Book Reviews: Desolation Mountain, Fox Creek, and Deadly Keepsakes

Hey, Readers. With my ongoing book tour for Menagerie, I haven’t posted any book reviews lately. Since I don’t have a Tuesday guest spot this week, I thought it would be a good time to catch up with my reviews. Today, I’m featuring three books, two of which are part of the Cork O’Connor series. (I’m now caught up on that one.) So, here we go.

Desolation Mountain

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reading a book in the Cork O’Connor series is like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes. While I like some of the books better than others, this seventeenth novel in the series is one of my favorites.

Stephen O’Connor is now twenty years old. He desires to be a Mide, a member of the Grand Medicine Society, but he’s also spiritually and physically wounded. He has had visions in the past, namely his mother’s death and of the men who shot him. Desolation Mountain opens with Steven having another vision. This time it involves an eagle, a small boy shooting an arrow at it, and the bird falling from the sky.

Stephen, desperate to know the meaning of the vision seeks advice from his mentor, the ancient Mide, Henry Meloux.

Soon after, Cork, as a member of Tamarack County Search and Rescue, receives a call that a plane carrying a United States senator has gone down on Desolation Mountain located on the Iron Lake Reservation.

What follows is a tangled mix of people ascending on Aurora—FBI, NTSB, and other government agencies. Something is amiss and it’s hard to determine if the agencies are working together or against one another. Add to that a group of military-looking personnel with an unscrupulous leader and it’s hard to know who to trust.

Cork, along with Stephen, begins his own investigation of the crash. While on the mountain, he meets Bo Thorson, a character from a Krueger stand-alone novel, and one whom Cork has worked with in the past. Even though Cork trusted the man, I wasn’t completely sure of his motives.

The plot had a lot of twists and turns but wraps up with a satisfying conclusion. As usual, Henry plays a key role as does Cork’s wife Raney, and his son-in-law Daniel. You’ll find familiar characters from past novels, such as Tom Blessing, Isaiah Broome, and Sara LeDuc. The introduction of new characters keeps this series fresh.

While Stephen finds the answer to his vision, at least in part, the book leaves with an open-ended message regarding Henry. Having already read book eighteen, which is in essence a prequel to the series, I’m both eager and feel I will be a little sad to read the next volume, Fox Creek.

There is one quote from Henry that stood out in my mind. Wise words from a wise man. “Who among us knows how many of these moments we have left? I try to gather them, like a squirrel preparing for a long winter.”

Fox Creek

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I both looked forward to and dreaded this nineteenth installment of the Cork O’Connor series. I dreaded it for fear of the death of a favorite character.

Kruger’s style of writing was a bit different in this one as it’s written in present tense. The novel is in parts and comes from four characters’ points of view—Cork’s, Rainy’s, Stephens, and The Wolf’s. As a reader who once disliked present tense, I thought it added to the suspense in this case.

A businessman from the Twin Cities area who is looking for his wife, Delores Morriseau, seeks Cork’s assistance. Delores is a stranger who comes to Henry Meloux seeking shelter and Henry’s wisdom. When it becomes clear, Delores is in danger, and the man seeking her is an imposter, Henry takes both Delores and his niece Rainy (Cork’s wife) into the Boundary Waters.

There, they are sought by four men, including one known as The Wolf, who has experience in tracking. It soon becomes apparent that the century-old Henry is much wiser. It then becomes a game for The Wolf to track him down.

In the meantime, Cork and Delores’s brother-in-law, go into the Boundary Waters in search of their family members. Delores’s real husband, Lou, is missing, and his brother fears the men are tracking her hoping she’ll lead them to him. The stakes are high as the men will stop at nothing to get what they want.

Stephen also plays an important role, traveling to the town where Delores’s in-laws live. Together with their daughter, Belle, Stephen goes to Lou’s home in search of clues.

The action starts on page one and doesn’t let up until the end. I won’t give away endings, but I will say I was prepared to shed a few tears. The ending does leave open the possibility of an impending romance for Stephen. I will eagerly await book twenty.

