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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review: 'Northwest Angle'

By William Kent Krueger
Crime fiction
August 2011
ISBN: 978-1439153956

Cork O'Connor and surviving members of his family have been through enough heartache. Aiming for healing the family, even if he cannot make it whole again, Cork takes everyone on a houseboat cruise on the Lake of the Woods. When an unforeseen storm overpowers them, Cork worries he may have completely destroyed them.

The storm is a derecho, a windstorm so abrupt it can be seen approaching as a line of destruction, accompanied by thunderstorms, seen just before it hits. The O'Connors are separated during the storm. Daughter Jenny washes up on one of the myriad small islands on the huge lake, which straddles the U.S.-Canadian border. The seriousness of her situation is seen immediately when she puts a wounded wolf out of its misery with a rock. She finds a cabin that will provide shelter and even has provisions. It also has a baby and a murdered young woman. Jenny and Cork are reunited only to go on the run with the baby as an expert marksman lands on the island and starts hunting for the infant.

At the same time, Cork's other children, sister-in-law and her husband are separated by the storm and must find their way back to each other. After what Krueger has done in the past, there's no guarantee that everyone will survive.

Just when it looks like the novel may turn into pure thriller as Jenny and Cork outwit their hunter, the novel takes another turn. More characters come into play. Many are not what they seem, while others may turn out to play an important role in the future of the O'Connor family. What comes to the fore about most of the characters is how they feel about faith, and how their faith controls them or inspires them. The difference between control and inspiration is used to stunning effect. Krueger does an adept job at demonstrating what separates genuine faith from the kind of mindset that perverts faith.

While some readers may turn away from exploring any topic not related to forensics or a storyline that incorporates suspense and thoughtful presentation of the different ways faith affects people, Northwest Angle provdes too rich a reading experience to miss. Krueger folds the various characters' belief structures into what they do and why, providing motive not only for the bad guys, but also for why Team Good Guys do what they do. Krueger does not present screeds or sermons, but instead shows rather than tells the measure of each character.

At the same time, Northwest Angle has the feel of a transitional novel. Perhaps now all the O'Connors can move forward, and Cork can spend more time on a case removed from their concerns.

©2011 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Reviews and reprinted with permission

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