Book Review: Copper River by William Kent Krueger

Copper River by William Kent Krueger
Simon and Schuster
387 Pages
Copyright 2006

Cork O’Connor is a man with a price on his head - $500,000 to be exact. He’s left his wife and three children in Chicago, staying with Jo’s sister, and gone on the run in order to keep them safe. After a phone call to his family leads killers to his door, Cork heads for the remote Upper Peninsula of Michigan to seek the help of a cousin who isn’t exactly happy to see him. Jewell DuBois, a veterinarian, takes Cork in and patches him up despite the fact that she has reasons to dislike cops of any kind.

While recovering from his wounds, Cork finds himself filling the role of father to Jewell’s son, Ren, who is at loose ends living in the small town of Bodine. The unknown injured man hiding out in one of their cabins is the sort of excitement that Ren cannot ignore.

The stakes are raised when Ren along with his best friends Charlie and Stash see a body wash down the Copper River and into Lake Superior. A short time later, Charlie’s father is beaten to death and Stash is the victim of a hit and run. Cork and Dina, the private investigator introduced in Mercy Falls, team up to unwind a puzzle that includes the homeless kids of the Marquette area and the Copper River Club, playground for the rich and powerful hidden away in the Huron Mountains.

Cork and Dina find themselves trying to protect Jewell, Ren, and Charlie, while trying to uncover the secrets hidden in the Huron Mountains and avoiding the hit men that are clearly still hot on Cork’s trail. At stake are not only their lives, but the lives of an untold number of children – including Cork’s.

Copper River is an excellent story and it wraps up the one started in Mercy Falls satisfactorily. It is not, however, without its flaws. Ren, Charlie, and Stash seem more like caricatures than real kids. And, after setting the series in a real place, Aurora, Minnesota, Krueger creates a fictitious place in the Upper Peninsula. Bodine doesn’t exist and neither does the Copper River or the Copper River Club. The club, a 22,000 acre private resort, does exist in the Huron Mountains but it is called the Huron River Club. Being from the UP myself, the fictitious setting was a little unsettling. Knowing the nature of the Huron River Club, however, makes it understandable, especially given the storyline involved.

Krueger, on the other hand, nails small town life:

Ren loved Bodine. And he hated it. The town circumscribed his life, defined him in many ways. It gave him a place to belong, offered him a stable center from which to view the world in order to make some sense of it. On the other hand, it was small, suffocating, and sometimes cruel. There were days when he felt like a prisoner. He knew every street, every shop, every shop owner, and they knew him. They made him feel part of a large family. Like any family, however, they always had their noses in his business and in his mother’s.

Small towns are like that. Everyone knows everyone else and everyone is the subject of gossip. Kids know that when they screw up, their parents will hear about it from half a dozen people before they even make it home.

Recommendation: As I said, it’s a satisfactory wrap up the story began in Mercy Falls. Krueger details the beauty of the Upper Peninsula well and deftly catches the flavor of small town life. The story of the children is heart-wrenching and highlights the plight of homeless children all over the country. It’s well worth the read.


DesLily said...

wow you read all 7 books!! They must all be fairly good books for you to read them all!!

now.. to find another series huh? :o)

cj said...

DesLily -

I really enjoy Krueger and so far, none of his books have been disappointing.

I've got enough on-going series, thank you very much!