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by William Kent Krueger
Atria, August 2017
320 pages
ISBN: 150114734X

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Cork O'Connor is asked by his new wife to help her son in this 16th in the series. His previous work, both as sheriff and as a private investigator, has been in and around his home near the boundary waters between Minnesota and Canada. This time, he heads to Arizona and a different sort of boundary to help locate Rainy's son, Peter, who made a cryptic phone call and then disappeared along the border between Arizona and Mexico. As the reader might expect, before he is done Cork has uncovered trafficking into the U.S. of both humans and drugs.

Krueger writes vivid descriptions of the land and especially the heat in southern Arizona, but he doesn't transport the reader as completely as in his writing about the northern boundary. However, the book's plot has more gravitas than usual as it deals with important issues related to border crossings. Cork understands both sides of the illegal crossings, and Krueger doesn't really take any clear political stance in the book. He does take a humanitarian stance, however, reminding us through the fate of Peter's charges that it is real human beings who suffer because of political decisions.

Another thread through the book is one of trust and family; who can be trusted and what does "family" mean. Cork has no real relationship with Peter, but Peter is the son of his wife, so is he family? Peter's father is on the opposite side of the legal divide in drug trafficking, so is their relationship as father and son more important than those who will be hurt by those drugs, or is it less? Many similar questions about who should be trusted and why are raised, with the conclusion of the book leaving readers to form their own opinions.

SULFUR SPRINGS is full of flawed characters, most of whom try hard to live in congruence with their own values. The reader will not share the values of all of the characters, since real-life complexity plays out in their differences. However, by the time the violence is over and the true villains are identified, there is an opportunity to view the troubles along the U.S./Mexico border with a fresh eye.

Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in rural Wyoming.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, October 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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