Boundary Waters is the second of William Kent Krueger’s mysteries featuring Cork O’Connor, former sheriff, current hamburger shack owner and a good man in a tight spot.
Shiloh is a young woman in a tight spot and people are converging on Aurora looking for her. Some are trying to kill her and others are trying to rescue her. Meanwhile she is on a remote lake, with no communication with the outside world other than visits from Wendell Two Knives, an Anishinaabe who mastered the old ways and the old stories. Wendell has not come for some time and she knows she has to find her own way out now.
Cork, along with Shiloh’s famed country singer father, a couple of federal agents and two Anishinaabe guides, a young boy who often went with Wendell Two Knives and the only person who knows where to find Shiloh and Stormy, his father, an ex-con who resents Cork for arresting him and whom the feds distrust. Also on the trail, some highly skilled professional killers.
The muskrats’ fur is thick indicating a hard and early winter and sure enough the snow is falling. There is no silence like the silence of a snow-shrouded lake before the big freeze. That silence is often broken by violence and fear in this long trek into the Boundary Waters and back out again. The environment is so much a part of the story, you could justify listing it on the cast of characters.
The novels take place in a fictional town and county near a fictional Anishinaabe Reservation in northern Minnesota. While they are fictional, they are more amalgams of real places in the North Woods. For example, the Iron Lake Reservation seems culturally more like Red Lake Reservation and situated geographically where Bois Forte Reservation is–in Boundary Waters anyway. In his first book, it seemed closer to Fond du Lac reservation geographically. None of that matters, though. For someone raised in Minnesota as I was, the setting and the people ring true and part of the pleasure of reading his books is the nostalgia for Minnesota they evoke. The environment is integral to his books and in Boundary Waters, the environment is everything.
I enjoyed the book, though not as much as Iron Lake, his first Cork O’Connor mystery. I thought the mystery was compelling and scrupulously fair. My only complaint is that the villain acted out of character for a brief, but pivotal moment–and even though he had shown admiration for the courage of Wendell Two Knives, his critical act that was rooted in admiration for sheer grit does not seem likely. Otherwise, I thought the story was great. A solid, fair and compelling mystery with interesting characters who do for themselves and a vivid, shiver-inducing environment.