“Iron Lake” by William Kent Krueger: Atmospheric, well plotted but slightly melodramatic

Iron LakeWhat I enjoyed most about this book was the strong sense of place and season – I could almost feel the clean cold of winter and the purging heat of the sauna – and the clarity and credibility of the various candidates for the “he did it” role.

The central character, Cork O’Connor, a white skinned, red-haired man with a native American grandmother that seems to give him a foot in both of the communities of Iron Lake, has the makings of a tragic hero – a committed sheriff, a loving husband, a doting father who falls from grace in every way possible when disaster strikes but who remains a good man, albeit one who cheats on his wife.

My problem was that I could not find my way inside this man’s head. He seems to be a talented and tenacious investigator but he is not gifted with insight into his own character or that of his wife. Add to this a willingness to buy into the reality of Windigoes and you have someone I found hard to believe in. He is a pizza with one too many toppings.

The book is well plotted. The twists and turns are satisfying and credible and they kept me guessing (although not always caring)

Unfortunately, Krueger’s women are almost cartoons – young, beautiful, forgiving and doomed or strong, silent, fierce but loving or confident, self-absorbed but still loving. I couldn’t imagine any of them as real.

He also slaps on foreboding like plaster on a wall.

The two combined turn the death of one of the women characters into an instrument of emotional manipulation of the reader that I found myself resenting.

Perhaps it was a book of its time (first published 1999), I know the subsequent books of the series won prizes. From me this one only won a “What a pity. That was almost a really good book.”


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