Book Order by Series

Cork O’Connor Series in Order

Cork OConnor Series in Order

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Cork O’Connor is a mystery series written by William Kent Krueger, first published in 1998. The series has 18 books, with more to come.

It follows the life of Corcoran “Cork” O’Connor, a former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota. He is half Irish and half Anishinaabe Indian. Cork is resentful as a result of the collapse of his marriage and the alienation from his children. He is also angry that he is no longer a sheriff, and he conceals his problems with excessive caffeine and nicotine. He used to be a police officer on Chicago’s south side, so it takes a great deal to surprise him. Yet, the gruesome murder of a judge and a disappearance draw him into a case of corruption and drama.

This story is rich with native culture and mysticism. This all adds to the mystery of an already complicated case. Cork’s personal difficulties do not exactly help. He is not your perfect hero, although he means well and is an honorable man. Cork is a lovable guy, despite his weaknesses and continuous self-criticism. He is driven to do the right thing and be the greatest father he can be to his children. 

The characters do not stay static, and you will witness them evolve as the story unfolds (which is why we recommend reading the books in the correct order). Connor has an uncanny ability to perceive what others don’t, and he will follow a case despite it being deemed a foregone outcome.

Books in order 

  1. Iron Lake (1998)
  2. Boundary Waters (1999)
  3. Purgatory Ridge (2001)
  4. Blood Hollow (2004)
  5. Mercy Falls (2005)
  6. Copper River (2006)
  7. Thunder Bay (2007)
  8. Red Knife (2008)
  9. Heaven’s Keep (2009)
  10. Vermilion Drift (2010)
  11. Northwest Angle (2011)
  12. Trickster’s Point (2012)
  13. Tamarack County (2013)
  14. Windigo Island (2014)
  15. Manitou Canyon (2016)
  16. Sulfur Springs (2017)
  17. Desolation Mountain (2018)
  18. Lightning Strike (2021)
  19. Fox Creek (2022)

Similar authors

  • Hillary Rodham Clinton’s State of Terror is a geopolitical thriller. It’s about the race to keep nuclear devices from being detonated in American cities.
  • C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett follows a game warden and his family. It takes place during a changing political climate in a small town.
  • Amor Towles’s The Lincoln Highway follows a crew of kids who hit the road in search of a better future.

See also: Clifton Chronicles Books in Order.

Most recommended books of the series

  1. Lightning Strike (Cork O’Connor, #0)  (4.31 Goodreads score)
  2. Thunder Bay (Cork O’Connor, #7) (4.22 Goodreads score)
  3. Northwest Angle (Cork O’Connor, #11)  (4.21 Goodreads score)
  4. Vermilion Drift (Cork O’Connor, #10) (4.19 Goodreads score)
  5. Heaven’s Keep (Cork O’Connor, #9) (4.18 Goodreads score)

Awards

In 2005 and 2006, William Kent Krueger won back-to-back Anthony Awards for Best Novel.

Upcoming releases in the series

Book number 19 in the series is called “Jawbone Creek.” It will be out in the fall of 2022.


Book summaries

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Iron Lake (1998)

Cork O’Connor, the former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota, is having difficulty dealing with the marital meltdown that has separated him from his children. Part Irish, part Anishinaabe Indian, he is getting by on heavy doses of caffeine, nicotine, and guilt.Once a cop on Chicago’s South Side, there’s not much that can shock him. But when the town’s judge is brutally murdered, and a young Eagle Scout is reported missing, Cork takes on this complicated and perplexing case of conspiracy, corruption, and a small-town secret that hits painfully close to home.


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Boundary Waters (1999)

The Quetico-Superior Wilderness: more than two million acres of forest, white-water rapids, and uncharted islands on the Canadian/American border. Somewhere in the heart of this unforgiving territory, a young woman named Shiloh—a country-western singer at the height of her fame—has disappeared.Her father arrives in Aurora, Minnesota, to hire Cork O’Connor to find his daughter. Cork joins a search party that includes an ex-con, two FBI agents, and a ten-year-old boy. Others are on Shiloh’s trail as well—men hired not just to find her, but to kill her.As the expedition ventures deeper into the wilderness, strangers descend on Aurora, threatening to spill blood on the town’s snowy streets. Meanwhile, out on the Boundary Waters, winter falls hard. Cork’s team of searchers loses contact with civilization, and like the brutal winds of a Minnesota blizzard, death—violent and sudden—stalks them.


