Reviewed in the United States on December 11, 2019
When I was looking for a new novel to read, I had never even heard of the author, William Kent Krueger. Nor did I realize that he had written so many novels about the farthest reaches and isolated wilderness of North America encompassing both sides of the U.S. and Canadian border. He really is a prolific writer on the topic. You can tell right away that he's the real deal. His knowledge about the indigenous peoples living on the razor-sharp edge of civilization and their stone-wedge culture goes unrivaled and unparalleled in modern times. He clearly demonstrates an intimate knowledge of the folklore, myth and legend. He understands the terrain and the lay of the land, like the back of his hand. He relates to the lakes, vegetation, and forests as if they had personality and feelings. As I live and breathe, the reader can easily identify with the main characters in the story. They're likeable. They have good intentions. They are the salt of the earth.
I wasn't sure which book to read first, so I just picked the second one of the series at random, Boundary Waters, published in 1999. It turned out to be a fairly interesting novel, a quixotic page-turner that kept me inspired, interested throughout, and curious enough to wonder periodically what could possibly happen next, "to make their day." The suspense was surely killing me by degrees.
The river roared like a lion. The rapids boasted more thrills, spills, and general excitement than a muddy, bloody demolition derby. Egads, theirs was not to be a gentle, scenic float trip down a cool, lazy river on a hot summer's day.
Does the book promote the greatest achievements ever undertaken by mankind? Probably not. Does it include the most famous and memorable characters from throughout the scope of history and literature ever assembled together in one place and time, the toast of the city, upper-crust dignitaries, or controversial, civic-minded and great military leaders? Probably not. But, it does convey an interesting plot. Plus, the author has done more than his fair share in conducting the necessary background research on the residents living in the immediate area--something, which is enticingly fascinating in and of itself, and their illustrious neighbors, who try their darndest to fit in peacefully and harmoniously--particularly, the former sheriff, now retired, his close-knit family, and their diverse assortment of odd-fellow acquaintances and nearest, dearest friends. For, somehow, a great, terrible danger has been imported and incorporated into the scheme of natural events from outside the normal boundaries of the reservation.
The potential interlopers, agitators, and trouble-makers which prove to be the cause of all of the commotion have obviously been attracted by the lure of the glamorous night-life of flashy casinos, excellent fishing, and the pristine scenery of a pure, unspoiled wilderness, a pastoral natural setting, the sanctuary of forests, and 10,000 lakes. Oh, what a tangled web of deceit and duplicity that they must weave! How can our heroes get to the bottom of this, find the truth and solve the crime, in such a sometimes frosted-cold, sometimes slippery, wet cold-case environment?
R. Royce had no idea how to get out of his present predicament. He'd been set up. They wanted their tour buses back. They had only been leased for the season-- not sold outright to him and his cohorts, as he had initially believed.
"Give them back their buses," suggested Cornelius Korn, his long-time friend and business partner. "We have nothing to lose."
"Why should we?" asked Raquel Remington, Royce's better half. "What do they plan on offering in exchange?"
"I have to admit," replied Royce. "Now that I've seen them up close, the completely remodeled and fully-accessorized buses have to be worth quite a bit more than the half million and change that Kashmere and Nehru owed us." The two executives from New Jersey had recently expanded their operation to include the Atlantic coast of Florida.
"Nehru says they can let us have four, brand-new, twenty-footer cargo trucks instead, if we choose to go that route, with cash-in-hand to make up for the difference," said Korn, in reconciliation.
"Personally, I'd prefer going into the business of moving furniture and sundry items of freight, rather than transporting irate and noisy passengers, mostly senior citizens and large families going on vacation to Disneyland, to other well-known attractions and amusement parks, and major sporting events," said Alexis Sue Shell, Cornelius Korn's main squeeze. Her assessment of the situation was spot on.
"People are horrible to deal with," agreed Raquel. "I'd prefer moving priceless paintings, sleek automobiles, and gold bullion, any day of the week. Such inanimate objects don't argue or talk back."
"Cargo trucks and cash have always worked for me," said Korn. He could be incurably optimistic.
Nehru was now on the telephone with Royce. "There's been a terrible accident!" he exclaimed, sadly. "The buses have all been completely destroyed in an unexpected warehouse fire, where they were being stored out of the weather. Burned to a crisp. Fortunately, as we have recently learned, they have been fully insured for the cost of replacement."
"Like I told you the last time we spoke, cash works for me," said Royce. He was not an overly sentimental fool. He was not particularly in the mood for romance, or excessively concerned about any love lost between the two parties.
"Fireworks?" inquired Raquel, coquettishly.
"Try explaining the situation to the poor people of Paradise, California," said Alexis Sue. "And see how much sympathy you get in return."
"Looks like we are going to make a substantial profit on our return after all," expostulated Korn, disregarding Alexis Sue's extraneous viewpoint. "A 50-50 split of the proceeds is now entirely possible. It's a win-win situation all the way around," he quickly extrapolated, without exaggeration.
Nehru called back shortly, however. He had no misgivings whatsoever. He retorted, "The buses that burned weren't yours after all. It was just a big misunderstanding. We've located your cargo vehicles at a different warehouse facility. You can collect them anytime at your convenience." He was beside himself with joy. He was especially anxious to bring their business dealings to a satisfactory conclusion.
"Looks like we're all going on an exploratory assignment of in-depth investigative journalism," said Korn. "Because you can't always believe everything two wise guys from New Jersey tell you, even if they do make a good first impression. They are dangerous political animals in that respect."
"If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is," recited Raquel.
"Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way," repeated Alexis Sue, which had the effect of jogging Royce's memory. Something he'd overheard.
Stacey reflected on his brief stint in the Army. The Drill Sergeant had been tasked with providing each of the members of his platoon with individualized career counseling. He'd been allotted 10 minutes one Sunday evening, per soldier.
"How do you like the Army so far?" inquired the drill sergeant.
"Honestly, I don't really care to get up so early in the morning and have to make my bed," said Stacey, plainly and simply.
"Yo mama," said the DS.
"Army chow doesn't appeal to me very much, either," Stacey continued. "Too bland. Needs more spices."
"Yo mama," said the DS.
"We haven't had a day off, since we arrived. The Sergeants yell at us no matter what we do," said Stacey.
"Yo mama," repeated the DS.
"Drill Sergeant, why do you keep interrupting and saying 'yo mama' every time I try to explain anything to you?" asked Stacey, obviously perplexed and exasperated by the whole process of counseling at this juncture of his career.
"Because I ain't Yo Mama," stated the DS, loudly and unequivocally. "My job is to keep you alive on the battlefield."