilot is launched by the families of two of the men on the missing plane. The pilot's widow comes to Cork with what she thinks is evidence that the man who flew her husband's plane was not him, even though he's seen on a surveillance camera from the bar appearing to imbibe several straight shots of whiskey the night before the flight. If the pilot was not her husband, then where is he and why did he go missing that day? The investigator she hired went out to Wyoming and failed to return after asking questions of local officials.
Cork carefully examines the grainy surveillance tape the pilot's widow produces and discovers something not previously seen on there. It is enough for him to take on her case and perhaps bring some closure to what really happened to Jo and her fellow passengers on that fateful flight. The possibility that the plane didn't crash is raised along with Cork and Stephen's hopes that Jo is being held captive somewhere. They discover that some of the local Wyoming people hold title to land overlying rich oil deposits, and perhaps one of the passengers of the plane was entangled in a land deal.
Upon returning to Owl Creek, Cork finds the local sheriff's office less than cordial than their prior encounter and reluctant to expend any more manpower on the hunt for the downed plane. They vaguely remember the prior private investigator who asked a few questions, but do not know where he went after he left Owl Creek. Cork now must rely on an offer from his new business partner to put his resources to work to launch a new search for the missing plane and learn the fate of its passengers. This becomes a game of "who do you trust" as Cork looks to former acquaintances and friends for help.
HEAVEN'S KEEP is William Kent Krueger's 10th book and the ninth to feature Cork O'Connor. These novels blend a close-knit family and American Indian traditions with good old-fashioned sleuthing. Those who have followed Cork since his introduction in 1998's IRON LAKE will not be disappointed with Krueger's latest effort, and undoubtedly will look forward to a continuation of this award-winning series.
--- Reviewed by Roz Shea
on March 11, 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed all of the previous Cork O'Connor novels and couldn't wait to read the next one. The author really puts his characters through hell I had come to trust that they would come through, although scarred. The author let me down this time and I am having difficulty getting into the 10th novel. I feel the author has betrayed his readers. Why did he allow the 90 year old indian travel through blizzards and mountainous terrain and do some superhuman feats and live book after book yet end the book this way? I agree with J Haggards review, Not my Style. I can think of several options he could have used to end the book differently. I was left feeling that he should do a second edition and change the ending. I don't see any other ressurection here. I confess the book kept my attention and desire to complete the book as quickly as possible. On the positive side CJ Box has a new book out this month perhaps it will take the sour taste away.
First Sentence: In the weeks after the tragedy, as he accumulates pieces of information, he continues to replay that morning in his mind.
Cork O'Connor and his wife, Jo, parted in anger as she left on a business. He learns her plane has disappeared from radar over the Wyoming Rockies and, with his son, travels West to be part of the search, but to no avail. Months later, the wife of the pilot, who was said to have been drunk while flying, turns upon Cork's doorstep saying it wasn't her husband flying the plane. His investigation causes him to think the accidental wasn't accidental. So where is Jo?
There were things I loved and things I didn't love about this book.
Krueger creates interesting characters that seem very real. However, I don't always feel he uses them to full advantage. Cork's friend, Henry Meloux, is one of the most interesting recurring characters. Here, he had almost a cameo role. We see Cork's son Stephen growing up. Henry sends him on a vision quest, but we have no idea what happened as it was all off-stage. At the same time, Krueger's incorporation of the metaphysical is both interesting and well done, never overpowering the story.
This descriptions are wonderfully evocative and his dialogue true to the ear. I would not have been appropriate to the story, but I missed the wry humor usually apparent in this books.
What I didn't love was the plot. Killing off the protagonist's mate seems to be a popular theme these days and one that, to me, seems easier than keeping the relationship realistic and progressing; of which I felt Krueger had done a good job until now. I was, however, impressed by Krueger's ability to convey emotion. The motives didn't work for me. It seemed a bit over the top and lacking the usual suspense.
Most of the book I felt was very good, but it did fall apart toward the end. Krueger is still an author whose style I very much enjoy. By no means is he off my buy list. I'll be there for the next book as soon as it comes out.
HEAVEN'S KEEP (Unl Invest-Cork O'Connor-Minnesota/Wyoming-Cont) - G+
Krueger, William Kent - 9th in series
Atria Books, 2009, US Hardcover - ISBN: 9781416556763
The ninth book in the Cork O'Connor series, I wished I had been able to read the previous books first just to get to know the characters better. Not that this book can't stand on it's own, but I could sense while reading it that I would have enjoyed the prior stories and would have felt more intensely with the characters when their wife and mother airplane disappeared during a blizzard. Having what I can only assume to have been one of the major characters in this series disappear in the first chapter of the book, meant I never got to know her well.
This was a very interesting book as the first half of the book dealt with the disappearance of the charter plane that Cork's wife and numerous Native America men were on as they headed for a conference on Indian affairs. Cork and his wife Jo had argued prior to her leaving so he had the anguish of the last words they had spoken were not words of love but of anger. Cork and his son Stephen head for Rockies to see what they can do towards helping in the search for the downed plane. Stephen is taking his first rocky steps to manhood as the search for his mom continues and he experiences a vision of where she might be. Eventually though, they are all forced to give up the search as continued blizzards makes searching and finding a downed plane impossible.
Six months later, the pilots grieving widow comes to Cork to ask him to help clear her husbands name. He had been videotaped drinking heavily the night before the flight and she did not want his legacy to be that of a `drunken Indian'. The first private eye she hired has disappeared and now she is desperate. The more Cork investigate the more odd things that turn up. What appeared at be a routine airplane crash now has people dying and strange `accidents' happening. His investigation takes him from Minnesota to the Rocky Mountains and eventually ends in Mexico.
A wonderfully well written, interesting book. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good mystery and also likes to read and learn more about America's Native American Indian population.
As for me, I considedr this absolutely the best Cork O'Conner novel yet.After a bitter family argument, Jo O'Conner takes a charter flight with George LeDuc and representatives from other Native American tribes to take part at the annual conference of the National Congress of American Indians. The flight goes down during a snowstorm over the Wyoming Rockies. Cork flies to the area and joins in the search for the plane which finally is assumed to have crashed. As the searchers fail to find the plane and speculate that it has been covered with snow, Cork is forced to accept that she must have been killed in the crash and is especially bitter when it appears that the pilot was in fact still under the influence of alcohol while flying the craft. Months later, the pilot's widow and her lawyer approch Cork and convince him that it wasn't her husband in control. After investigation, it appears that indeed, the true story of the plane's fate is being covered up.While the reader hopes that Jo indeed survived, Cork refuses to hold out hope, but is determined to discover what really happened and track down those responsible for the tragedy.Krueger keeps us in excruciating suspense and of course, Cork finds himself not knowing who he can trust and who he can't. The twists are plentiful and well executed. The author is at his best as he portrays the grieving Cork O'Conner who has no hope of finding Jo alive while we as readers are sure that she must have somehow survived.I'm sure there will be many critical of how the story is resolved, but I found it completely believable and if not altogether satisfying, still the most provocative story in the series yet. It will be a very long year or so for me as I wait for the next Cork O'Conner novel.
This book was really interesting, but in the end it really left me a bit disappointed. I won't say what happened in the end but it to me was very far fetched and not realistic. I realize reading a book is for entertainment and the majority of the book did good but O'Connor left me disappointed at the end.