By the shores of Kitchigami…

Purgatory Ridge (Cork O'Connor, #3)Purgatory Ridge by William Kent Krueger

Kreuger writes in the voice of his hero, ex-sheriff Cork O’Connor

History…was a useless discipline, an assemblage of accounts and memories, often flawed, that in the end did the world no service. Math and science could be applied in concrete ways. Literature, if it didn’t enlighten, at least entertained. But history? History was simply a study in futility. Because people never learned. 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.

Amen, brother. In this third in the Cork O’Connor series, Cork and his wife Jo and their son and two daughters are just beginning to put their marriage back together when somebody calling himself the Eco-Warrior sets off a bomb at a lumber mill fixing to cut down and mill an old-growth stand of white pines sacred to the Anishinaabe tribe in northern Minnesota. Unfortunately, the bomb accidentally kills someone, so now it’s murder (see “slaughter,” above). Cork is drawn pretty willingly into the investigation, despite his now amateur status, and then the investigation gets personal when Jo and Stevie are accidentally kidnapped along with the local timber baron’s wife and son.

The descriptions of the Minnesota backwoods are so real you can smell the smoke from the forest fires, and there is a great character in Henry Meloux, the Anishinaabe mide who is also Cork’s father figure. I also really like the way Kreuger writes about Cork and Jo’s marriage, the sweat equity that goes into a good relationship and the work it takes so you can both come back to it from mistakes made.

Lake Superior, Kitchigami, is an omnipresence throughout the novel and it’s only fitting that the novel ends as it begins, on it with a monster storm and page-turning, heart-in-your-mouth action. Good summer read.


I knew whodunnit from the first, and I think the cops, all of them, should have known it, too, or at least suspected it. “You morons!” I kept shouting. They didn’t even bother to look in the medicine cabinet! But the point is, I was shouting. Kreuger had me to the last page.

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6 Comments Leave a comment

  1. The Cork O’Connor books really present the flavor of the North Woods in Minnesota (and Wisconsin). Summer people versus year-round residents. Whites vs. Native Americans. He presents many sides of the dynamic. It is never black/white.

  2. I have a question for Dana. Have you ever considered doing a Kate story around the history of the people of the Aleutians and their removal from their land and their contribution to WW2? Seeing that Kate is an Aleut I’m surprised you haven’t written about this already. You touched on this in the book ( was it Though Not Dead?) mentioning Old Sam as an Alaska Scout in the war. I read the book by Jim Reardon, Castner’s Cutthroats, about the Alaska Scouts after you mentioned this in your book. Fascinating history of the Aleut people. Just wondering, thanks.

  3. I have just finished reading all of his books, and I am just starting the latest Kate Shugak book. By then CJ Box should have a new one out. I LOVE books like this!

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