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Desolation Mountain


Desolation Mountain

DESOLATION MOUNTAIN isn’t quite a transition volume in the Cork O’Connor series, but one can sense that perhaps the baton is being lifted, if not passed. William Kent Krueger’s critically and commercially acclaimed novels of the people and environs of Tamarack County, Minnesota, have a number of familiar elements that connect the books with each other, but Krueger has shown in the past that he is not averse to shaking things up a bit. He hints with startling effect near the conclusion that at least one major change is in the offing in the near future, but in the meantime reintroduces a long-absent character in a tale that brings sudden death and intrigue from the outside world to Cork’s relatively quiet life.

The focus of DESOLATION MOUNTAIN is shared by Cork and his son, Stephen. It is Stephen who has been experiencing recurring visions of a giant bird being shot down from the sky and crashing to earth. There is a question as to whether or not these are metaphoric in nature until a plane carrying one of the United States senators from Minnesota crash lands into Desolation Mountain in the Iron Lake Reservation, killing all aboard. Representatives from an alphabet soup of government agencies descend on the reservation, all seemingly bent on making a determination as to the cause of the crash with an eye toward ruling out terrorism. While “pilot error” is widely to blame, there is some indication that this is a rush to judgment.

"[Krueger's] prose continues to mirror and echo the beauty of Minnesota’s wilderness and the soul of the people who reside there in a lifestyle that hardly can be considered easy."

Meanwhile, a search is underway to locate the plane’s “black box” (as is noted here, it is actually orange), which is nowhere to be found. Speaking of vanishing, a number of residents of the reservation who were in the immediate area of the plane when it went down have disappeared as well. Their space is occupied by the appearance of Bo Thorson, who longtime Krueger fans will remember from THE DEVIL’S BED, a stand-alone work that was partially set in Minnesota. Thorson, an ex-Secret Service agent, is now working for an undisclosed principal who may or may not have the best interests of the truth in mind. Cork and Thorson form an occasionally uneasy alliance, even as Stephen and others in Cork’s circle are threatened and/or attacked by individuals of unknown loyalty who will go to any lengths to obtain the black box.

A number of shifting alliances appear to be at work on Iron Lake, but Henry Meloux, the centenarian who has been a fixture in the series, is a solid figure of truth, knowing a lot but revealing it only when necessary as he stands strong in the face of misdirection from multiple sources. By story’s end, much --- though not necessarily all --- is revealed, and not to everyone.

Not everyone makes it to the end of DESOLATION MOUNTAIN. It is easy to conclude that Krueger may be on the verge of slowly winding down the series, or at the very least instituting a major shift in perspective. The constant here is that his prose continues to mirror and echo the beauty of Minnesota’s wilderness and the soul of the people who reside there in a lifestyle that hardly can be considered easy. Followers of the series will want to put this one on their must-read list.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 22, 2018

Desolation Mountain
by William Kent Krueger

  • Publication Date: August 21, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 1501147463
  • ISBN-13: 9781501147463