I’ve developed a new habit in the past year or so. I judge a book by its cover. I will pick up a book, look over the cover, take note of the author, and then jump into the very first chapter without reading any blurbs on the back cover or the dust jacket. I just plunge into the story without knowing anything except what I can glean from the cover illustration.
I recently got my hands on a copy of William Kent Krueger’s book, Northwest Angle. Krueger writes a mystery series featuring Cork O’Connor, an ex-cop who is half Celt and half Native American, who lives in Minnesota and tries to mind his own business but seems to fall into murders and mysteries left and right. It’s a good series, one that I have enjoyed for a few years now, and so finding Northwest Angle—which is the 12th book—was a treat. I knew the author; I knew I would enjoy the book. Why read the blurb? So I jumped in.
To my surprise, Krueger started this novel with an author’s note, in which he describes a terrible force of nature that started in July 1999 in South Dakota and whipped through the northeast, causing devastating destruction in his beloved Minnesota before moving further east and finally dying out. This type of storm is called a derecho. Sound familiar? I couldn’t believe it. What are the odds that I will just pick up a random novel only to read about a derecho? After our own June/July storm, I know all about these storm systems.
And so Northwest Angle was a fascinating read because I could relate to the characters as they try to survive this sudden, completely unexpected storm. Cork has recently lost his wife in a plane crash. His three children, two girls in their 20s and his son Stephen who is 15, are slowly adjusting to her death, but it’s only natural that everyone still misses her. So Cork plans a family getaway; he and his children, plus his wife’s sister, Rose, and her husband, all take a houseboat into the beautiful, remote Lake of the Woods area.
Cork and his daughter, Jenny, had left the others to go meet Jenny’s boyfriend, Aaron, when the derecho hits. Cork and Jenny make it to a small island; they’re stranded there and hoping the others will find them. But instead, Jenny finds an old cabin, and the body of a young woman who was obviously murdered. A faint sound behind the cabin leads Jenny to a shallow depression in the ground—and a baby boy, wrapped up and hidden, but safe now that Jenny has found him. The only problem seems to be that a man is also looking for this baby; a man with a high-powered rifle and a swift boat undamaged by the storm.
Krueger takes us on quite a ride in this novel. He examines forces of nature and forces of good and evil, and outlines the similarities and the differences. The tension builds as Cork tries to reunite his family and keep everyone safe from the killer that stalks them. This book is hard to put down!
So, that old saying, don’t judge a book by its cover?
Let the cover be your guide. But try ignoring the blurbs, just for fun. You never know what you might stumble onto!