Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tamarack County by William Kent Krueger

William Kent Krueger gifts us a Christmas murder mystery, #13 of his Cork O’Connor series set in the woods of northern Minnesota. This crime novel is strong enough in characterizations to stand alone, and it showcases Krueger’s extraordinary skill with dialogue, character, and plot. It is fast enough to be read in an evening and as smooth and warming as spiked eggnog. When the ribbons and paper have been stripped from holiday gifts and you want to sink into the quiet of a winter’s day, reach for a novel that refreshes your interest in storytelling like this one.

Cork O’Connor, former Sheriff of Tamarack County and now a private investigator, may be unique in the annals of ex-police. He has grown in the years we have known him, and while he has a streak of barely-controlled violence, he doesn’t exhibit post-trauma and stress in the time-honored way of aging avengers: with a bottle. His comfort comes from family, now three adult children who are showing an independence of thought that doesn’t always align with their father’s. O’Connor struggles to allow them the freedom to fail, surprising himself when they do not always, fail.

Krueger excels in his ability to place us in northern Minnesota, situating us near an Indian reservation that features a casino on tribal land. He constructs realistic dialogue and narrative that includes Indian mysticism, love, sex, philosophy, all without a break in the action. Krueger exhibits a generous attitude towards the things that matter to us now: he has O’Connor mull over the use of a noisy snowmobile in the pristine forest, a hunter’s collection of stuffed mammals and fish on his wall, a man’s focus on a woman’s physical charms to the exclusion of her “content” or character. O’Connor struggles with the loneliness of a parent whose children are leaving home, and with the departure of his lover, tending her own child in another state.

This is some of the very best genre fiction being produced in the U.S. today, and this particular novel is a special treat for sheer skillfulness and its ability to interest, excite, and soothe, all at the same time. I marvel at the endless well of criminality displayed in this series, and in Krueger's ability to portray the humanity of his characters. You still have time to order a copy of this before the curtain falls on Christmas, so get a copy for that day when you just want to lie around and be quiet for a change. Merry Christmas!

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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