This story by regional author William Kent Krueger takes place on Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota. The date is July 4th, 1999. A rare weather system called a derecho produces straight line winds of over one hundred miles per hour in a broad swath across the lake. The result is the great Boundary Waters blow-down.
The story focuses on the Cork O’Conner family. Cork and his daughter Jenny are out on the lake when the storm hits. Cork maneuvers his launch in the lee of an island and they ride out the storm, then seek shelter on the island. While on the island, Jenny stumbles across a rude shelter inhabited by a young woman (dead) and an infant (alive). While on the island they are confronted by a man who is clearly searching for the inhabitants of the shelter and who is armed with a rifle. By the skin of their teeth, Cork and Jenny escape the rifleman and return to their resort with the infant in hand.
Since Lake of the Woods straddles the US/Canada border, someone with intimate knowledge of the lake and a fast boat can move goods between countries. Soon the O’Conners learn the rifleman at the island is likely Noah Smalldog, a rogue member of the Ojibwe band who is involved in smuggling.
Following reports of a fast boat docking at night at Stump Island, the O’Conners explore the island. There they meet members of the Church of the Seven Trumpets, a cult building a citadel on the island against end times which the Seven Trumpet folks say are coming soon. The O’Conners find themselves unwelcome and are run off the island.
In the meantime, Jenny falls in love with the infant and is fearful that Noah Smalldog is searching for the child. The story unfolds not unlike a Nancy Drew mystery, with appropriate twists and turns. Who is Noah Smalldog really? What are those Seven Trumpets people up to on Stump Island? Will Jenny be able to keep little Rabbit (as they call the baby)? The tale combines a blend of Christian and Ojibwe faith and philosophy. William Kent Krueger pens a great story and tells it well. The pacing is good and there is plenty to keep one’s attention. Did I want to read on? I sure did.