Tag Archives: William Kent Krueger

OMG, seriously

I am shocked, shocked, to find that it has been 10 weeks since my last blog post.  I knew it was a long time, but seriously?  Real life took precedence over literary life.

red sparrowSo let’s do a quickie catch-up.  Previously on Literary Lunchbox, I was in the midst of my reviews for the Edgar Best Novel nominees.  Not surprisingly, the Mystery Writers of America did not wait for my reviews to bestow their awards.   Nope.  Jason Matthews won Best First Novel for his amazing book, Red Sparrow.  My pick was Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterson.  Red Sparrow was #2.   In retrospect, I think MWA got it right.

ordinary-grace-200William Kent Krueger took home the Edgar for Best Novel for his luminous novel, Ordinary Grace.  When I left off reviewing, Krueger was #1 of the four I had reviewed.  I can’t give myself full marks for calling it in advance, though, because unreviewed was Louise Penny’s How the Light Gets In as well as Lori Roy’s  Until She Comes Home.

untilLori Roy is a very special author.  Her prose is beautiful, her stories engaging, characters are well-developed and fully human, and her books defy categorization.   Until She Comes Home is a mystery, and much more.  Still, I believe I would have ranked it below Ordinary Grace because Krueger did a wonderful job of luring me in, engaging me emotionally throughout.  With Home, I was always a bit of an observer.

lightBut I think there is a very real danger I might have put Louise Penny‘s How the Light Gets In at the top of the Lit Lunchbox ranking.  The book features the always-compelling Inspector Gamache, and life is very bleak, with his department disbanded and his beloved Jean-Guy Beauvoir addicted to pain pills and filled with hatred for his former mentor.   An investigation in Three Pines while hostile forces gather against Gamache and threaten the country leads to the inspector’s eventual, but shocking, triumph.  Yes, I have to admit – it’s probably 50/50 whether I would have called it for Ordinary Grace or for How the Light Gets In.

So let us draw a curtain across this confusion.  All six nominees for the Best Novel Edgar are well worth reading, in my opinion.  So go for it.  Similarly, there’s a lot to like about all the Best First Novel nominees… the only one I would have reservations about is The Resurrectionist.  (So read that last.)

 

 

Ordinary Grace getting well-deserved accolades

ordinary-grace-200I read and reviewed William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace almost a year ago, noting at that time that I hoped the book would receive the recognition it deserves.   And here it is now, nominated for the Best Novel Edgar.   Hooray!  For those who have read Krueger’s Cork O’Connor mystery series, this standalone will be a revelation.

The book begins with a framing device, as Frank Drum recalls the summer of 1961, when he was 13 years old. Just one page long, this prologue sets the tone for the story that follows, a tragic story filled with loss and anguish.  And then the story begins, first person, as it happens.

Frank’s father, a Methodist minister, is a rock upon whom many lean. His mother dreams of a better, more fulfilling life for Frank’s sister Ariel, who is a talented pianist, accepted to Juilliard in the fall. And his younger brother, Jake, is the tag-along kid with a stutter under pressure. What unfolds is shocking: Ariel disappears. When her body is found in the river, suspicion lights on first one, then another of the town’s inhabitants, and Frank learns that many people are not as they seem, including Ariel herself. What Frank learns about betrayal, his family and his own capacity for understanding and forgiveness is astonishingly moving. Read the book for the mystery – it’s a good one. But you’ll remember it for the insights it offers and the emotions it evokes.

Let’s compare to the other nominees!

the humansMatt Haig’s The Humans is sci-fi, Ordinary Grace is a literary mystery.  The Humans is fun, while Ordinary Grace is real and sometimes painful.

sandrineSandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook keeps the reader guessing, but so does Ordinary Grace.   Both books are character-driven.   But Krueger’s book is beautiful, and Cook just strives for beauty.

best5Finally, Ian Rankin’s Standing in Another Man’s Grave.  You know I love me some Rebus.  The book is tightly plotted and also big on complex characters.  But Ordinary Grace has staying power.  Of the two, it’s the one you’ll remember long after you read it.

 

mwa_logoLunchbox Rankings: Best Novel

  1. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
  2. Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin
  3. Sandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook
  4. The Humans by Matt Haig

Only two more books to go!  Don’t think I haven’t noticed that so far, each one I review moves to the top of the ranking.   Coincidence?  Fate?  We’ll see.

Ordinary Grace a mystery with grace and sadness

graceI’ve enjoyed William Kent Krueger‘s Cork O’Connor mystery series, thirteen mysteries featuring a former Chicago cop turned small-town Minnesota sheriff.  The books are well-written, compellingly atmospheric, and feature strong characterization and plotting.  With Ordinary Grace, Krueger has elevated his writing even further.

The book begins in the voice of Frank Drum, recalling the summer of 1961, when he was 13 years old.  Just one page long, this prologue sets the tone for the story that follows, a tragic story and one filled with loss and anguish.

It begins:  All the dying that summer began with the death of a child, a boy with golden hair and thick glasses, killed on the railroad tracks outside New Bremen, Minnesota, sliced into pieces by a thousand tons of steel speeding across the prairie toward South Dakota.  And ends:  In the end maybe that’s what the summer was about.  I was no older than Bobby and didn’t understand such things hen.  I’ve come four decades since but I’m not sure that even now I fully understand.  I still spend a lot of time thinking about the events of that summer.  About the terrible price of wisdom.  The awful grace of God.

And then the story begins, first person, as it happens to 13-year-old Frank Drum.  His father, a Methodist minister, is a rock upon whom many lean.  His mother dreams of a better, more fulfilling life for Frank’s sister Ariel, who is a talented pianist, accepted to Juilliard in the fall.  And his younger brother, Jake, is the tag-along kid with a stutter under pressure.  What unfolds is shocking:  Ariel disappears.  When her body is found in the river, suspicion lights on first one, then another of the town’s inhabitants, and Frank learns that many people are not as they seem, including Ariel herself.  What Frank learns about betrayal, his family and his own capacity for understanding and forgiveness is astonishingly moving.  Read the book for the mystery – it’s a good one.  But you’ll remember it for the  insights it offers and the emotions it evokes.

Ordinary Grace reminds me, in many ways, of The Round House by Louise Erdich (Lunchbox review here).  Both have the framing story of a recollection by a grown man of events that occurred many years in the past.  Both feature a shocking crime and its repercussions.  And both are, at heart, a tragic coming-of-age story.  The Round House won the National Book Award for fiction in 2012.  I can only hope Ordinary Grace receives the accolades it deserves!