“Fox Creek’ by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books, $28)
Huddled together inside the deadfall of tree and limbs, exhausted, Rainy and the others have slept the night through. Rainy wakes in the thinnest light of dawn and finds that even Henry has not stirred. She wonders about the day ahead. Can the old man maintain the pace they’ve kept in order to outrun their pursuers? Will the snow help throw those men off their trail completely? And still at the heart of everything, the questions of who the hell are they and what do they want.
Cork O’Connor has to use all his tracking skills to save his wife in “Fox Creek,” William Kent Krueger’s 19th O’Connor thriller, which tells us much about the strength and wisdom of Henry Meloux, the ancient Ojibwe healer who has been Cork’s spiritual adviser and mentor since the series began.
Henry, who is at least 100, is having visions of his death and he walks the woods to prepare himself. But he is willing to help a white woman, Dolores Morriseau, who is so troubled she hopes Meloux can help heal her emotionally since her husband has vanished and she doesn’t know why.
Helping Henry is his great-niece, Rainy, who is married to Cork. Henry lives outside Aurora, the town where Cork lives and was once sheriff. When Cork arrives at Henry’s old cabin in the woods to pick up his wife, nobody is there. Henry, Rainy and Dolores must have been threatened since they headed into the Boundary Waters, where the old man has roamed all his life.
Cork has no idea where they went or why. The reader knows mercenaries want Dolores and have no problem killing to get her.
The narrative shifts from the killers to Cork, to Rainy, to Cork’s adult son Stephen, and to one of the bad guys who calls himself LeLoup (The Wolf). He’s a deadly tracker who grows to admire Henry’s skills at keeping the women hidden and safe. Rainy worries about frail Henry, who knows how to outwit LeLoup by weaving back and forth through the woods, leaving confusing footprints.
With dark descending and snow approaching, Cork and his allies must figure out where Henry would head, and track the old man and the women while trying to stay away from the killers. Cork knows that a late spring snowstorm can be deadly, and every moment counts in his search for his beloved wife.
As usual in Krueger’s novels, the reader can feel the cold as Rainy lights a fire under tree boughs at night in the woods, and smell fresh scent of fir trees. There is more physical adventure in this book than in some of the previous O’Connor stories, with almost all the action outdoors in the Boundary Waters.
All the characters are part Ojibwe, including Cork’s son Stephen, who is studying Henry’s spirituality and is being mentored by the old healer. There is family love here, too, as Cork hugs his little grandson, Waaboo, whose mother is Cork’s daughter Jenny.
Most interesting is LeLoup, a complicated character who does something so surprising it feels as though he is going to be appearing in future O’Connor adventures.
Keeping to a tradition Krueger has followed since his first book, he will launch “Fox Creek” at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23, at Once Upon a Crime, 604 W. 26th St., Minneapolis.
His other metro area appearances:
- 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24, Totally Criminal Cocktail Hour, The Zephyr Theatre, 601 Main St., Stillwater, presented by Valley Booksellers. $10 reservation. Go to valleybookseller.com/event.
- 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, Barnes & Noble, 2100 N. Snelling Ave., Roseville
- 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 29, Next Chapter Booksellers, 38 S. Snelling Ave., St. Paul
- 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30, Excelsior Bay Books, 36 Water St., Excelsior
- 10 a.m. Sept. 2, Lake Country Booksellers, 4766 Washington Square, White Bear Lake
- 7 p.m. Sept. 7, SubText Books, 6 W. Fifth St., St. Paul