Rating: 4 out of 5.

4.5 stars

This is a touching, well-written historical fiction mystery/thriller set in 1963 Minnesota. Twelve-year-old Cork O’Connor has a good life. He is half Native American (on his mother’s side) and half Irish (on his father’s side) and is being raised to honor both heritages. His small town of Aurora is near a reservation, and tension is high between the Native Americans and white residents that live in the area.

Cork stumbles across the body of a man he reveres hanging from a tree. His father, Liam O’Connor, is Aurora’s sheriff and also has jurisdiction over the reservation. Initially the death is ruled a suicide, but people that knew the man insist he would never kill himself. As Liam continues investigating the death, Cork starts asking questions of his own. Cork follows the trail of clues, and in doing so uncovers secrets of his hometown that make him question everything he has known to be true.

This book is beautifully written and is effortless to read. The characters are well-formed and the author does a fantastic job of showing their growth throughout the book. The book touches on difficult subjects, including murder, prejudice, domestic violence and substance abuse. Each topic is handled with sensitivity and honesty, including the fact that sometimes there are no easy answers. I’ve been a fan of this author since I read Ordinary Grace and plan to read the rest of his books.