“A Windigo’s a giant, an ogre with a heart of ice. A cannibal, a cold and hungry thing. It comes out of the woods to eat the flesh of men and women. Children, too. It doesn’t care.”
“Is it coming for us?” Cork scanned the shadows that jumped at the edges of the firelight.
“The way I understand it, a man pretty much knows when the Windigo’s coming for him.” – from Iron Lake, page 6 –
Cork O’Connor is the former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota, and separated from his wife. Part Irish, part Anishinaabe Indian, he straddles the line between the white townspeople and the Native Americans who reside on the tribal lands and who have found a lucrative business in the area’s newly built casino. When the local judge turns up dead – shot to death in his home – and a young Indian boy goes missing, Cork finds himself right in the middle of an investigation which will test his loyalties on both sides.
Set in the rugged wilderness of Minnesota, Iron Lake captures the beauty of the lake country. William Kent Kreuger writes with authority about the area, but also about the history and legend of the Anishinaabe Indians. At times the novel drifts into the realm of magical realism, but never to the point of losing its reader who must decide how much of the Windigo legend is truth, and how much is simply symbolic of the violence and greed which reside in the hearts of men.
Cork O’Connor drives the narrative – a conflicted man whose identity is torn between his Native American roots and the mostly white townspeople he has always served. He also finds himself torn between two women: his wife who seems to be ready to end the marriage, and a young Native American waitress who stirs long suppressed emotion in Cork. Not only is his marriage shattered, but his faith in justice and truth has also been shaken.
He’d learned early not to invest a lot of emotion in thinking about the truth in a crime. As a cop, he’d gathered evidence that had been used to guess at the truth, but in the end responsibility for assessing the pieces and nailing truth to the wall was in the hands of others – lawyers, judges, and juries. Truth became a democratic process, the will of twelve. He’d been burned when he cared too deeply. As a result, he’d trained himself to remain a little distant in his emotional involvement on a case. In the end, the outcome was out of his hand, and to allow himself to believe too strongly in the absoluteness of a thing he couldn’t control was useless. He felt different now. Desperate in a way. This time he had to hold the truth in his own hands like a beating heart. – from Iron Lake, page 240-241 –
Iron Lake is an engrossing, well-structured mystery that incorporates Native American culture into the plot. This is the first book in a series featuring Cork O’Connor, and I am interested to read the rest of the books. Readers who enjoy mysteries will find Iron Lake a good read.