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Purgatory Ridge (2001)

Not far from Aurora, Minnesota (population 3,752), lies an ancient expanse of great white pines, sacred to the Anishinaabe tribe. When an explosion kills the night watchman at wealthy industrialist Karl Lindstrom’s nearby lumber mill, it’s obvious where suspicion will fall. Former sheriff Cork O’Connor agrees to help investigate, but he has mixed feelings about the case. For one thing, he is part Anishinaabe. For another, his wife, a lawyer, represents the tribe.Meanwhile, near Lindstrom’s lakeside home, a reclusive shipwreck survivor and his sidekick are harboring their own resentment of the industrialist. And it soon becomes clear to Cork that danger, both at home and in Aurora, lurks around every corner…


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Blood Hollow (2004)

When the body of a beautiful high school student is discovered on a hillside four months after her disappearance on New Year’s Eve, all evidence points to her boyfriend, local bad boy Solemn Winter Moon. Despite Solemn’s self-incriminating decision to go into hiding, Cork O’Connor isn’t about to hang the crime on a kid he’s convinced is innocent.In an uphill battle to clear Solemn’s name, Cork encounters no shortage of adversity. Some—like bigotry and bureaucracy—he knows all too well. What Cork isn’t prepared for is the emergence of a long-held resentment 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.


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Mercy Falls (2005)

Back in the saddle as sheriff of Tamarack County, Cork O’Connor is lured to the nearby Ojibwe reservation on what appears to be a routine call—only to become the target of sniper fire. Soon after, he’s called to investigate a mutilated body found perched above the raging waters of Mercy Falls. The victim is Eddie Jacoby, a Chicago businessman negotiating an unpopular contract between his management firm and the local Indian casino.Sparks fly when the wealthy Jacoby family hires a beautiful private investigator to consult on the case. But once Cork discovers an old and passionate tie between one of the Jacoby’s sons and his own wife, Jo, he begins to suspect that dark, personal motives lurk behind recent events. Murder, greed, sex, and jealousy hide around every corner in this maze of danger. But somewhere beneath the turbulent Mercy Falls lies the truth—and Cork is determined to find it.


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Copper River (2006)

Desperately avoiding the professional hit men who have already put a bullet in his leg, Cork finds sanctuary outside the small Michigan town of Bodine. But while he’s hiding out in an old resort owned by his cousin Jewell DuBois, a bitter widow with a fourteen-year-old son named Ren, the body of a young girl surfaces along the banks of the Copper River. And then, soon after, another teenager vanishes.Instead of thwarting his assassins, Cork focuses on tracking a ring of killers who prey on innocent children—desperate to catch them before anyone else falls victim. But as his deadly followers close in, Cork realizes he’s made an error any good man might make—and it may be his last.


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Thunder Bay (2007)

Happy and content in his hometown of Aurora, Minnesota, Cork O’Connor has left his badge behind and is ready for a life of relative peace, setting up shop as a private investigator. But his newfound state of calm is soon interrupted when Henry Meloux, an Ojibwe medicine man and Cork’s spiritual adviser, makes a request: Will Cork find the son that Henry fathered long ago?With little to go on, Cork uses his investigative skills to locate Henry Wellington, a wealthy and reclusive industrialist living in Thunder Bay, Ontario. When a murder attempt is made on old Meloux’s life, all clues point north across the border. But why would Wellington want his father dead? This question takes Cork on a journey through time as he unravels the story of Meloux’s 1920s adventure in the ore-rich wilderness of Canada, where his love for a beautiful woman, far outside his culture, led him into a trap of treachery, greed, and murder.


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Red Knife (2008)

When the daughter of a powerful businessman dies as a result of her meth addiction, her father, strong-willed and brutal Buck Reinhardt, vows revenge. His target is the Red Boyz, a gang of Ojibwe youths accused of supplying the girl’s fatal drug dose. When the head of the Red Boyz and his wife are murdered in a way that suggests execution, the Ojibwe gang mobilizes, and the citizens of Tamarack County brace themselves for war, white against red.Both sides look to Cork O’Connor, a man of mixed heritage, to uncover the truth behind the murders. A former sheriff, Cork has lived, fought, and nearly died to keep the small-town streets and his family safe from harm. He knows that violence is never a virtue, but he believes that it’s sometimes a necessary response to the evil that men do. Racing to find answers before the bloodshed spreads, Cork himself becomes involved in the darkest of deeds. As the unspeakable unfolds in the remote and beautiful place he calls home, Cork is forced to confront the horrific truth: violence is a beast that cannot be contained.


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Heaven’s Keep (2009)

Months after the tragedy, two women show up on Cork’s doorstep with evidence that the pilot of Jo’s plane was not the man he claimed to be. It may not be definitive proof, but it’s a ray of light in the darkness. Agreeing to investigate, Cork travels to Wyoming, where he battles the interference of local law enforcement who may be on the take, the open hostility of the Northern Arapaho, who have much to lose if the truth is known, and the continuing attempts on his life by assassins who shadow his every move. At the center of all the danger and deception lies the possibility that Jo’s disappearance was not the end of her, that somewhere along the labyrinthine path of his search, maybe even in the broad shadow of Heaven’s Keep itself, Cork will find her alive and waiting for him.