Deadly Keepsakes

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After reading a friend’s review and recommendation, I had this book on my TBR list for a while. From the start, the setting intrigued me—the town of Granbury, Texas.

When Tori Winters, a hospice nurse, testifies in a murder trial, she faces threats from the killer’s family. Around the same time, she receives a call from a lawyer in Texas saying that she has inherited her grandmother’s estate. Tori never knew this woman as her own parents are both deceased. When she fears for her life, she decides to leave Missouri for Texas.

When she meets with the lawyer, she learns she’s not only inherited a 1930s mansion, but also millions of dollars. She decides to stay in Granbury and move into the old house. She also discovers her great-grandfather, who built the house, was a notorious gangster.

She soon makes new friends, but as the new person in town, Tori is the subject of much talk and gossip. Several people, including the lawyer and her grandmother’s CPA, advise her to sell the home.

It’s not long before Tori is in danger. Who and why? There are several suspects, and the author did a good job of throwing in red herrings. The plot was well-placed. The lead character, Tori, is a strong and determined woman, a characteristic I like. Deadly Keepsakes wraps up in a satisfying conclusion.

This was my first time reading Anita Dickason’s works, but it won’t be the last.

As mentioned in the reviews, the Cork O’Connor books are the seventeenth and nineteenth in the series. I read book eighteen. Lightning Strike, a year ago. It’s a prequel to the series and doesn’t in any way, deter from the timeline of the stories. In fact, I would recommend anyone just starting this series read it first.

So far, I’ve been busy with reading and am well on my way to achieving my goal for the year. Once the tour is over, I’ll likely go back to weekly reviews.

Book Review: Sulfur Springs

Hey, readers. Welcome to my last book review of 2022. I have something different planned for next Tuesday, and then I’m taking a blogging break the last week of December.

I’m getting near the end of the Cork O’Connor books. Sulfur Springs is the sixteenth of the series.

My Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In this sixteenth Cork O’Connor novel, Cork’s new bride Rainy Bisonette receives a voicemail from her son Peter indicating he’s in trouble. When numerous attempts to return his call go unanswered Cork and Rainy travel to Arizona attempting to learn his fate.

They discover that Peter had been hiding things from his mother, including the fact he was no longer employed at the rehabilitation facility where he once went for help with his drug addiction. Some speculate Peter was using again, while others maintained he was clean.

Cork and Rainy soon learn “to trust no one in Coronado County.” There are drug cartels, border patrol, and DEA agents, illegal immigrants, crooked law enforcement officers, as well as human interest and vigilante groups.

This is the first book of the series written in first person from Cork’s point of view. We also learn more about Rainy’s past and that she’s kept secrets from Cork.

The desert of Arizona is a much different setting from Minnesota. Krueger introduces us to new characters, some likable, others not. I missed the usual cast from Arora—there’s only a short scene with Henry Meloux who, as usual, offers them sage advice. Cork’s children are briefly mentioned.

The plot is well-paced and will keep readers guessing until near the end. There is one thing that kept me from giving this five stars. The author felt the need to interject his political views. I read fiction to escape the madness and I don’t need reminders of how our country is divided. However, this will not keep me from reading the next three books of the series as some reviewers have vowed not to do.

Book Reviews: Windigo Island and Manitou Canyon

Hey, everyone. I’m back to reading William Kent Kruger’s Cork O’Connor series. Not sure what I’ll do when I finish them all, as I have enjoyed most of the books immensely.

I delayed reading Windigo Island for a few weeks (you’ll see why in my review) but I’m glad I continued the series. If I haven’t said it before, I love the character Henry Meloux. We all could learn something from his wisdom. Somehow, I picture Henry looking like Chief Dan George who appeared in the Clint Eastwood movie The Outlaw Josey Wales, along with several other films.

Once I finished Windigo Island, I was eager to move on to the next in the series, Manitou Canyon. Both reviews follow.

My Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Windigo Island is the fourteenth installment of the Cork O’Connor series. Tamarack County, the previous book, was such a disappointment I hesitated to start this one. However, I’m committed to finishing the series. And I was pleasantly surprised.

