12 May 2012

Psychotherapy in a sweat lodge

When Dan Conrad said he was reading Vermillion Drift by William Kent Krueger, I asked him to let me know how he liked it. He did.
One: I was pretty sure he'd like the book. Krueger is a very good story teller.

Two: Krueger is such a good story teller that when sets out to write about suspense and danger, he can keep me from sleeping.

When I wrote about Thunder Bay three years ago, I noted that there were "frightening moments" and murders. The action in Boundary Waters kept me reading through a bunch of implausibilites a few months later. Nearly a year later, I almost didn't make it through Mercy Falls, but I was up at the lake and could get by without much sleep that night.

A few months ago, I noticed a review of one of Krueger's new books that was set in the wilderness of the northern border of Minnesota. It seemed to involve the main character and his daughter, stranded by a huge storm and hunted by someone evil. I said to myself, "No thanks."

That's why I wanted to know what Dan thought of Vermillion Drift. Dan was right that most of the murder, mayhem, and threat happened half a century before the primary story. As a retrospective, the resolutions of the old mysteries were less frightening. The main character does have to resolve some issues involving repressed memories and the childhood loss of his father, but those didn't keep me awake at night. I was especially impressed by B. Morrison's observation (in her blog linked below) that the absence of physical threats and danger allowed Krueger to focus on emotional conflicts and their resolutions.

It's a very well-told story. The bits and pieces fit together and the only improbabilities involve the aged Native American "witch," who is a long-time friend and father figure to the main character. I can live with that. I really liked reading Krueger's story telling in this book.

I discovered I missed another of his books along the way. It's referenced in Vermillion Drift. In that unnamed book, the main character's wife (an important part of the earlier books) is killed in a plane crash, and the widowed main character becomes prey as he searches for the wilderness site of the crash. I doubt I'll go back and read that one.

Have you read Vermillion Drift? Have you another of Krueger's books to recommend? Or recommend that we avoid? Write and tell this little bit of the world.

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