William Kent Krueger joined the ranks of today's best suspense novelists with this thrilling, universally acclaimed debut. Conjuring "a sense of place he's plainly honed firsthand in below-zero prairie" (Kirkus Reviews), Krueger brilliantly evokes northern Minnesota's lake country -- and reveals the dark side of its snow-covered landscape.
Part Irish, part Anishinaabe Indian, Corcoran "Cork" O'Connor is the former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota. Embittered by his "former" status, and the marital meltdown that has separated him from his children, Cork gets by on heavy doses of caffeine, nicotine, and guilt. Once a cop on Chicago's South Side, there's not much that can shock him. But when the town's judge is brutally murdered, and a young Eagle Scout is reported missing, Cork takes on a mind-jolting case of conspiracy, corruption, and scandal.
As a lakeside blizzard buries Aurora, Cork must dig out the truth among town officials who seem dead-set on stopping his investigation in its tracks. But even Cork freezes up when faced with the harshest enemy of all: a small-townsecret that hits painfully close to home.
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CORK O'CONNOR first heard the story of the Windigo in the fall of 1965
when he hunted the big bear with Sam Winter Moon. He was fourteen and
his father was dead a year.
Sam Winter Moon had set a bear trap that autumn along a deer trail that
ran from the stream called Widow's Creek to an old logged-over area full
of blueberries. He'd found scat at the creek and along the trail and in
the blueberry meadow when the berries were ripe. The trap was made as it
had been in old times. Against a tree, Sam built a narrow enclosure of
branches with a single opening. Over the entrance he suspended a heavy
log secured to a spring pole. The trap was baited with a mash of cooked
fish, fish oils, and a little maple syrup. It was the first time Sam had
ever built a bear trap -- a nearly lost Ojibwe tradition -- and he'd
invited Cork to help him with the process. Cork had no interest in it.
Since his father's death, nothing interested him. He figured Sam's
invitation had nothing to do with both of them learning the old ways
together. It was just another good-intentioned effort to make him forget
his grief, something Corcoran O'Connor didn't want to do. In a way, he
was afraid that to let go of the grieving would be to let go of his
father forever. Still, out of politeness, he accepted Sam Winter Moon's
Late in the afternoon, they found the trap sprung, but the bear was not
in it. They could see where the animal had fallen, slammed down by the
weight of the great log, which, when they'd hauled and set it, Sam had
calculated at over three hundred pounds. The log should have broken the
bear's back. Any normal black bear should have been there for them,
pinned under the log, dead or almost dead. The trap was sprung. The log
had fallen. But the bear had shrugged it off.
Sam Winter Moon turned to the boy gravely. "I expect it's hurt," he
said. "I got to go after it."
He looked away from Cork and didn't say anything about the boy going.
"A bear like that," Cork said, "a bear that can bounce a tree off his
back, he'd be worth seeing."
Sam Winter Moon knelt and ran his hand over the deep indentation the
animal's great paws had made in the soft ground. "Risky," he said. He
looked up at the boy. "If you come, you got to do exactly as I say."
"I will," Cork promised, feeling excited about something for the first
time in a year. "Exactly."
They fasted the rest of the day and breathed in the smoke of a cedar
fire. At first light next morning, they blackened their faces with the
cedar ash, a sign to the spirits of the deep woods that they had
purified themselves. Sam tied back his long black-and-gray hair with a
leather cord ornamented with a single eagle feather. They smoked tobacco
and red willow leaves mixed with powdered aster root as a hunting charm,
then covered themselves with tallow made of various animal fats to
disguise their scent from the bear. In a small deer-hide sack that Sam
hung on his back, he packed more tallow, matches, a whetstone, and a box
of 180-grain cartridges for his rifle. He looked a little doubtfully at
the cartridges. His was a .30-06 bolt-action Winchester. Fine for deer
and small bears, he told Cork. But a bear like the one they were after,
a bear that could shrug off a tree, that was something else. He gave
Cork a canvas pack with bedrolls, cooking utensils, cooked wild rice,
coffee, salt, and deer jerky.