Krueger’s writing talent once again shows. The matter of sex trafficking is a difficult one—another reason I hesitated—but the author handled the subject well. No graphic details, yet he calls the reader’s attention to a problem many parts of our country face.

Cork and his oldest daughter, Jenny, travel to the Ojibwe reservation of Bad Bluff at the request of a missing girl’s family. The body of the friend whom she disappeared with washed up on Windigo Island in Lake Superior.

Cork and Jenny, along with Henry Meloux and a new character, Daniel English set out to find the missing girl and the perpetrators of a sex trafficking ring. What they encounter is evil comparable to the legendary Windigo.

The book was in three parts—first from Cork’s point of view, then Jenny’s, then back to Cork’s. Honestly, there were times I wanted to slap some sense into Jenny. But her character grew as she realizes not everyone’s life is picture perfect like the one she has in Aurora, Minnesota. Henry, as usual, shows his ageless wisdom. Cork also shows a side we don’t often see, but over the course of each book, his character has also grown.

The book wraps up with a satisfying conclusion and a hint of a future romance for Jenny. An easy four stars for this one.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

November has come to Northern Minnesota and Cork O’Connor has the blues. He lost his father, a good friend, and his wife in the month of November. Is it any wonder he dreads this time of year?

Even his oldest daughter’s upcoming wedding can’t pull him out of his gloom.

When two siblings approach him to continue the investigation into their grandfather’s disappearance in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, he agrees to take the case. He, along with the missing man’s granddaughter, goes into the wilderness area, hoping to find something missed by search and rescue. And Cork finds more than he bargained for.

As his family anxiously awaits his return, they begin to investigate. And when they do, they aren’t sure who to trust.

There are familiar characters, Jenny, Stephen, Rose, Rainy, and my favorite, Henry Meloux. O’Connor introduces us to a new character, Rainy’s Aunt Leah, who adds her own bit of mystery.

I found this book hard to put down. The suspense builds and wraps up in a satisfying ending. In my opinion, this is one of the better books in the Cork O’Connor series.

Needless to say, Krueger has become one of my favorite authors.

August Book Reviews

Hey, readers. During the month of August, I read several books. Since I’ve been on a blog break, I’m playing catch-up with the reviews.

The Storm Girl

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I enjoy dual timeline books and The Storm Girl didn’t disappoint. The story alternates between two main characters—Esther in the 1700s, and Millie in present day.

After her divorce, Millie Grafton buys a historical home that was once a tavern. The house needs renovations, so she hires contractor Nick Marshall. They discover a hidden passage behind the fireplace that leads to a hidden cellar and a partially collapsed tunnel.

Millie likes Nick, but her nosy neighbor, Sharon, is quick to point out that Nick’s father was once involved in some illegal activity and even hints they may even be connected to drug trafficking. When the body of a young woman is found in a nearby marsh, Sharon insinuates Nick’s family might have been involved.

In the 1700s, Esther helps her ailing father run a tavern. They also help smuggle goods and allow them to be stored in the hidden cellar. When a battle breaks out between the revenue officers and free traders, Esther and her family are caught in the middle.

The characters were well developed, and the author did a good job at keeping readers guessing whether some of them were good or evil. I also liked the way she tied the 1700s mystery to the present day.

Purchase Link

Flight of Dreams

Rating: 5 out of 5.

For years, I had heard stories of the Hindenburg Disaster. I’d even listened to the clip of Herbert Morrison’s live broadcast and eyewitness account as the airship exploded and burned within seconds. Before reading Ariel Lawhon’s Flight of Dreams, I couldn’t name a single passenger or crew member.

Told from the point of view of five people—the stewardess, the navigator, the journalist, the cabin boy, and the American, the book covers the story from the day everyone boarded the airship, to the fatal crash, and the aftermath.

There has been much speculation and many hypotheses as to what caused the zeppelin to incinerate. The author takes factual events and blends them with a fictional account of what might have happened.