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Vermilion Drift (2010)

When the Department of Energy puts an underground iron mine on its short list of potential sites for storage of nuclear waste, a barrage of protest erupts in Tamarack County, Minnesota, and Cork is hired as a security consultant.Deep in the mine during his first day on the job, Cork stumbles across a secret room that contains the remains of six murder victims. Five appear to be nearly half a century old—connected to what the media once dubbed “The Vanishings,” a series of unsolved disappearances in the summer of 1964, when Cork’s father was sheriff in Tamarack County. But the sixth has been dead less than a week. What’s worse, two of the bodies—including the most recent victim—were killed using Cork’s own gun, one handed down to him from his father.As Cork searches for answers, he must dig into his own past and that of his father, a well-respected man who harbored a ghastly truth. Time is running out, however. New threats surface, and unless Cork can unravel the tangled thread of clues quickly, more death is sure to come.


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Northwest Angle (2011)

During a houseboat vacation on the remote Lake of the Woods, a violent gale sweeps through unexpectedly, stranding Cork and his daughter, Jenny, on a devastated island where the wind has ushered in a force far darker and more deadly than any storm.Amid the wreckage, Cork and Jenny discover the body of a teenage girl. She wasn’t killed by the storm, however; she’d been bound and tortured before she died. Nearby, underneath a tangle of branches, they also find a baby boy, hungry and dehydrated, but still very much alive. Powerful forces intent on securing the child pursue them to the isolated Northwest Angle, where it’s impossible to tell who among the residents is in league with the devil, but Cork understands that to save his family he must solve the puzzle of this mysterious child whom death follows like a shadow.


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Trickster’s Point (2012)

Cork O’Connor is sitting in the shadow of a towering monolith known as Trickster’s Point, deep in the Minnesota wilderness. With him is Jubal Little, who is favored to become the first Native American elected governor of Minnesota and who is slowly dying with an arrow through his heart. Although the men have been bow-hunting, a long-standing tradition among these two friends, this is no hunting accident. The arrow turns out to be one of Cork’s, and he becomes the primary suspect in the murder. He understands full well that he’s been set up. As he works to clear his name and track the real killer, he remembers his long, complex relationship with the tough kid who would grow up to become a professional football player, a populist politician, and the lover of the first woman to whom Cork ever gave his heart. Jubal was known by many for his passion, his loyalty, and his ambition. Only Cork knows that he was capable of murder.


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Tamarack County (2013)

During a blizzard one bitter winter night, just days before Christmas, the car belonging to the wife of a retired local judge is discovered abandoned on a rural county road in Tamarack County. After days of fruitless searching, there is little hope that she’ll be found alive, if she’s found at all.Cork O’Connor, the ex-sheriff of Tamarack County, notices small things about the woman’s disappearance that disturb him. When the beloved pet dog of a friend is brutally killed and beheaded, he begins to see a startling pattern in these and other recent dark occurrences in the area. And after his own son is brutally attacked and nearly killed, Cork understands that someone is spinning a deadly web in Tamarack County. At its center is a murder more than twenty years old, for which an innocent man may have been convicted. Cork remembers the case only too well. He was the deputy in charge of the investigation that sent the man to prison.With the darkest days of the year at hand, the storms of winter continue to isolate Tamarack County. Somewhere behind the blind of all that darkness and drifting snow, a vengeful force is at work. And Cork has only hours to stop it before his family and friends pay the ultimate price for the sins of others.


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Windigo Island (2014)

When the body of a teenage Ojibwe girl washes up on the shore of an island in Lake Superior, the residents of the nearby Bad Bluff reservation whisper that it was the work of a deadly mythical beast, the Windigo, or a vengeful spirit called Michi Peshu. Such stories have been told by the Ojibwe people for generations, but they don’t explain how the girl and her friend, Mariah Arceneaux, disappeared a year ago. At the request of the Arceneaux family, private investigator Cork O’Connor takes on the case.But on the Bad Bluff reservation, nobody’s talking. Still, Cork puts enough information together to find a possible trail. He learns that the old port city of Duluth is a modern-day center for sex trafficking of vulnerable women, many of whom are young Native Americans. As the investigation deepens, so does the danger.Yet Cork holds tight to his higher purpose—his vow to find Mariah, an innocent fifteen-year-old girl whose family is desperate to get her back. With only the barest hope of saving her from men whose darkness rivals that of the legendary Windigo, Cork prepares for an epic battle that will determine whether it will be fear, or love, that truly conquers all.


