A Book Spy Review: ‘Lightning Strike’ by William Kent Krueger


What events helped shape Cork O’Connor into the beloved character that has starred in seventeen previous New York Times bestselling novels? To answer that question, author William Kent Krueger takes readers back to the beginning with this powerful prequel to his mega-popular franchise.

Set in the summer of 1963, Cork O’Connor, son of legendary Tamarack County Sherif Liam O’Connor, comes across a dead body while hiking in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest. Big John Manydeeds, a family friend to the O’Connors, was rumored to be struggling before his apparent suicide. He was, after all, a former alcoholic who recently fell off the wagon, among a host of other issues the man was facing. But did he actually hang himself in the forest? The evidence certainly suggests so, and initially, that’s how Liam sees the situation too. But for 12-year-old Cork, things are less clear.

Taking matters into his own hands, Cork goes poking around in his free time, and it doesn’t take long for him to become convinced that he’s found a clue suggesting Big John was murdered. The larger problem for him is getting his father to believe that as well, and as the two set out together in search of answers, Kruger masterfully weaves in a number of surprises that’ll hold readers on the edge of their seats . . . but also leave them with a greater sense of who Cork is, and what drives him moving forward.

In a star-studded lineup of bestselling authors writing under the Atria Books imprint at Simon & Schuster, William Kent Krueger continues to build his case for the most talented of the bunch. While he’s certainly flashed his breathtaking prose and sheer writing ability before—most notably with his Edgar-winning novel Ordinary Grace and the following companion book, This Tender Land—Kruger has never flexed quite this hard with his long-running franchise. To simply call Lighting Strike a mystery novel feels wrong, given the number of themes and issues (many of which are still relevant today) that are touched on. Yet, at its core, that’s exactly what Krueger delivers: a truly fascinating mystery that, in many ways, lays the foundation for who Cork inevitably becomes moving forward. That coming-of-age story, combined with the bond forged between father and son as they team up in a quest for truth—at a time when two sides both want to blame the other—creates a moving and poignant narrative that’s impossible to look away from.

Lighting Stike is a brilliantly plotted, deeply emotional mystery that opens strong, building more intensity with each passing page. This is William Kent Krueger at his best, and the perfect spot for new readers to enter the series.

Book Details

Author: William Kent Krueger
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1982128682
Series: Cork O’Connor
Release Date: August 24, 2021
Real Book Spy Rating: 8.75/10


Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. Additionally, he co-hosts ThrillerTalk, a new podcast with K.J. Howe. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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