William Kent Krueger is a well-respected American writer of detective and mystery books. He is best known for his Cork O’Connor series, a Native American detective who solves crimes in the fictional Boundary Waters region of Minnesota.
Here’s a complete list of William Ken Krueger’s books in reading order, organized by series and stand-alone novels.
Cork O’Connor Series
1. Iron Lake (1998)
Cork O’Connor, a former sheriff and part-Native American, investigates the murder of a judge and the disappearance of a Boy Scout in a small Minnesota town.
His investigation uncovers a web of conspiracy, corruption, and a dark secret.
The novel also features elements of Native American folklore and a vivid depiction of the Minnesota winter landscape. It’s a suspenseful tale that will keep you guessing until the very end.
2. Boundary Waters (1999)
Cork O’Connor is hired to find a country singer who has gone missing in the Boundary Waters, a wilderness area in northern Minnesota.
Cork leads a search party into the woods, but they are not alone. Strangers arrive in the town of Aurora, threatening violence.
Meanwhile, Cork’s team of searchers loses contact with civilization, and they are hunted by a killer in the frozen wilderness.
3. Purgatory Ridge (2001)
Cork O’Connor is drawn into a conflict between the local Anishinaabe Indian tribe and Karl Lindstrom’s lumber mill.
The tribe is furious that the mill is encroaching on a grove of trees sacred to tribal lore. When the mill is bombed, killing a man, the tribe is blamed. Cork believes the tribe is innocent and sets out to investigate.
As he digs deeper, he uncovers a larger plot by an eco-terrorist group. The eco-terrorists kidnap Cork’s wife and son, and Cork must race against time to save them.
4. Blood Hollow (2004)
Cork O’Connor investigates the murder of a high school student and the disappearance of her boyfriend, Solemn Winter Moon.
Cork believes Solemn is innocent, but he faces adversity from small-town bigotry and bureaucracy. The mystery deepens when Solemn reappears claiming to have seen a vision of Jesus Christ.
5. Mercy Falls (2005)
Cork O’Connor is the sheriff of Tamarack County, Minnesota. He investigates the murder of Eddie Jacoby, a Chicago businessman who was negotiating a contract with the local Indian casino.
Cork’s investigation is complicated by the fact that his wife had an affair with Jacoby’s brother, and by the arrival of Dina Willner, a sexy security specialist.
6. Copper River (2006)
Cork O’Connor finds himself in a dangerous situation, running from professional hit men. He seeks sanctuary in a small town called Bodine, located on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
The plot thickens when a young girl’s body is found along the banks of the Copper River and another teenager disappears. As Cork navigates these deadly mysteries, he must also evade the hit men who are closing in on him.
7. Thunder Bay (2007)
Cork O’Connor returns to his hometown of Aurora, Minnesota, to start a new life as a private investigator. But his past comes back to haunt him when his estranged son returns to town, full of resentment.
Cork must confront his own demons and solve a deadly mystery while also repairing his relationship with his son.
8. Red Knife (2008)
The eighth novel in the Cork O’Connor series explores the dangers of racial tension and the human capacity for violence.
When the leader of the Red Boyz gang and his wife are murdered, the Ojibwe gang is mobilized and the citizens of Tamarack County brace for a war.
Cork O’Connor is asked to investigate the murders and find a way to stop the violence.
9. Heaven’s Keep (2009)
The story revolves around a tragic plane crash over the Wyoming Rockies. The charter plane was carrying Jo, Cork O’Connor’s wife.
Despite search efforts by Cork and his son Stephen, they come up empty-handed. Months after the tragedy, two women appear with evidence that the pilot of Jo’s plane was not who he claimed to be.
This leads Cork on a journey to Wyoming, where he faces local law enforcement interference, hostility from the Northern Arapaho, and attempts on his life by unknown assassins.
10. Vermilion Drift (2010)
The story unfolds in Tamarack County, Minnesota, where a controversial decision by the Department of Energy stirs up protests.
Amidst this tension, Cork O’Connor is hired as a security consultant. During his work, he stumbles upon a shocking discovery that sends ripples through the community and forces him to confront his own past.
The novel is a gripping tale of mystery and suspense, with a narrative that delves deep into the history of its characters and their surroundings.
11. Northwest Angle (2011)
Cork O’Connor and his daughter, Jenny, are on a houseboat vacation when a storm strands them on an island. While exploring the island, they find an old trapper’s cabin with the body of a teenage girl who has been murdered.
They also find a baby boy who is hungry and dehydrated, but alive. Powerful forces are after the baby, and they pursue Cork and Jenny to the isolated Northwest Angle.
Cork must solve the mystery of the baby boy, who seems to be cursed by death in order to save his family.
12. Trickster’s Point (2012)
Cork finds himself in a precarious situation where a tragic event occurs during a hunting trip, leading to a complex investigation.
As Cork fights to uncover the truth, he discovers that events from his own past may hold the key to the real killer’s identity.
