Thursday, July 31, 2008

RED KNIFE: a review

Red Knife
By William Kent Krueger
Atria, September, 2008,
Hard Cover, 310 pages $24.00
ISBN: 978-1-4165-5674-9

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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bloody Halls (Jack Marston Mystery) Bloody Halls by Carl Brookins

My review

Jack Marston is the director of student services at City College in Minneapolis. The college is unique in several aspects. It's an evening program aimed at adult students returning to college for a degree and career development. City College is a small liberal arts institution that offers a single degree--a Bachelor of Arts.

The college has no formal campus, leasing and renting space in the city, thus being fully integrated into urban life. This has several advantages for students and faculty alike. But there are also some disadvantages--such as the throat-slashed student found early one morning in the lobby of a down town theater where an amateur company is rehearsing Ibsen's "Enemy of the People."

Saturday, July 05, 2008


And what a great day it was. family and close friends joined us for a backyard picnic/barbecue (classic cliche, right?) on an absolutely perfect afternoon. After years of hard work, Jean's efforts have really paid off and her garden is spectacular. I'll try to get some pictures to prove the point a little later.

David Housewright, a fine writer of mystery fiction and a past Edgar winner will be the Crime Wave's guest next week on our television series and I'm really looking forward to that. July 24 at 6 pm our tv program goes area wide on Channel 6 here in the Twin Cities. Anybody with even basic cable can watch the show. We hope you do and tell us what you think.

I'm pleased to note that one of my favorite characters, heiress and sailing wizard, adventuress Mary Whitney will be back in a new adventure. It's called Devils Island and it will be published next year by Echelon Press.

by Don Bruns

Tock Tock, Tick tock. Like the sound of steel wheels over the gandy dancer’s rail joints, this novel rocks along. A Congressman is dead. He wanted to attack the Hip Hop and Rap music industry. He wanted to join his brother-in-law, the Reverend Joseph Evans in an attempt to rein in bad lyrics, violent lyrics, sexual lyrics. Now the congressman’s son, Nick, is charged with Congressman Shappley’s brutal murder. It’s said he’s in it up to his elbows along with Rap star, Chilli D, who may have been the triggerman. Chilli D’s producer, T-Beau wants to protect his investment so he calls on a music industry star, friend Mick Sever. Mick is already in Washington on the case.

Tick Tock. Time is running on and readers may have the feeling they’re on a fast train going downhill. The whistle screams and the scenery goes by in a blur, leaving out whole pieces. There are complications. Sever, whom we last saw in the author’s debut novel, Jamaica Blue, calls in his divorced wife, Ginny to do research. Tension. Sever once had a childhood friendship with the accused Nick, the Congressman’s son. More tension. There are other family presences, not just in D.C. Tick Tock. Sever’s off to Florida to talk to Nick’s sister, Amber, and then to Barbados, where old wounds still fester.

Page by page Barbados Heat gathers speed. Tock tock. And just when you think you’ve got the characters and their relationships sorted out, even with the missing bits of action, the train roars around a sharp curve and carries you off in a new direction. Author Bruns is evolving a fresh and breathless style of pell mell writing that may be a little short on detail but long on action and thrills. Tick Tock. When’s the next one due?