Series Review: Minnesota Mystery

In my 2-3-4 Challenge group we are reading the Cork O’Connor series (written by William Kent Krueger ) as a monthly group read.  We started at the beginning, book 1 in January 2017.  I listened to all four books on audio, read by David Chandler).

175828IRON LAKE (Cork O’Connor: #1)

1998; 464 Pages (Atria/ Recorded Books)

Genre: mystery, suspense, series, fiction


“Part Irish, part Anishinaabe Indian, Corcoran “Cork” O’Connor is the former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota. Embittered by his “former” status, and the marital meltdown that has separated him from his children, Cork gets by on heavy doses of caffeine, nicotine, and guilt. Once a cop on Chicago’s South Side, there’s not much that can shock him. But when the town’s judge is brutally murdered, and a young Eagle Scout is reported missing, Cork takes on a mind-jolting case of conspiracy, corruption, and scandal.

As a lakeside blizzard buries Aurora, Cork must dig out the truth among town officials who seem dead-set on stopping his investigation in its tracks. But even Cork freezes up when faced with the harshest enemy of all: a small-town secret that hits painfully close to home.” (From Publisher)

I am not sure about this series.  Reading the synopsis above I was really excited to start listening to this book.  Many fellow readers love and recommend this series so maybe my expectations were a bit high.  My biggest issue with the novel was the main character, Cork.  After reading Bosch, Trent, Banks, etc I was looking for another cop hero.  I was disappointed in his choices and I didn’t see him as flawed hero but just meh.  While I love his kids (Jenny, Annie and Stevie) and sister-in-law, I am not wild about his wife, Jo either.  Add that with this novel being so sloooooooooow  to get anywhere,  I wasn’t rushing to listening as much as I usually do.  But there is promise…I do like the writing of the secondary characters and how the case comes together (finally!).  I am in for book two!


123604BOUNDARY WATERS (Cork O’Connor: #2)

1999; 402 Pages (Atria/ Recorded Books)

Genre: mystery, suspense, series, fiction

RATING: ★★★1/2

The Quetico-Superior Wilderness: more than two million acres of forest, white-water rapids, and uncharted islands on the Canadian/American border. Somewhere in the heart of this unforgiving territory, a young woman named Shiloh — a country-western singer at the height of her fame — has disappeared. Her father arrives in Aurora, Minnesota, to hire Cork O’Connor to find his daughter, and Cork joins a search party that includes an ex-con, two FBI agents, and a ten-year-old boy. Others are on her trail as well — men hired not just to find her, but to kill her.

As the expedition ventures deeper into the wilderness, strangers descend on Aurora, threatening to spill blood on the town’s snowy streets. Meanwhile, out on the Boundary Waters, winter falls hard. Cork’s team of searchers loses contact with civilization, and like the brutal winds of a Minnesota blizzard, death — violent and sudden — stalks them.” (From Publisher)

I am warming up to Cork, though he is still not my favourite character or “hero”.  I am hoping that Jo does not get back with Cork, as it is up to her whether they get back together.  Yet, I can sense their reunion.  Again, this novel moved a bit slow in the beginning but it did pick up and I found it harder to put down as we got to the end.


325429PURGATORY RIDGE (Cork O’Connor: #3)

2001; 428 Pages (Atria/ Recorded Books)

Genre: mystery, suspense, series, fiction

RATING: ★★★★

“Not far from the small town of Aurora (population 3,752) lies an ancient two-hundred-acre expanse of great white pines, sacred to the Anishinaabe and known to them as Minishoomisag (Our Grandfathers).

Wealthy industrialist Karl Lindstrom does not have a reputation as a sensitive environmentalist, and some members of the Anishinaabe tribe are concerned about the proximity of the trees to his lumber mill. So when an explosion at the mill results in the death of a night watchman, it’s obvious whom suspicion will fall upon.

Cork O’Connor, in the throes of straightening out his life and repairing his marriage, is asked by his successor as sheriff to help with the investigation. His sense of community obliges him to accept, but Cork has distinctly mixed feelings about the case. For one thing, he is part Anishinaabe himself. For another, his lawyer wife, Jo, represents the tribe.

Meanwhile, in a secluded house that overlooks the lakeside home of the Lindstrom family, a reclusive shipwreck survivor and his sidekick also seem to be harboring some resentment of their own against the industrialist. And it soon becomes clear to Cork that harmony, both at home and in the town, will be on the back burner for some time.” (From Publisher)

Okay, Mr. Krueger you got me.  I have officially added rest of the Cork O’Connor books on my “want-to read” list.  I was hooked from the beginning and the story moved quickly so I was galloping through it.  I have not mentioned in my other reviews, but one other thing that I love about Krueger’s writing style is his description of  Aurora and it’s wondrous beauty.  Often the settings in the novel are almost another character.  You can definitely image the place but also almost feel how it would be there.  While I am still not a fan of Jo, I do seem to warm to her when she is around her sister and children.  I am ready for next month.


211161BLOOD HOLLOW (Cork O’Connor: #4)

2004; 512 Pages (Atria/ Recorded Books)

Genre: mystery, suspense, series, fiction

RATING: ★★★★1/2

When the corpse of a beautiful high school student is discovered on a hillside four months after her disappearance on New Year’s Eve, all evidence points to her boyfriend, local bad boy Solemn Winter Moon. Despite Solemn’s self-incriminating decision to go into hiding, Cork O’Connor, Aurora’s former sheriff, isn’t about to hang the crime on the kid, whom O’Connor is convinced is innocent. In an uphill battle to clear Solemn’s name, Cork encounters no shortage of adversity. Some he knows all too well — small-town bigotry and bureaucracy foremost among them. What Cork isn’t prepared for is the emergence of a long-held resentment hailing from his own childhood. And when Solemn reappears, claiming to have seen a vision of Jesus Christ in Blood Hollow, the mystery becomes thornier than Cork could ever have anticipated. And that’s when the miracles start happening…. ” (From Publisher)

I rated the first novel three stars, and slowly have been going up half a star for each book ever.  I thought I would stay at four stars for a few books, but wow this book was almost a five star.  This book starts with a bang and almost like a race I kept wanting to read more and more.  I was lucky that I was listening to this book when I had a day of chores.  I listened to 75% of the book in one day.  I liked that this book had more of the O’Connor family, and more of Rose.  I am a HUGE fan of Rose.  She is definitely the strength of the O’Connor family and also it’s heart.  Krueger and Cork describe Rose as smart and kind BUT also plain and overweight.  I probably like Rose so much as I relate with her the most (other than Jenny for her love of poetry).  I think Rose and Annie would be great detectives for a spin-off series – I like the quirkiness of Annie who compliments her aunt.  The case in this book was also very fascinating as it uses big themes like religion, culture, love and secrets.  Highly recommend this book and waiting patiently for May to read book five.


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