The resurgence of the Western genre in both classical and contemporary settings has been fueled to a great extent by the popularity of mystery novels that have combined western elements with traditional whodunit plot points. William Kent Krueger has been at the vanguard of this movement with his Cork O’Connor novels. Cork, a former Chicago policeman who functions as a private investigator in rural Minnesota, has been an intriguing character from his inception, retaining heroic elements in the face of personal tragedy while soldiering onward. TRICKSTER’S POINT is the 12th volume in the series and is perhaps the most revealing of Krueger’s novels to date. It pulls back the curtain on the forces and events of Cork’s youth that have shaped the man who readers have encountered over the course of the past dozen years or so.
"William Kent Krueger has crafted a strong and memorable series that never fails to surpass itself with each installment. TRICKSTER’S POINT continues that tradition, containing some of Krueger’s best prose to date in what is perhaps his strongest, most intriguing novel yet."
The book opens as a man named Jubal Little dies in Cork's presence. Cork and Jubal had known each other since high school, where they attained best-friend status. The story of how their relationship frayed, rebounded and fractured forms a great deal of the book’s narrative. However, the primary focus is on Cork and his personal investigation into the death of his one-time friend. This tragedy occurred while Jubal was hunting with Cork, an event that radiates far beyond Trickster’s Point, the legendary monolith where Jubal spent his final three hours with an arrow in his chest and Cork by his side.
Suspicion immediately falls upon Cork himself. The arrow that brought about Jubal’s premature end looks exactly like Cork’s trademark arrows. Worse, Cork’s explanation as to why he chose to remain by Jubal's side for over three hours as he died, as opposed to going for help and possibly saving his life, seems to strain credibility. Cork truly has skin in the game, given that he is in the sights of law enforcement as the primary “person of interest” in the official investigation of Jubal’s death.
There is also a larger issue connected with Jubal’s untimely demise. Jubal was all but certain to become governor of Minnesota following the election that was scheduled to take place just a few days prior to his death. While his marriage into a wealthy and highly connected family was the first step on his journey to the statehouse as Minnesota’s first American Indian governor, some of his positions did not sit well with a number of people back on the reservation. Further, Jubal had engaged in a long-standing affair with a woman named Winona Crane, whom Cork and Jubal first met when they were teenagers and for whom both men retained strong emotional feelings throughout their lives. Cork slowly comes to the conclusion that Winona, the woman ultimately scorned, may have been behind Jubal’s murder.
Still, however, he is not entirely certain. And how does the presence of the body of a second unidentified murder victim --- found near the site where Jubal was killed, with an arrow that is, once again, similar to Cork’s --- fit in with what has occurred? The answer lies at the end of a twisted path where love, revenge, honor and, yes, redemption all play a part.
William Kent Krueger has crafted a strong and memorable series that never fails to surpass itself with each installment. TRICKSTER’S POINT continues that tradition, containing some of Krueger’s best prose to date in what is perhaps his strongest, most intriguing novel yet. Whether you are a longtime fan or new to the world of Cork O’Connor, it is not to be missed.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 24, 2012