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Purgatory Ridge: A Novel (Cork O'Connor Mystery Series) Paperback – July 21, 2009
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Penzler Pick, March 2001: William Kent Krueger writes the kind of novels mystery lovers love to read: well-written, both character- and plot-driven, with tense scenes and surprise endings. Purgatory Ridge is the third in his series starring Corcoran "Cork" O'Connor, half white, half Ojibwe, who is the sometime sheriff of Aurora, a small town in the North Woods of Minnesota. What is particularly refreshing about Cork O'Connor is that, unlike the portrayal of many private investigators and cops in literature, he is a troubled man with a troubled marriage. He and his wife, Jo, have been through hard times, and although there is plenty of love between them, those hard times often surface and impact investigations and decisions they make regarding their careers. As the story begins, Cork is no longer sheriff, but just has to help investigate when a bomb explodes at the lumber mill run by wealthy industrialist Karl Lindstrom. The bomb kills an Ojibwe Indian who, like many of that nation, objects to the tearing down of the trees in that area, especially those considered sacred by the Ojibwe.
In a parallel story, John LePere, half Indian, half white, festers. As the only survivor aboard the Alfred M. Teasdale when she went down in Lake Superior, he thinks about the death of his shipmates, especially his brother. When it is suggested to him that the sinking of the Teasdale may not have been an accident, LePere is pulled into a plot to avenge the deaths. Grace Fitzgerald, heir to the line that owned the Teasdale, happens to be married to Karl Lindstrom. Add the eco-warriors who have come in from other parts of the country to stop the logging, and you have a potent mix of high adventure and skullduggery. Purgatory Ridge is a fine introduction to Krueger and doesn't require that you first read the earlier two books. --Otto Penzler
From Publishers Weekly
Krueger's page-turner revisits Cork O'Connor, the part-Irish, part-Anishinaabe/Ojibwe ex-sheriff of Aurora, Minn., a tiny lumber town on the edge of the Superior National Forest, whose exploits were depicted in Boundary Waters. This narrative opens with a bang, as Karl Lindstrom's lumber mill explodes in the early morning hours, killing Ojibwe elder Charlie Warren. The local Native Americans are up in arms over Lindstrom's plan to cut down Our Grandfathers, a grove of old-growth white pines sacred to tribal lore. Outside conservationists have also descended on the town, eager to save the 300-year-old trees. When a person identifying himself as the Eco-Warrior, soldier of the Army of the Earth, claims responsibility for the bombing, the Native Americans are suspected of collusion as Cork's wife, Jo, attorney for the tribe, protests their innocence. Cork had lost his job as sheriff two years before, largely because of inflammatory editorials by Helm Hanover, publisher of the local newspaper, but he cannot stay uninvolved in this case. The quest to identify the Eco-Warrior bomber ultimately focuses on a young outsider, Brent Hamilton, and his zealous mother, who was crippled in a similar bombing. But the number of suspects widens to include Hanover, rumored to be the commander of the secret militant Minnesota Civilian Brigade, and John LePere, lone survivor of the Alfred M. Teasdale, a freighter that sank on Lake Superior six years earlier, drowning his brother, whose body has never been found. Two kidnappings occur. Karl Lindstrom's wife, Grace Fitzgerald, novelist and daughter of the man who owned the freighter, is abducted, and Cork's wife and six-year-old son are also taken as the Eco-Warrior demands $2 million for their safe return. The plot comes full circle as credibly flawed central characters find resolution. Despite some histrionic plot devices, Krueger prolongs suspense to the very end.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Mr. Krueger has done a superb job writing a suspenseful, sensitive novel. He has included a lovely sensitive description of a modern family, some modern insights into The First People, the "tree huggers", and the stresses of a law enforcement professional. And he "seasons" the whole stew with the ugly elements of some in this day and age.
I'm looking for #4 in the Cork O'Connor series.
This author seems to dwell on family emergencies and internal conflicts as I have reviewed several other of his books.