RED KNIFE by William Kent Krueger
This dramatic addition to the outstanding Cork O’Connor series has it all: a main character firmly grounded in both past and present, intriguing secondary characters, red herrings in abundance, and a central mystery that seems impossible to solve until it is.
This is the 9th book in the Cork O’Connor series but reads as a standalone. We get just enough backstory for context as we are swiftly immersed in setting and pivotal relationships.
No longer sheriff of rural Tamarack County, Minnesota, O’Connor is taking on private investigator jobs in his town of Aurora near the Ojibwe reservation. O’Connor is part Ojibwe and straddles the divide between those who live on the Native American reservation, where poverty runs rampant, and the rest of the county.
There’s a rapidly-growing militant Ojibwe gang called the Red Boyz on the reservation. O’Connor is surprised when leader Alex Kingbird asks for help.
When Kingbird and his wife are murdered shortly after speaking with O’Connor, the likely suspect is a rancher whose daughter died after using drugs provided by a member of the Red Boyz who is now on the run. The fugitive is another possible suspect. Kingbird knew the dealer’s location and considered handing him over to law enforcement.
O’Connor is roped into helping the sheriff and finds himself bouncing between the Ojibwe and his former colleagues in the sheriff’s department. His family is caught up in the drama, too, especially his daughter who is about to graduate from high school and is friends with Kingbird’s younger brother.
Lots of action, authentic portrayals of rural America, a rash of nasty surprises. Resolution across all the subplots that help to propel the mystery and a shocking climax full of clever devices and the kind of justice that brooks no further comment.
As intense and well-crafted as Craig Johnson’s Longmire series, but with more of a family angle.