Krueger, William Kent 1950-

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Krueger, William Kent 1950-


Born November 16, 1950, in Torrington, WY; father a high school English teacher, mother a musician; married; children: Seneca, Adam. Education: Attended Stanford University.


Home—St. Paul, MN. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer. Has worked variously as a journalist, logger, construction worker, and child development researcher.


Anthony Award for best novel, 2005, for Blood Hollow, and 2006, for Mercy Falls; Loft-McKnight Fiction Award, Anthony Award for best first novel, and Barry Award, all for Iron Lake; Minnesota Book Award for Genre Fiction, 2007.


The Devil's Bed (fiction), Atria (New York, NY), 2003.


Iron Lake, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Boundary Waters, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Purgatory Ridge, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Blood Hollow, Atria (New York, NY), 2004.

Mercy Falls, Atria (New York, NY), 2005.

Copper River: A Cork O'Connor Mystery, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Thunder Bay: A Cork O'Connor Mystery, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Red Knife, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2008.


William Kent Krueger is a Minnesota mystery novelist best known for his series featuring Cork O'Connor. Iron Lake, the first book in the series, is named for one of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes and the Indian reservation surrounding it. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that Krueger "has a sense of place he's plainly honed firsthand in below-zero prairie. His characters, too, sport charm and dimension." Part Irish, part Anishinaabe/Ojibwe, Cork O'Connor is a Chicago policeman who returns to his hometown of Aurora with his lawyer wife, Jo, and their three children to take a job as sheriff. He loses an election after a dispute between local Native Americans and whites over fishing rights, and turns to running a small restaurant and gift shop. After their marriage fails, Jo becomes an advocate for tribal rights. The story opens with Cork having a relationship with a waitress but hoping to get back together with Jo, whose lover is a senator and the son of a former judge who has committed suicide. At the same time, a Native American newsboy disappears, and when Cork attempts to locate him, he finds enemies in the senator, the new sheriff, and tribal leaders who are profiting from gambling concessions. An elderly medicine man tells Cork that a Windigo, or "ogre with a heart of ice," is behind these events, and Cork explores the connection between the spirit and the actual criminal. Booklist contributor John Rowen wrote that "this is a mystery as allegory—the Windigo is alive and well in America, in stalkers, stupid spouses, and ruthless politicians." A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that Krueger "makes Cork a real person beneath his genre garments." The reviewer went on to note: "And the author's deft eye for the details of everyday life brings the town and its peculiar problems to vivid life." A Library Journal contributor wrote that Iron Lake is "filled with Native American legend and lore and edge-of-your-seat plot twists."

Boundary Waters, the next book in the series, is set in the Quetico-Superior Wilderness, two million acres of forest, white-water rapids, and islands on the American-Canadian border. Cork explores the vast expanse in search of Shiloh, a musician who witnessed the murder of her mother before disappearing. She is the daughter of Cork's friend, Aurora native and country singer William Raye. Before Cork can set out, though, FBI agents and a Las Vegas gangster arrive, all of whom want to find Shiloh, but no one will disclose why. They all go together—Cork, William, the newcomers, and an Anishinaabe father and son—on an adventure that provides insights into the horrors Shiloh is facing. A Publishers Weekly contributor observed that "Krueger's writing, strong and bold yet with the mature mark of restraint, pulls this exciting search-and-rescue mission through with a hard yank."

In an interview with Lynn Kaczmarek on the Mystery News Web site, Krueger admitted that he invented the setting for his third novel, Purgatory Ridge. "It's based on real rock formations that exist," Krueger told her. "I named two … and then I added a third that fit my needs. I tamper with geography." Kaczmarek wrote: "It's fiction, after all. It's magic," and added that "there is something magic about Kent Krueger's writing, something that wraps around the stories and the people and the place."

As Purgatory Ridge opens, an explosion at Karl Lindstrom's lumber mill kills Charlie Warren, an Ojibwe elder. Karl is planning to cut down Our Grandfathers, a three-hundred-year-old grove of sacred pines, a move opposed by Native Americans and conservationists. Responsibility for the bombing is claimed by someone calling himself the Eco-Warrior, soldier of the Army of the Earth. Cork and Jo have reunited, and she works to defend Native Americans who are suspected of having a part in the act. The number of suspects grows to include Brent Hamilton, whose mother was crippled in a similar bombing; publisher Helm Hanover, who was responsible for Cork losing his sheriff's job and is suspected of leading a secret militant group; and John LePere, the only survivor when the freighter Alfred M. Teasdale sank on Lake Superior six years earlier—an accident that claimed his brother, whose body has never been recovered. Grace Fitzgerald, a novelist and the daughter of the owner of the freighter, kidnaps Cork's wife and son and Lindstrom's wife and demands a two-million-dollar ransom for their return.

Larry Gandle, writing for the Mysteries Web site, noted that John's "private agony" provides the second story line, and added that Krueger "ties the two story lines together into one of the most compelling and well written thrillers of the year. Characterization is an exceptional strength of this work." George Needham, writing in Booklist, commented that Krueger, who is a former logger, "understands … the complexities of the struggle between environmentalists and developers." Harriet Klausner, writing for the BookBrowser Web site, found the novel to be "an exciting ecological thriller that keeps the suspense and action at high levels throughout the tale. When the story concentrates on the central theme of conservation vs. development, the plot is as good as it gets."

