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Vermilion Drift    by William Kent Krueger order for
Vermilion Drift
by William Kent Krueger
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Vermilion Drift follows Heaven's Keep as the tenth in William Kent Krueger's outstanding series starring ex-cop Corcoran 'Cork' Liam O'Connor, who is part Irish and part Anishinaabe Indian. He lives in his northern Minnesota hometown of Aurora, where he was once sheriff and now works as a PI, while continuing to help run the burger joint he inherited from Sam Winter Moon.

Having lost his wife Jo, murdered in Heaven's Keep, Cork is now totally empty nested aside from the family dog. His daughter Jenny is in grad school in Iowa, Annie is in El Salvador, and his son Stephen is with a family friend. As this story opens, controversy surrounds the Ladyslipper Mine, 'one of the largest open-pit iron ore excavations in the world'. The Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management has hired consultant Genie Kufus to assess turning its holding, the Vermilion One Mine, into a disposal site for nuclear waste. Protesters demonstrate against the plan and threats have been made.

Cork is hired by the mining company to investigate these threats. Though his Ojibwe side 'couldn't help but look on the enterprise as a great injury delivered to Grandmother Earth', and fellow Shinnobs are questioning his allregiance, Cork follows his own conscience. Wealthy Max Cavanaugh, whose family founded the mine, also asks Cork to find his missing sister Lauren, who has been very active in the arts and had founded an artists' retreat at an ill-omened site.

When Cork looks into an alternate route into the mine and uncovers a blocked passage, he discovers five skeletal human remains, and a more recent female corpse. The Vanishings immediately leap to mind - in 1964, several young Ojibwe women had disappeared, as well as Max Cavanaugh's mother Monnique. Given the Ojibwe connection, Sheriff Marsha Dross asks Cork to assist in her investigation. While all this goes on, Cork is haunted by recurring dreams of his father's death, and his own role in it; he consults his spiritual guide, Henry Meloux.

Cork finds out that his own father, then sheriff, knew about the hidden entrance to Vermilion One, and that his dad's sidearm was a murder weapon used against two of the victims. Henry clearly knows something about these past events but is evasive, telling Cork that he isn't yet ready to see the truth, has not yet reached 'a place without anger.' He reads his mother's old journal and learns more. Henry tells him that 'when evil finds evil, it can become a different creature ... It can become huge and monstrous.'

Steered lightly by an increasingly frail Henry, Cork does complete his journey, discover the sources of monstrous evil (past and present), and learn the meaning of his own dreams and of his father's end. Justice (though not entirely within the law) is served. As always, William Kent Krueger delivers a remarkable mystery, rich in mysticism and relevant to environmental concerns, in Vermilion Drift. Don't miss this series!

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