Intrigued by what I read about William Kent Krueger’s Windigo Island, the thirteenth book in the Cork O’Connor series and his sixteenth overall, I reached out to the author himself and quickly received an autographed advanced copy for review. The series of stories about the cop-turned-private investigator won an Edgar in 2013 for Tamarack Island, and now find Krueger’s protagonist searching for a disappeared Native American teenager. Set against a backdrop of drugs and prostitution, the novel examines the mystery of young Mariah’s disappearance in a story that is both criminal procedural and spiritual journey.
Krueger hooked me immediately with the Native American parable via O’Connor about the two wolves that live inside of each person, a story I heard for the first time a few months ago, but one I’ve considered frequently since. O’Connor is joined in this pursuit by his daughter Jenny, who feels called by the spirit world to be involved. The strong transcendent flair of the book made me think of John Connolly’s Charlie Parker thrillers, where Parker himself is a Sixth Sense-like private investigator, seeing the spiritual evils in the decisions of mere mortals.
But the best comparison I could make? The western-driven work of Craig Johnson that have inspired the work of Robert Taylor in Longmire. It’s often an examination of real crime that could occur anywhere, filtered through the clash of cultures between the various offshoots of Native American culture and the European descendants of white settlers. O’Connor’s Irish and Native blend adds to that here: is he an insider or an outsider? And yet, it doesn’t absolutely matter: he is an agent of the truth, of justice. He is ogichidaa, a person raised up by the spiritual world, by the battle of the two wolves, to stand against evil in whatever form it may rise.
“Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” No, that’s not a quote from Windigo Island but from the United Methodist Church’s (of which I am an ordained elder) Baptismal Vows. And it came to mind as I watched Krueger work through O’Connor. Not everyone (even the good ones) accepts the challenge to resist evil; some of the evil done here is the work of ignorance and a turning away. Our vows, and O’Connor’s calling, require proactive resistance. This is an entertaining book but it’s also one with a clear message:
When it comes to child abuse and human trafficking, the sooner the world sits up and does something about it, the sooner we can say that everyone is free.