Krueger leaves Cork behind for his next novel, the stand-alone The Devil's Bed. This thriller focuses on the wife of the president of the United States, Kathleen Jorenson Dixon, and on Bo Thorsen, a Secret Service agent who has fallen for the first lady. As for Dixon, she has become so disillusioned with her husband's succumbing to the political trappings of Washington, DC, that she is sleeping alone in the Lincoln Bedroom. When her father dies from a strange accident in Minnesota, Thorsen suspects foul play and thinks that someone might be trying to get Dixon to Minnesota so she can be murdered. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "Nonstop action, abundant romantic complications and a wealth of mayhem keep Krueger's plot speeding toward its suspenseful, bloodsoaked climax."

The author returns to his hero Cork in Blood Hollow. This time Cork is on the case of Charlotte Kane, the teenage daughter of Dr. Fletcher Kane. Charlotte disappeared during a snowmobile ride, but her body does not turn up until the spring thaw. When the coroner examines the corpse, signs point to murder, with the evidence indicating that the perpetrator is Charlotte's Ojibwe reservation boyfriend, Winter Moon. Cork, however, thinks Winter Moon is innocent, and his investigation turns up Kane family secrets as well as another body that also appears to be Charlotte's. "Krueger skillfully crafts enough plot twists to keep everybody guessing through the bloody climax to the thrilling end," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. David Pitt, writing in Booklist, commented that the author tells the tale by "layering on the details …, parceling out information a piece at a time." In a review in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Oline H. Cogdill asserted that "Krueger knows how to skillfully plunge readers deeper and deeper into Cork's world."

In Mercy Falls, Cork is on the case of a dead Chicago businessman who was making a deal to establish an Indian casino on the Ojibwa reservation. The body is found on the shores of Mercy Falls, and the general suspicion is that someone on the reservation killed him. The case is made more complicated for Cork by a female FBI agent who comes to investigate and by the arrival of the victim's half-brother, who once had a romantic relationship with Cork's wife, Jo. Booklist contributor Pitt wrote: "Not just for fans of the series, the novel is a smart and satisfying mystery on its own."

Cork makes his sixth appearance in Copper River: A Cork O'Connor Mystery, which opens with him wounded in the leg and on the run from contract killers. He winds up in the town of Bodine, where his cousin Jewell treats his wound. When Charlie, a girl who is Jewell's son's friend, runs away after being accused of beating her abusive father to death, the ensuing events lead Cork to the discovery of a gruesome conspiracy that preys on vulnerable runaways. While a Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that Copper River lacked the intensity of the series' previous novel, Booklist contributor David Pitt observed that the Cork O'Connor series "gets darker and more elegantly written with every book."

Thunder Bay: A Cork O'Connor Mystery finds Cork in Canada, where he has been summoned by his old friend and mentor, Henry Meloux, who divulges a secret: seventy-three years earlier, Meloux fathered a son whom he has seen only in visions. He asks Cork to find this son—though the detective is unsure the man actually exists. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews considered this novel less moralistic and more satisfyingly narrated than Krueger's previous books.



Booklist, June 1, 1998, John Rowen, review of Iron Lake, p. 1733; December 15, 2000, George Needham, review of Purgatory Ridge, p. 792; January 1, 2004, David Pitt, review of Blood Hollow, p. 833; August, 2005, David Pitt, review of Mercy Falls, p. 2000; June 1, 2006, David Pitt, review of Copper River: A Cork O'Connor Mystery, p. 42.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1998, review of Iron Lake, p. 848; April 1, 1999, review of Boundary Waters, p. 485; November 15, 2002, review of The Devil's Bed, p. 1645; December 15, 2003, review of Blood Hollow, p. 1428; June 15, 2005, review of Mercy Falls, p. 657; June 15, 2006, review of Copper River, p. 604; April 15, 2007, review of Thunder Bay: A Cork O'Connor Mystery.

Library Journal, March 15, 1999, Barbara Hoffert and Ann Burns, review of Iron Lake, p. 53; May 15, 1999, review of Iron Lake, p. 160; February 15, 2003, Jeff Ayers, review of The Devil's Bed, p. 169.

Publishers Weekly, May 25, 1998, review of Iron Lake, p. 67; April 5, 1999, review of Boundary Waters, p. 223; January 8, 2001, review of Purgatory Ridge, p. 45; January 20, 2003, review of The Devil's Bed, p. 58; January 26, 2004, review of Blood Hollow, p. 234; June 12, 2006, review of Copper River, p. 32.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, March 17, 2004, Oline H. Cogdill, review of Blood Hollow.

ONLINE, (December 2, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of Purgatory Ridge.

BookBrowser, (January 13, 2001), Harriet Klausner, review of Purgatory Ridge.

January, (March, 2004), Jennifer Jordan, "Out There," profile of author and works.

Mysteries, (March 23, 2001), Larry Gandle, review of Purgatory Ridge.

Mystery News, (February-March, 2001), Lynn Kaczmarek, "William Kent Krueger: Magic in the Northwoods," interview excerpts with William Kent Krueger.

Mystery One, (December 2, 2005), "Interview with William Kent Krueger."

Shots, (December 2, 2005), Ali Karim, "William Kent Krueger Speaks to Ali Karim for Shots Ezine."

William Kent Krueger Home Page, (December 2, 2005).