Book review: ‘Desolation Mountain’


In William Kent Krueger’s “Desolation Mountain,” a “Cork O’Connor” mystery series novel, Cork’s son, Stephen, has been blessed or cursed, with the power of “visioning.” On occasion, he has dreams, visions of future happenings. He only realizes that he has seen the future after it happens. Since the visions are out of context and somewhat symbolic, Stephen has found their meaning impossible to determine prior to the events happening. To make it worse, his visions have all foreseen traumatic events.

Now he “sees” an eagle fall from the sky while being watched by a boy. Stephen is aware that in his vision, he is also watching the scene. When a senator’s plane crashes into Desolation Mountain, the meaning of the eagle falling seems clear. Could the loss of life have been avoided if Stephen had understood the vision? It would be far better not to have the visions than to suffer the guilt and doubt of not knowinghow to use them.

The senator’s death brings forth investigations by a multitude of government agencies. The locals, who were first to respond, were immediately chased away, and then summarily questioned. According to the information released, the plane had no flight recorder, and yet one was clearly being sought. And some of the searchers were not government, although they were clearly militarily trained. Local first responders were disappearing, and families, including Cork’s, were being threatened.

As Stephen struggles to find the meaning of his visions and Cork struggles to understand the “many-headed monster,” both draw on the powers of the 100-year-old Mide, Henry Meloux. It is to Henry’s Crow Point that the family goes for safety and insight. Slowly the pieces begin to come together, the participants become known, and the mystery builds toward a climax, only to expose that there is still more.

“Desolation Mountain” is set near the Ojibwe Reservation in the Iron Range of Minnesota. Part of the book’s appeal is a setting that seems very familiar. The insight provided by the Indian culture rings true in Wisconsin as well. “Desolation Mountain” could have taken place very close by. Since Cork isn’t here, fortunately it didn’t.

As a bonus, at the end of “Desolation Mountain,” like a Mide of the Ojibwe nation, the reader shares a “vision” of Cork’s future.

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