13. Tamarack County (2013)
Cork O’Connor lives in Tamarack County, Minnesota, a beautiful place near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
One day, a blizzard hits the area and the wife of a retired judge goes missing. Cork investigates the disappearance and uncovers a pattern of ominous incidents.
The novel is full of suspense and exciting characters, and it is set against the backdrop of a stunning but dangerous landscape.
14. Windigo Island (2014)
In the fourteenth book in the Cork O’Connor series, a teenage Ojibwe girl is found dead on an island in Lake Superior.
The people on the nearby Bad Bluff reservation think it was the work of a mythical beast called the Windigo.
Cork O’Connor is hired by the Arceneaux family to find out what happened to the girl and her friend, Mariah Arceneaux, who disappeared a year ago.
Cork discovers that there is a web of evil on the island, and it’s even worse than the Windigo legend.
15. Manitou Canyon (2016)
A wealthy businessman goes missing during a fishing trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Cork O’Connor is hired to investigate, but as he gets closer to the truth, he disappears too.
The novel is a thrilling mystery that draws on the mythology of the American Indian tribes of Minnesota. It’s full of suspense and surprises that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
16. Sulfur Springs (2017)
Cork and his wife Rainy receive a call from Rainy’s son, Peter, who confesses to killing someone named Rodriguez.
When they can’t reach Peter again, they travel to Arizona to find him. Their search leads them to Sulfur Springs, where they learn about Carlos Rodriguez, the head of a drug cartel that controls illegal activity along the border.
As they investigate, they are warned about a war going on between drug cartels. The novel is a suspenseful thriller with lots of twists and turns.
17. Desolation Mountain (2018)
A senator and her family die in a plane crash on a mountain during a storm. The government says it was an accident, but the local Ojibwe search-and-rescue team thinks something else is going on.
When some of the team members start disappearing, Cork O’Connor and his son Stephen team up to find out what really happened and why.
18. Lightning Strike (2021)
The story is set in 1963, when Cork O’Connor is 12 years old. He and his friend Jorge discover the body of a Ojibwe tribe member, hanging on a tree near a place known as Lightning Strike.
Despite the evidence suggesting suicide, the local Ojibwe community insists that it was a murder. Cork’s father, Liam O’Connor is the sheriff at the time and undertakes the investigation.
19. Fox Creek (2022)
The story revolves around Dolores Morriseau, who turns to Henry Meloux, an ancient healer, for assistance in fixing her troubled marriage.
However her life takes a dangerous turn when she’s relentlessly pursued by hired gunmen with mysterious motives.
Meloux and Cork’s wife flee into the wilderness of the Boundary Waters area. Cork, in pursuit, embarks on a journey to unravel the truth behind Dolores’ predicament and the dangerous pursuers.
The Devil’s Bed (2003)
A tale of the First Lady Kate Dixon’s return to her Minnesota roots to care for her injured father, a retired senator and former vice president.
Assigned to protect her is Secret Service agent Bo Thorsen, who finds himself captivated by her presence.
As the story unravels, hidden secrets emerge, revealing that there’s far more to this situation than initially meets the eye.
Ordinary Grace (2013)
This poignant novel takes place in the summer of 1961 in Minnesota, where thirteen-year-old Frank Drum confronts a season filled with tragedy and grief.
Narrated by Frank as an adult, four decades later, the story weaves elements of mystery and suspense into a powerful coming-of-age tale.
Through a historical backdrop, it delves into the complexities of adult life, the weight of mortality, and the influence of religion.
This Tender Land (2019)
A coming-of-age adventure set during the Great Depression. It follows four central characters, including 12-year-old Odysseus “Odie” O’Bannion and his older brother Albert, as they escape the brutality of the Lincoln Indian School.
Together with two friends, they embark on a canoe odyssey down the Gilead and Mississippi Rivers, with the hope of reuniting with their aunt in St. Louis.
This novel paints a vivid picture of Depression-era Midwest America, capturing the resilience, friendship, and the pursuit of hope in challenging times.
The River We Remember (2023)
The story unfolds in a small town in Minnesota in 1958. The murder of a wealthy landowner named Jimmy Quinn shocks the town and stirs up long-standing grudges.
This novel is a portrayal of American life in the mid-20th century. It takes a close look at the scars left by wars, whether fought overseas or within our communities.
It also explores how we try to heal these wounds and highlights the enduring power of the stories we tell about the places we call home.
Novellas and Short Stories
William Kent Krueger’s short story “Bums” is part of a collection called “Twin Cities Noir.” The story follows a group of homeless men, known as “bums,” who live in a shantytown on the edge of town.
The bums are a diverse group, from veterans to immigrants to former factory workers. They are all struggling to survive in a city that is rapidly changing and leaving them behind.
The story is one of many in the collection, which features works from different authors who all focus on different aspects of the Twin Cities.