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Manitou Canyon (2016)

Since the violent deaths of his wife, father, and best friend all occurred in previous Novembers, Cork O’Connor has always considered it to be the cruelest of months. Yet, his daughter has chosen this dismal time of year in which to marry, and Cork is understandably uneasy.His concern comes to a head when a man camping in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness goes missing. As the official search ends with no recovery in sight, Cork is asked by the man’s family to stay on the case. Although the wedding is fast approaching and the weather looks threatening, he accepts and returns to that vast wilderness.As the sky darkens and the days pass, Cork’s family anxiously awaits his return. Finally certain that something has gone terribly wrong, they fly by floatplane to the lake where the missing man was last seen. Locating Cork’s campsite, they find no sign of him. They do find blood, however. A lot of it.With an early winter storm on the horizon, it’s a race against time as Cork’s family struggles to uncover the mystery behind these disappearances. Little do they know, not only is Cork’s life on the line, but so are the lives of hundreds of others.


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Sulfur Springs (2017)

On the Fourth of July, just as fireworks are about to go off in Aurora, Minnesota, Cork O’Connor and his new bride Rainy Bisonette receive a desperate phone call from Rainy’s son, Peter. The connection is terrible but before the line goes dead, they hear Peter confess to the murder of someone named Rodriquez.The following morning, Cork and Rainy fly to southern Arizona, where Peter has been working as a counselor in a well-known drug rehab center. When they arrive, they learn that Peter was fired six months earlier and hasn’t been heard from since. So they head to the little desert town of Sulfur Springs where Peter has been receiving his mail. But no one in Sulfur Springs seems to know him. They do, however, seem to recognize the name Rodriguez. Apparently, the Rodriguez family is one of the cartels controlling everything illegal that crosses the border from Mexico.As they gather scraps of information about Peter, Cork and Rainy are warned time and again that there is a war going on along the border. “Trust no one in Coronado County,” is the most common piece of advice they receive, and Cork doesn’t have to be told twice. To him, Arizona is alien country. The relentless heat, the absence of water and big trees and shade all feel nightmarish to him, as does his growing sense that Rainy might know more about what’s going on than she’s willing to admit in this fresh, exhilarating, and white-knuckle mystery starring one of the greatest heroes of fiction.


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Desolation Mountain (2018)

To Stephen O’Connor, Hamlet’s dour observation is more than just words. All his life, he has had visions of tragedies to come. When he experiences the vision of a great bird shot from the sky, he knows something terrible is about to happen. The crash of a private plane on Desolation Mountain in a remote part of the Iron Lake Reservation, which kills a United States senator and most of her family, confirms Stephen’s worst fears.Stephen joins his father, Cork O’Connor and a few Ojibwe men from the nearby Iron Lake reservation to sift through the smoldering wreckage when the FBI arrives and quickly assumes control of the situation. As he initiates his own probe, Cork stumbles upon a familiar face in Bo Thorson, a private security consultant whose unnamed clients have hired him to look quietly into the cause of the crash. The men agree to join forces in their investigation, but soon Cork begins to wonder if Thorson’s loyalties lie elsewhere.


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Lightning Strike (2021)

Aurora is a small town nestled in the ancient forest alongside the shores of Minnesota’s Iron Lake. In the summer of 1963, it is the whole world to twelve-year-old Cork O’Connor, its rhythms as familiar as his own heartbeat. But when Cork stumbles upon the body of a man he revered hanging from a tree in an abandoned logging camp, it is the first in a series of events that will cause him to question everything he took for granted about his hometown, his family, and himself.Cork’s father, Liam O’Connor, is Aurora’s sheriff and it is his job to confirm that the man’s death was the result of suicide, as all the evidence suggests. In the shadow of his father’s official investigation, Cork begins to look for answers on his own. Together, father and son face the ultimate test of choosing between what their heads tell them is true and what their hearts know is right.


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Fox Creek (2022)

The ancient Ojibwe healer Henry Meloux has had a vision of his death. As he walks the Northwoods in solitude, he tries to prepare himself peacefully for the end of his long life. But peace is destined to elude him as hunters fill the woods seeking a woman named Dolores Morriseau, a stranger who had come to the healer for shelter and the gift of his wisdom.Meloux guides this stranger and his great niece, Cork O’Connor’s wife, to safety deep into the Boundary Waters, his home for more than a century. On the last journey he may ever take into this beloved land, Meloux must do his best to outwit the deadly mercenaries who follow.Meanwhile, in Aurora, Cork works feverishly to identify the hunters and the reason for their relentless pursuit, but he has little to go on. Desperate, Cork begins tracking the killers but his own skills as a hunter are severely tested by nightfall and a late season snowstorm. He knows only too well that with each passing hour time is running out. But his fiercest enemy in this deadly game of cat and mouse may well be his own deep self-doubt about his ability to save those he loves.

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