By William Kent Krueger
Atria, September, 2008,
Hard Cover, 310 pages $24.00
Review by Carl Brookins
So readers know, Mr. Krueger and I are very well-acquainted. This is his eighth entry in a powerful award-winning series about Corcoran O’Conner, family man, ex-sheriff, sometime private investigator, and an upright and very moral man. O’Connor’s life is complicated by his staunch roots in both Native American and Caucasian ethnicity. His life is also complicated by his two daughters, a son, and his feisty, bright and somewhat uptight wife, Jo. Their communication at times seems as obtuse as between strangers from different worlds. There are times in this story when this reader would like to reach out and kick O’Connor in his well-shaped backside.
Krueger has carefully shaped each episode in this long family saga to explore significant and troubling aspects of our modern society. Red Knife is no different. It begins with a significant and violent episode in the life of a young Ojibwa boy. The story then commences to explore in some detail the influences of violence in our society. The genius of this storyteller, aside from his consummate storytelling skills is that he is careful to avoid sweeping polemical statements. The novel examines some of the causes of violence in intimate and personal ways. Then it goes beyond the acts themselves, almost always leaving to reader to sort out her or his own reactions to the violence. Red Knife commences to also explore how violence can affect individuals not directly engaged in the violence itself; family members, friends and even enemies, members of the law enforcement community, and those on the periphery. And always there is that layer of intimate struggle for understanding and connection between Jo and Cork O’Connor.
I don’t wish to suggest this is a heavily violent novel. It is not. It is, rather, a smoothly written, carefully plotted and laid out examination of an intimate group of individuals, some of whom are family members, some not, and their responses to the violence they experience and observe. Krueger has produced a thoughtful, richly textured human novel, one that most readers, I suspect, will remember and think about long after they close the book.