Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger: A review

I read a review of this book recently that intrigued me. So much so that I decided to break my cardinal rule for reading series: Start reading with the first entry and read the books in order. This is the seventeenth book in the series and I decided that life is just too short for me to go back and read those other sixteen books before I get to the one that I'm really interested in. 

So, new rule: Read what you want to read when you want to read it.

Thus, free at last, I proceeded to read Desolation Mountain.

I'm sure if I had read all of those previous books I would have had a more complete understanding of the recurring characters and their relationships, but I thought the author actually did a more than adequate job of slipping in the details that a new reader who was reading this book like a "stand-alone" would need in order to understand what was going on.

The main protagonist is Corcoran "Cork" O'Connor, former sheriff of Tamarack County in far north Minnesota, and now in business as a private detective and owner of a hamburger joint. Cork is Anishinaabe and lives next to the Iron Lake Reservation, home of many Ojibwe. Ojibwe cultural practices and beliefs factor heavily in the plot, which was one of the things that intrigued me in that review that I read.

The plot concerns the crash of a private plane on Desolation Mountain, a plane which was carrying one of Minnesota's U.S. senators and her family. All aboard the plane were killed in the crash. (This was all eerily similar to the story of Sen. Paul Wellstone and his family, killed in a crash in 2002.)

Cork and his son, Stephen, along with several first responders from the reservation are first on the scene of the crash but find no survivors. Soon, all manner of federal investigators descend upon the crash site to try to figure out what happened. Initial public statements from them blame pilot error, but things don't quite add up.

One thing that doesn't add up is a recurring vision which Stephen has of an eagle with red, white, and blue tail feathers being shot out of the air by a boy with a bow and arrow, and as the eagle falls, an egg drops from it. In the vision, Stephen is filled by a sense of dread by some monstrous presence behind him. Stephen feels instinctively that his vision is the key to what happened to the plane but he struggles to understand it. 

Meanwhile, there are reports of intruders, poachers, on the reservation and Cork's son-in-law, Daniel, a game warden, tries to find and stop them. There are other mysterious presences about and it seems likely that all of these events are somehow connected. But how?

As Cork and Daniel explore the mountain and spy on the investigators, trying to learn what they are doing and what they are looking for, they encounter an old friend of Cork's. It is Bo Thorson (who apparently figured in an earlier book) who is now a private security consultant but when Cork knew him was a Secret Service agent charged with guarding the First Lady. Now, he, too, seems to be watching the investigators. For whom?

Then, some of the first responders who had been early to the scene start disappearing. And what exactly is up with that? Where are they? Are they being held prisoner somewhere?

Cork, Stephen, and Bo team up to try to solve the mystery, or mysteries, and they encounter more evil than they've bargained for as all of the various government agencies as well as a right-wing militia in the area have different agendas, none of which seem to be to expose the truth. 

At some point, the plot just sort of descended into a mishmash of conspiracy theories, "evil government men" stereotypes, and cardboard characters that didn't really excite my interest. The solution to the mystery seemed overblown and unrealistic, but maybe I'm just not cynical enough (yet) to accept the  convoluted conspiracies necessary to explain that solution.

Overall, this was not a bad book but it wasn't one that will encourage my interest in reading more of the series.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars   


  1. Too bad you didn't like this one as much as you hoped. It sounds unbelievable even to me who haven't read the book.

    1. Yes, i was rather disappointed. The reviewer whom I had read liked it much better than I did. It was the conspiracy theory aspect of it that really turned me off.

  2. I was all excited because I have a couple friends who swear by this author, plus I am looking for some new authors for my husband. The plot seems exciting but maybe the conspiracy theories not so much, except to show how crazy government can get. One of the Nevada Barr mysteries, Endangered Species, #5, had a crash of a small plane and I remembered what a swarm of officials showed up to investigate.

    1. He's a very successful writer and this has been a very popular mystery/thriller series. Your husband should give it a try. He might like it.


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