Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: "Northwest Angle: A Novel" by William Kent Krueger

It was supposed to be a relaxing vacation on a houseboat on the remote Lake of the Woods. It has been two years since his wife died and for Cork O’Connor this was to be a happy family gathering. This would be the first time they all have gathered together since they buried Jo in the cemetery in Aurora. Despite all his hopes and dreams, they can’t go back and get back what they had then. Happiness has eluded this family gathering. Not only that but Cork O’Connor has a growing sense of unease.

For very good reason as, unbeknownst to the family, a massive super storm is about to hear down on the lake and shatter the wilderness with unfathomable fury. Separated from their family when the freak super storm, a derecho hits, Cork O’Connor and Jenny have to fight for their survival. Though separated from each other, both manage to survive and worry about the other while trying to figure out some sort of shelter on one of the many remote islands. A survival that becomes much more complicated when Jenny finds a primitive cabin on an island where a young mom is dead and newborn is clinging to life. The baby boy has survived the storm and the torture death of his mother. With Jenny and then later Cork’s help, the baby boy will either survive or get them all killed because they are being pursued.

This eleventh book in the series is another good one though it frequently bogs down as the read shifts to the point of view of various characters. For more than half of the book the super storm and its aftermath are the focus. That results in a typical-- the world has ended disaster type read-- thanks to the widespread complete destruction of the area, massive debris fields on land and in the water, and limited first responder capabilities due to the system overload. The various members of the family are stranded in various ways and gradually find their ways to each other while overcoming hardship in a destroyed world gone mad.

The mystery of what happened to the dead mom and her baby takes a far secondary role as the various members of the O’Connor family struggle to survive and find other family members and other survivors. It is only in the second half of the book when the initial several day struggle to survive has stabilized that the mystery actually comes to the fore front. The reasoning behind what happened when ultimately revealed is rather clichéd as is the secondary storyline featuring young Jenny and her boyfriend.

That being said, despite the clichéd story elements and a heavy religious emphasis, the novel is a good one though not nearly as good as it could have been. Billed as “part thriller, part mystery, part exploration of the human heart” this book is solid if rather predicable. Whether Northwest Angle thrills or not is very debatable, but it definitely has a mystery to it while clearly using the clichéd character element of a helpless baby to explore themes regarding being a parent, loving a child, and relationships. While this is not the best book in this long running series, it is solid and manages to contain a couple of surprises along the way.

Northwest Angle: A Novel
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)
August 30, 2011
ISBN# 978-1-4391-5395-6
ARC (available in both hardcover and e-book)

Material supplied by the publisher in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011


Morgan Mandel said...

Sounds like the storms were scary enough without adding more problems. He does a good job of piling on the trials!

Morgan Mandel

Aubrey Hamilton said...

This series intrigues me. I love the description of the settings and the mythical overtones. The number of personal problems the family encounters makes me glad I'm not related to them.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

He did pile them on, Morgan.

I think I am related, Aubrey and just don't know it.

Jenny Milchman said...

This sounds like a fantastic Kent Krueger! Can't wait to read it, and thanks for the review, Kevin.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Thank you, Jenny.

As long as we are here and I am able, I will review. Both are in doubt, but for now, chin up and holding on.