Blood Hollow came as a recommendation from an employee at Rebild and Romain Booksellers (Formerly JJ O’donoghue Books) in Anoka. The helpful person working there suggested that William Kent Krueger is one of the best crime fiction writers in Minnesota. That’s high praise from someone who works at a bookstore, so I gave Blood Hollow a shot.
Mr. Krueger’s pedigree looks really good. (If he were a dog, he’d be worth a lot.) He’s a local guy with plenty of novels under his belt, and enough awards to make me puke jealous. He’s also a member of Minnesota Crime Wave.
I won’t lie to you. Crime Fiction ain’t really my genre. This would be me taking a distinct break from Horror/Fantasy. So I went into this book quite cold to partly, with a high chance of low expectations. From the cover copy, I was taken more by the location (of both the story and the author) than the genre. I was also interested in reading a book which won an Anthony Award, was nominated for Minnesota Book Award and got tons of great reviews in the press.
Blood Hollow – Cover Copy
When the corpse of a teenage girl is discovered on a hillside three months after her disappearance on New Year’s Eve, all evidence points to her boyfriend, Solemn Winter Moon. Despite Solemn’s self-incriminating decision to go into hiding, Cork O’Connor, Aurora’s part-Irish, part-Ojibwe former sheriff, isn’t about to hang the crime on the kid, whom O’Connor is convinced is innocent. In an uphill battle to clear Solemn’s name, Cork encounters no shortage of adversity. Some he knows all too well small-town bigotry and bureaucracy foremost among them. What Cork isn’t prepared for is the emergence of a long-held resentment hailing from his own childhood. And when Solemn reappears, claiming to have seen a vision of Jesus Christ in Blood Hollow, the mystery becomes thornier than Cork could ever have anticipated. And that’s when the miracles start happening…
Blood Hollow – The Good
The writing was very good. Enough description to get you into the story, but not so much that it slows the story down. Good pacing. Great phrases like a sky “…the color of an old nickel.” Read the first two chapters and you will be able to feel the cold of a Minnesota snowstorm.
The location was perfect. For those who enjoyed the movie Fargo, this story has the same ‘small town’ feel to it. Everybody knows everybody. The characters, scenery descriptions and little details (McCullough Chain Saw, Sorel Boots, Minnetonka Moccasins, etc…) made me realize that William Kent Krueger isn’t just a visitor here. He knows this place, and he does a good job of transporting the reader there.
He also does a great job with his portrayal of the Ojibwe culture. Blood Hollow includes plenty of the Ojibwe language and customs. I can vouch for his accuracy, as I have family who are Ojibwe and live on the rez in Minnesota . Very well done. I wanted more!
Mr. Krueger has a knack for names. There were plenty of characters, but I never got them mixed up (Hey, JRR Tolkien, are you listening? Sauron/Saruman ring a bell? Oh wait, he’s dead. Sorry.) The protagonist’s name is “Cork” and there’s a “Solemn Winter Moon” and “Dot”… the list goes on. The last names of the townsfolk were particularly Minn-ee-soh-ten. “Soderberg”? I went to school with some Soderbergs…
The dynamics of the character relations were well done. The underlying tone of mistrust and prejudice between the townsfolk and the Ojibwe was a nice flavor. The miracles that occur and the problems they cause for the town add plenty of spice to the story.
Blood Hollow – The Bad
The plot was C.S.I. Aurora, MN. By that I mean linear, with the most meager of subplots. The entire storyline is a series of introducing new evidence pointing at a character as a potential suspect, then further investigation eliminates them as a suspect, and repeat until you swear that everyone in the whole town was involved and has some secret to hide.
This isn’t a mystery you will be figuring out on your own, the clues simply aren’t there. I read it passively, and tried not to guess where the story would go. I was just along for the ride, which I think you’ll find more enjoyable than the frustration of trying to solve the mystery before Cork does. Those looking for a Northwoods Sherlock Holmes story will be disappointed.
Cork O’Connor isn’t particular memorable for a main character. He has NO distinctive traits, and his family life is pretty emotionally sterile. He’s a bit like Sam Spade, only “over medium” instead of “hard boiled” and without the internal monologue. Cork is stoic, hard to read, and he goes light on the action. He’s an all-around-good-guy, and I mean that in a bad way. He needs a bad habit, or a patch over one eye, or a mysterious past that haunts him, or something to give him some depth.
Blood Hollow – The Upshot
Blood Hollow is a well-written, fast-paced crime story that takes place in a small mining range town in the northwoods of Minnesota. The story is flavored with small-town prejudice, miracles, and Ojibwe Culture. Light on the action and heavy on the investigation. Cross “Fargo” with “CSI” and you’re on the trail of a good read from a well-read author.