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Lightning Strike

Cork O'Connor Mystery Series #18

by William Kent Krueger

Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger X
Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Aug 2021, 400 pages

    Jul 2022, 400 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Peggy Kurkowski
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Power Reviewer

Father and son's relationship
A gentle yet mysterious novel that will stir your heart. This sounds like an oxymoron but Krueger has pulled off a skillful coming of age story, an unsolved mystery and a deeply transporting picture of the back woods of Minnesota. The vivid descriptions of the water, inlets and sacred lands become just as vital to the story as the well drawn characters. Although I have read his previous levels, the capacity of my brain has weakened and I could not remember the plot lines. That said, this prequel easily stands on its own without the reader suffering any consequences. Cork O'Connor, a 12 year old, comes across the cruel hanging of one of his beloved native Adult friends about 4 days after the occurrence. You can only imagine the status of the corpse at that time. Was this a suicide? Or was this the work of a nefarious person/s. Cork's father Liam is sheriff and tries to elucidate the answers through logic and evidence. Although Cork is married to a Native woman, the tribal Indians have no faith that he will take the right course of action. Much of this anger has to do with the real life Indian relocation act which has colored their belief in the "white system. Clues begin to abound as Cork and his father each develop inklings of the truth, while their relationship changes and Cork begins to mature into teenager with adult sensibilities. Like peeling the layers of an onion, this unfolds beautifully.
Tony C.

Great Prequel
“Lightning Strike” by William Kent Krueger has outstanding storytelling and suffers only from our knowledge of other similar novels: if Native American elder Big John’s death is a suicide, we would have no story. Instead, we get meditation and explore a culture’s opinion of the Afterlife and what mystical beings believe about someone who ends their life. A father and son investigate, turning up more questions than answers.
As an SVU addict, I loved the way that this unfolded. Liam, the patriarch, tries to collect evidence while his son also involves himself. Since this is a prequel to novels involving Cork O’Connor, part of the adventure lies with a kid learning the craft. A good murder mystery involves just the correct number of characters so that we have enough suspects to keep it exciting but not so many that we do not know the perpetrator. We love and hate enough people here to make it work.

The brains of murder-mystery fans could serve as an exciting study. Novels like this must introduce facts and evidence slowly and efficiently to keep you interested without giving too much away. We have two apparent villains and the suicide explanation, but we anxiously await a few more details. The true sign of a successful whodunit is when you speculate about the guilty parties after putting down the book.

I “cast” the film version of books I read and have a few in mind for young Cork, his father, Liam, and his grandmother, Dilsey. Think Meryl Streep, Ethan Hawke, and Asher Angel. The villains would require more nuance. When the narrative changes based on a shocking murder, Krueger takes this from a murder mystery to a much deeper piece about social justice, prejudice, and history that will make you sad.

The 12-year-old lens frames the conflict nicely. Yes, we know from the previous novels that Cork will grow up to become a famous investigator, but he has trouble keeping evidence to himself or understanding why he must do so. When we arrive at the truth, we are sad, but the racism and prejudice we encounter along the way do the damage. The ending is satisfying, as in realistic, but disheartening, nonetheless.
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