Lawhon made the characters come alive, and I wanted to know more about them. For the first time, these people became real to me. They were no longer a list of passengers and crew who were part of the disaster that brought an end to air travel by dirigible. For readers wanting to know more, check out the links the author provided in her notes at the end of the book.

The book started slow, but the pace picked up mid-way through. At the end, it was hard to put down. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Purchase Link

Last Summer Boys

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Last Summer Boys is a delightful coming-of-age story set during the summer of 1968. Having grown up in that time period, reading this book brought back lots of memories from the late 1960s.

Jack Elliott doesn’t want his older brother to go to war. Together with his city cousin, Frankie, Jack devises a plot that he believes will keep Pete from being drafted. Along the way, the two of them along with Jack’s two brothers encounter adventures, help a neighbor who is being harassed by a motorcycle gang, and set out to find a lost fighter jet.

There is also a greedy land developer who is determined to take their parent’s land. All this makes for an interesting summer.

I would have given the book five stars, except for a couple of historical inaccuracies, but even those didn’t keep me from enjoying the story. This is a great debut novel for author Bill Rivers.

Purchase Link

Tamarack County

Rating: 3 out of 5.

After coming off what I feel is the high point of the series, Trickster’s Point, I looked forward to Tamarack County. However, it was a big disappointment.

The book started well and had promise, but this clearly isn’t Krueger’s best work. It’s almost as if he threw this one together. The plot seemed contrived, the characters were rather flat, and missing was the author’s usual vivid descriptions of the Minnesota wilderness. (Yes, we know the winters are cold, but…)

Also, Cork needs to get his act together with the women in his life. He apparently made his decision at the end of the book, which by the way, seemed abrupt.

I’ll continue with the series because I know Krueger is capable of MUCH better writing. Clearly, this wasn’t his best work.

Purchase Link

That wraps it up for this week’s reviews. I plan to revert to a weekly review schedule next Tuesday.

Book Reviews ~ Northwest Angle and Trickster’s Point

Happy last Tuesday of July! It’s been a busy reading month for me, so today I’m posting two reviews, both in the Cork O’Connor series.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My Review

Cork O’Connor wanted to bring his family together, so he decided to rent a houseboat in the Northwest Angle of Minnesota. Everyone is there—Jenny, Anne, Stephen—even Rose and Mal.

But their peaceful vacation isn’t to be. An intense storm, known as a derecho, bears down on the lake. Cork and Jenny, who were out in a small boat, are caught on a remote island. Jenny discovers the body of a young woman who had been murdered, leaving behind a young baby. Soon, Jenny and Cork, separated from the rest of the family, are in danger from the woman’s presumed killer.

In his usual fashion, Kruger weaves in elements of suspense and intrigue, leaving readers guessing the killer’s identity.

This book is a bit different from the others, as the author delves into a lot of family dynamics. While not my favorite of the series, it’s still an enjoyable read.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My Review

Cork O’Connor can’t seem to escape people around him dying. In the author’s own words, “Corcoran O’Connor attracted death the way dogs attracted fleas.”

Trickster’s Point begins with him sitting in the wilderness with an old high school friend who is dying from an arrow shot into his heart. Jubal Little was almost certain to become the first Native American governor of Minnesota.

This wasn’t a simple hunting accident. Given the fact that Cork waited three hours before calling for help while waiting for Jubal to die puts him on the list of suspects. Not only that, but the arrow that killed Jubal belonged to Cork. Who knew the two men would be hunting in that location? Who wants to frame Cork? When a second body is discovered nearby, dead from a gunshot wound, the tension builds

Interspersed in the book are Cork’s recollections of the past, something I enjoyed. The action is well-paced. There are several suspects, and I didn’t figure out the culprit until nearly the end.

And as always, Krueger gives us vivid descriptions of the Minnesota wilderness, traditions of the Ojibwe, and the dynamics of the O’Connor family.

It’s hard to pick a favorite in this series, but this one is near the top for me.

I’ve made good progress with this series, and I had hoped to finish the first eighteen books before Fox Creek is released next month. I’m not going to make that goal, but it’s okay. After August, I’ll have a lot more reading time, and I plan to savor the next seven books.