Review: PI Cork O'Connor is hired by a local mine operation to look into threats the company has received — and hired separately by the mine's owner to look for his missing sister — in Vermilion Drift, the tenth mystery in this series by William Kent Krueger.
The Kavanaugh family has been running the Great North Mining Company since its founding in 1887. Max Kavanaugh, the current owner and CEO, has been approached by the federal government to consider using one of its played out mines — Vermilion One — as a potential site to store nuclear waste. The local community, however, is up in arms over the plan, and has been protesting outside the mine. More ominously, threatening notes have been showing up in various places on mine property. Kavanaugh brings Cork in to look into the threats, but also has a personal assignment for him: his sister, Lauren, has been missing for over a week. Though not unusual for her to take off unexpectedly, Kavanaugh is worried — not enough to bring the police in yet, but enough to hire Cork. When a supposedly blocked off passage — or "drift", in mining vernacular — in Vermilion One is explored, Cork discovers a small area in which skeletal remains of five people are found … plus the body of someone far more recently killed. The remains almost certainly include those of the "Vanishings", a group of young women who disappeared off a Ojibwe reservation almost 50 years earlier … a case his father, Liam, investigated as sheriff of the county.
Vermilion Drift is a multi-faceted thriller that works on many levels. Since it is revealed early in the book, it is not giving too much away to say that Lauren Kavanaugh is recent dead body found in the Vermilion One drift, giving readers not only a whodunit to solve, but also a whydunit: Why was she placed there among the victims of a cold case crime? Then there's the cold case itself, with Liam O'Connor's connection. Cork is dismayed when he's told by Henry Meloux that, "[y]our father was one of those who knew about that pit. Your father knew there was another way into the mine." What was Liam's involvement with the Vanishings that made it necessary to keep it hidden?
As to Henry Meloux himself, he's one of those characters that makes a series memorable. Meloux is a member of the Grand Medicine Society, one of the Midewiwin, a Mide, someone to whom Cork goes to for advice. Much of what Meloux says is cryptic, but relevant. Consider this exchange between Cork and Meloux:
"I need answers."
"No, you want answers," Meloux said. "Need is a different animal."
"What are you hiding? What are you all hiding?"
Their eyes lay on Cork like winter stones.
"I'll find the truth, Henry, wherever it's hidden."
"The truth is not hidden, Corcoran O'Connor. It has never been hidden. You simply are not yet ready to see it."
The conclusion to Vermilion Drift, and the manner in which closure it brought to both the current and cold case murders, is both unique and entirely unexpected. With its intricate plot and richly drawn characters, this is truly a superior novel of suspense, and not one to be missed.
Acknowledgment: Simon & Schuster provided a copy of Vermilion Drift for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Atria Books (Hardcover), September 2009
ISBN-13: 9781416556763; ISBN-10: 1416556761
Atria Books (Hardcover), August 2011
ISBN-13: 9781439153956; ISBN-10: 1439153957
Location(s) referenced in Vermilion Drift: Minnesota
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Vermilion Drift by William Kent Krueger — A Cork O'Connor Mystery
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: September 2010
List Price: $25.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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