William Kent Krueger continues to dazzle and fascinate with his Cork O’Connor novels, of which WINDIGO ISLAND is the newest. Cork is a multi-faceted character. His law enforcement background and current activities as a restaurant owner-operator and part-time private investigator comprise his professional life, and his involvement as the widowed father of three older children occupy his personal one. Both worlds collide in this latest installment when a strange request and an enigmatic reaction from someone in Cork’s life result in a tale that maked this book one of the best in the series to date.
"Krueger demonstrates his penchant and ability for finding deep, rich and new veins of stories from the seemingly inexhaustive mine of the rural and deceptively peaceful northern Minnesota and its surrounding environs."
WINDIGO ISLAND plays out over the course of a tumultuous week that begins when Cork is mysteriously summoned to the home of Henry Meloux, his longtime mentor and friend. While there, he is introduced to a man named Daniel English, a relative of Meloux’s who comes bearing a heart-rending request. A teenage girl named Mariah Arceneaux disappeared over a year before in the company of another girl, whose body recently washed ashore the reputedly haunted Windigo Island. Mariah’s mother, who is ill from diabetes, wants Meloux to use his widely reputed abilities to locate the still-missing Mariah. Meloux unexpectedly puts a difficult condition upon his involvement in the hunt, which, interestingly enough, is fulfilled with the help of Cork and his daughter, Jenny. Both are driven to assist in the hunt for equally strong but very different reasons that lie in the past and, at least in Jenny’s case, have supernatural overtones.
Cork, guided by his considerable sleuthing abilities and assisted very ably by Jenny’s research and Meloux’s cryptic comments, follows a trail to the port city of Duluth, where a bustling trade in the sexual exploitation of American Indian women is carried on with the implicit approval of law enforcement. It appears that Mariah has been lured into that rough world, drawn by the apparent but all-too-illusory glitter of wealth that makes a life of vice seem a welcome alternative to life on the reservation without hope or promise. As Cork, Jenny and the always-present Meloux follow an all-but-invisible trail to a petroleum mining site in North Dakota, Cork is confronted with his own very human limitations while Jenny is faced with an extremely difficult choice that may come back to haunt her in the future, even as she fulfills a command that has been hanging over her for some time.
Krueger demonstrates his penchant and ability for finding deep, rich and new veins of stories from the seemingly inexhaustible mine of the rural and deceptively peaceful northern Minnesota and its surrounding environs. I have long been of the mind that the worst of sins occur in the quietest of places, far removed from the notice of the public eye. The real-world occurrences upon which the book is based bear this out. Those who think of prostitution as a victimless crime might do well to examine some of the sources set forth in Krueger’s interesting Author’s Notes and Acknowledgements,which precedes the story. The realism of the narrative, of course, is in addition to Krueger’s superlative wordcraft and masterful storytelling, which continuously offers surprises from book to book.
One interesting element of WINDIGO ISLAND is that, while Cork certainly has his moments in the spotlight, a good deal of the book focuses on Jenny as well. There is also a new character introduced who may well play an important role in future volumes. These factors, among others, make this a pivotal installment in the series.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 22, 2014