It is not often that writers of mysteries live up, in their second works, to the promise demonstrated in their first novel. William Kent Krueger has indeed honed his story telling skills in Boundary Waters (Pocket books) and perhaps even surpassed his magnificent debut, Iron Lake, which I raved about last year. I was especially drawn by the sensitivity of his writing and character portrayal as well as the pure and simple narration of the story which is interwoven with Anishinaabe Indian lore.
The story opens with the torturing of Wendell Two Knives who refuses to disclose his secret--the whereabouts of the country music recording star, Shiloh. Various interested parties seeking the elusive Shiloh for a medley of reasons converge upon Aurora, Minnesota, and seek out Corcoran (Cork) O'Connor, the retired sheriff first met in Iron Lake, for assistance in finding this half-breed Anishinaabe Indian woman who has returned to find inner peace among her roots. Cork, who has his own memories as the "Nishiime" of Marais Grand, Shiloh's mother, to confront is forced to participate in searching for the young woman. Also forced into the search, in this terrifying tale of good and evil is the young grandson of Wendell, Louis Two Knives, who proves to be a marvelous story teller in his own right, retelling the Anishinaabe legends told to him by his grandfather.
In Boundary Waters, Krueger has create a fearful and scary novel of flight, hunting and betrayal told within a framework of human compassion. Characters from Iron Lake are introduced, strengthened and considerably developed. Even "bad guys" are shown not to be completely devoid of warmth and understanding--in some cases there is a sense of repentance. It is one of those rare novels which are so scary and leave you fearful to turn the pages, at least not without taking deep breaths, and yet has moments of humor that have you chuckling aloud.