cover image Purgatory Ridge

Purgatory Ridge

William Kent Krueger. Atria Books, $23.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-671-04753-5

Krueger's page-turner revisits Cork O'Connor, the part-Irish, part-Anishinaabe/Ojibwe ex-sheriff of Aurora, Minn., a tiny lumber town on the edge of the Superior National Forest, whose exploits were depicted in Boundary Waters. This narrative opens with a bang, as Karl Lindstrom's lumber mill explodes in the early morning hours, killing Ojibwe elder Charlie Warren. The local Native Americans are up in arms over Lindstrom's plan to cut down Our Grandfathers, a grove of old-growth white pines sacred to tribal lore. Outside conservationists have also descended on the town, eager to save the 300-year-old trees. When a person identifying himself as the Eco-Warrior, soldier of the Army of the Earth, claims responsibility for the bombing, the Native Americans are suspected of collusion as Cork's wife, Jo, attorney for the tribe, protests their innocence. Cork had lost his job as sheriff two years before, largely because of inflammatory editorials by Helm Hanover, publisher of the local newspaper, but he cannot stay uninvolved in this case. The quest to identify the Eco-Warrior bomber ultimately focuses on a young outsider, Brent Hamilton, and his zealous mother, who was crippled in a similar bombing. But the number of suspects widens to include Hanover, rumored to be the commander of the secret militant Minnesota Civilian Brigade, and John LePere, lone survivor of the Alfred M. Teasdale, a freighter that sank on Lake Superior six years earlier, drowning his brother, whose body has never been found. Two kidnappings occur. Karl Lindstrom's wife, Grace Fitzgerald, novelist and daughter of the man who owned the freighter, is abducted, and Cork's wife and six-year-old son are also taken as the Eco-Warrior demands $2 million for their safe return. The plot comes full circle as credibly flawed central characters find resolution. Despite some histrionic plot devices, Krueger prolongs suspense to the very end. (Mar.)