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Iron Lake #1 by William Kent Krueger

Iron Lake #1 by William Kent Krueger

Genre: Mystery

Anthony and Barry Award winning for 1st novel

Publish date Aug 1998; 328 pages

I've read a few other Krueger books and have long wanted to devote myself to this mystery series. I read the 'prequel', Lightning Strike, published in 2022, that gives the background of Cork's childhood and I found myself totally captivated by the characters and themes. So, this year I'm focused on making great strides through this series.

First Sentence(s): "Prologue: Cork O'Connor first heard the story of the Windigo in the fall of 1965 when he hunted the big bear with Sam Winter Moon. He was fourteen and his father was dead a year."


"Traditionally the Anishinaabe were a quiet people. Before the whites came, they lived in the silence of great woods and more often than not, the voices they heard were not human. The wind spoke. The water sang. All sound had purpose. When an Anishinaabe approached the wigwam of another, he respectfully made noise to announce his coming. Thunder, therefore, was the respectful way of the storm in announcing its approach. Spirit and purpose in all things. For all creation, respect."

Cork O'Connor is half Irish, half Anishinaabe Indian and a cop. In this first installment of the award winning series, he's recently lost his position as sheriff in the small town of Aurora, located adjacent to an Anishinaabe reservation in Minnesota. Dealing with the loss of his job, the slow dissolution of his marriage, and the separation from his 3 kids is proving a huge challenge.

Then, there's a murder. A prominent, wealthy judge is killed and a young teen is missing. The new sheriff is on the edge of incompetent and Cork finds himself drawn further and further into trying to solve the crime, find the boy, and work through the tangle of secrets. Corruption on several levels and secrets galore galvanize Cork to keep searching for answers.


I can't believe this is a first novel. The complexity of the crime, the emotional complexity of a dying marriage, the complexity of a man, a sheriff, trying to live and serve in two very disparate cultures is absolutely outstanding. Cork is a flawed main character, which I really appreciate. He makes mistakes; he makes assumptions; he's uncertain. In other words, a believable person.

I zoomed through this book and found myself reflecting on why I like this mystery over another. A big part of my enjoyment of most of my favorite books is the readability of the writing style. I like reading sentences that flow easily into each other. I like dialog that reads as true. I like a vocabulary and plot that doesn't talk down to me but also challenges me and maybe throws in a 50cent word here or there (but not superfluously). This book provides all that and more.

I'm looking forward to reading through this series this year and seeing how Cork grows and changes. I particularly like the addition of the Anishinaabe culture and look forward to learning more about this tribe's traditions and history. If you've been thinking about picking up a William Kent Krueger book, I'd highly recommend this one!

Challenges tagged:

Cloak & Dagger: 8/36-55

Storygraph Mysteries/Thrillers: 4/26

Mt TBR (owned): 2/12

US Literary Escape: 4/51 (MN) -8 bonus

COYER 1st semester: 17 books read

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