Fox Creek
September 17, 2022
Book Review

Fox Creek

reviewed by Lou Jacobs

 

Krueger is certainly more well know after his multi-award winning and highly acclaimed stand-alone novels: Ordinary Grace and This Tender Land. For those few living under a rock, he has masterfully weaved a series of eighteen mystery / thrillers in his Cork O’Connor series.

The debut novel, Iron Lake, won both the Anthony and Barry Awards for Best First Novel. Fox Creek is the nineteenth in the series, but can be enjoyed and revered as a standalone, in as much Krueger skillfully provides any necessary backstory to this riveting tale.

The main protagonist is Cork O’Connor, a highly principled man with a long history of law enforcement, and of mixed ancestry ( of Ojibwe and Irish), along with the story setting locales in his beloved Minnesota environs. Krueger magnifies the richness of his narrative by infusing the narrative with references to the Native culture. Krueger became intrigued with the Ojibwa culture in college and skillfully references the culture in his Cork O’Connor series. A main theme transcends his writings, as he recounts in one of his books: “History was a study in futility, Because people never learn. Century after century, they committed the same atrocities against one another or against the earth, and the only thing that changed was the magnitude of the slaughter.” This thread was to be repeated throughout this amazing series.

We find Cork slingin’ burgers in his burger joint, “Sam’s Place” when he’s approached by a stranger that calls upon his P.I. skills to find his wife, Delores, He identifies himself as Louis Morriseau, her husband. He would just like to talk to her. She has left for another man, reportedly a local Native paramour , named Henry Meloux. Although his curiosity is immediately piqued, he knows this is preposterous. Henry is an Objiwe healer, a Mide, and just happens to be one-hundred-and-five years old, hardly material for a tryst. Cork will “think about it “and surreptitiously takes his picture as he leaves. He later drives out to Henry’s isolated cabin out on Crow Point. Delores is there and has sought out Henry for solace, healing and an understanding of her troubled marriage. She is presently undergoing a “sweat” guided by Cork’s wife, Rainy ( also, grand-niece of Henry and a Mide herself) to cleanse her tortured soul. When shown the photo of “her husband” she denies knowing this man. Her husband has been acting strange for the last six months, and never returned from one of his frequent trips to Canada. She does not know where or why he left. Thus, the earliest inklings of this multilayered mystery presents as a scam. Why would someone pretend to be Louis Morriseau ? Inadvertently, Cork actually leads this pretender and his cadre of mercenaries to Delores’ location through a hidden tracker.

Henry senses the arrival of these “dangerous men” and flees to the sanctuary of the woods with Rainy and Delores. Thus begins a fast paced cat and mouse game, as the mercenaries track Henry and his group, while Cork tracks the mercenaries. Cork’s skill is tested as nightfall occurs along with an approaching snow storm. Cork and Henry are experts in the wilderness, however, the mercenaries are guided by their own Native expert tracker. Tension and suspense are incrementally ratcheted up to almost unbearable limits. Hopefully, this is not Henry’s last journey deep into the woods of the Boundary Waters. Time is running out, as nightfall and the increasing storm forces all parties to momentarily stop for shelter.

The narrative is told in multiple perspectives in short and tight chapters, resulting in a riveting page-turner. Told not only through the eyes of Cork, Rainy, Henry, the Mercenaries, but also Cork’s son, Stephen. He independently uncovers the presence of a Canadian map with multiple interconnecting lines all over the country–representing an unknown–perhaps pipelines? And on the back in Sharpie, the message: KILLCATIE and underneath the numbers: 5110. He’s certain this cryptic message is related to the motivation for the mercenaries’ tracking of Delores.

Krueger masterfully weaves a complex and twisted narrative with multiple unexpected reveals. His precise and lyrical prose and character building are essential to the complexities of the developing plot and soon to be discovered unscrupulous motivations behind this complex mystery. The story is enhanced by the fleshed-out locales, and the underlying theme of injustice. This immersive and gripping story will appeal to those who love the prose and settings of James Lee Burke and Michael Connelly. There are many side characters and relevant groups who heighten the enjoyment and complexities of this convoluted tale. I was truly amazed at how fast I turned these pages to obtain closure.

Thanks to NetGalley and Atria books for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.

 

Fox Creek available at:

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