Book review: ‘Sulfur Springs: A Novel’ – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thereâs no such thing as a vacation.Â
Not for you, anyway. You canât escapeÂ work: even when youâre off the clock, youâre on the job,Â thinking about projects,Â heading off problems, solving conundrumsÂ or,Â in the new bookÂ âSulfur Springsâ by William Kent Krueger,Â solving crimes.Â
Bad news usually starts with a phone call, as every parent knows, but the call that came to the home of retired Tamarack County Sheriff Cork OâConnor was differentÂ â the look onÂ CorkâsÂ new wife, Rainyâs, faceÂ wasÂ clear about that. Sheâd received a message from her son, Peter, and though it was staticky and near-unintelligible, two words wereÂ plain: âRodriguezâ and âkilled.âÂ
Alarmed at the message andÂ the factÂ that Peter wasnât answering his phone, Rainy andÂ CorkÂ rushed toÂ Arizona, near the Mexican borderÂ where, yearsÂ before, Peter had spent three months in a tonyÂ ArizonaÂ rehab center. Once heâd finished treatment,Â PeterÂ stuck around, got a job,Â and hadÂ beenÂ livingÂ in the areaÂ for some time but, afterÂ inquiring,Â CorkÂ discovered thatÂ no one claimed to knowÂ aÂ Peter Bisonette. PeterâsÂ photo and hisÂ physical description drewÂ faux-blank looks, butÂ the local border patrol seemed intent on followingÂ CorkÂ and Rainy in their search forÂ him.Â
WhenÂ CorkÂ began to hear whispersÂ of danger attached to his stepsonâs name,Â andÂ the remote starter onÂ theirÂ rentalÂ JeepÂ turnedÂ the vehicleÂ into a fireball,Â heÂ andÂ Rainy knew the whispers were true.Â
Peter, itÂ appeared, had his motherâs soft heart and hadÂ become a âdesert angelâ forÂ illegal immigrants.Â His presence,Â therefore andÂ for many reasons, was unwelcome in Sulfur Springs, andÂ finding him (or his body) meant going deep into the desert. TheÂ unforgivingÂ ArizonaÂ terrain was nothing like back home inÂ Minnesota. The people in Sulfur Springs were equally unyielding, butÂ CorkÂ couldnât find Peter without help.Â
The question was: WhoÂ could he trust?Â
âSulfur Springsâ may seemÂ like something different â and it is, mostly.Â Â
As a âCork OâConnor Mystery,â it maintains the aura of Minnesota Nice, 10,000 Lakes, and lush green forests that other novels in this series have. Admittedly,Â itsÂ premise is an otherwiseÂ bland-tastingÂ blue-plate special of plot line (illegal immigration and drug smuggling)Â but hereâs the deliciousness:Â itâs served with a side dish of sand, cactus and nail-bitingÂ thriller.Â Â
That last part will make fans take notice: The homegrown crook youâve come to expect is gone, replaced by a bigger, wider web of worse. Furthermore, author William Kent Kruegerâs signature character, a widower for many years, is now married and readers arenât entirely led to embrace his new wife; she has a dark past that hints of somethingÂ untold. EvenÂ CorkÂ himself has changed with the wedding: heâs edgier and angrier.Â Harder, even.Â Everyone feelsÂ subtly, urgently,Â not-quite-comfortableÂ here,Â and the mood is as prickly as anÂ ArizonaÂ cactus because of it.Â Â
That leads to a book thatâsÂ totally un-let-go-able, a canât-miss for fans and a new obsession forÂ new readers.Â Skip âSulfur Springs?”Â Thereâs no such thing.
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