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The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger
Historical fiction

The River We Remember

Repeat author

William Kent Krueger is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include This Tender Land.

by William Kent Krueger

Quick take

A midwestern town descends into chaos after a shocking murder in this lyrical tale from the author of This Tender Land.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Rural_update


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Whodunit



On Memorial Day, as the people of Jewel, Minnesota gather to remember and honor the sacrifice of so many sons in the wars of the past, the half-clothed body of wealthy landowner Jimmy Quinn is found floating in the Alabaster River, dead from a shotgun blast. Investigation of the murder falls to Sheriff Brody Dern, a highly decorated war hero who still carries the physical and emotional scars from his military service. Even before Dern has the results of the autopsy, vicious rumors begin to circulate that the killer must be Noah Bluestone, a Native American WWII veteran who has recently returned to Jewel with a Japanese wife. As suspicions and accusations mount and the town teeters on the edge of more violence, Dern struggles not only to find the truth of Quinn’s murder but also put to rest the demons from his own past.

Caught up in the torrent of anger that sweeps through Jewel are a war widow and her adolescent son, the intrepid publisher of the local newspaper, an aging deputy, and a crusading female lawyer, all of whom struggle with their own tragic histories and harbor secrets that Quinn’s death threatens to expose.

Both a complex, spellbinding mystery and a masterful portrait of mid century American life, The River We Remember is an unflinching look at the wounds left by the wars we fight abroad and at home, a moving exploration of the ways in which we seek to heal, and a testament to the enduring power of the stories we tell about the places we call home.

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Content warning

This book contains scenes that depict sexual assault and child abuse.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The River We Remember.

Why I love it

Living in a big city can make it easy to romanticize small town life. What could possibly go wrong at a quaint Memorial Day picnic? Or while spending a warm fall day lounging by a river? But in his latest atmospheric mystery, William Kent Krueger—author of 2019 BOTY finalist, This Tender Land—proves that even the most bucolic of towns can be haunted by its buried secrets.

Sheriff Brody Dern knows the real problem he’s facing isn’t the dead body that has been discovered, or even the potential murderer on the loose—it’s the dangerous and violent rumors swirling around Jewel, Minnesota, the small town he serves. While there are many people who had quarrels with wealthy Jimmy Quinn, most accusing fingers quickly point to Native American veteran Noah Bluestone and Kyoko, his Japanese wife, as the murderers. And tensions begin to rise as old wounds reopen during the sheriff’s investigation. I was pulled heart-first into Brody’s quest for the truth (and the layered family histories he uncovers) while fighting the strong currents of public opinion.

The characters of this small town manage to embody a searing depth of pain, but also an inspiring determination to survive. The River We Remember is a fascinating mystery that goes beyond just the simple “who” and “why,” asking the reader to question larger themes of humanity and community. It’s an evocative read that will stick with you long after all the secrets are laid bare.

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Member ratings (6,105)

  • Christina D.


    I’ve never read such a rich story so full of moving interactions-esp in the last third of the story. This would make a beautiful movie. The characters really work from bud to full bloom in the end.

  • Shannon B.

    Mountain Ranch , CA

    Krueger takes you on an adventure that you cannot wait to find out what will happen next. Lots of deep issues with war hero’s PTSD, racism & sexual assault, but also a story of redemption. 2 thumbs up

  • Odette E.

    Broomfield, CO

    My favorite of Krueger’s so far. A complicated tale of justice and morality. How quickly we change our boundaries of right and wrong, good versus evil. The influence of love, hate and trauma are real.

  • MaryBeth M.

    Columbus, OH

    What a gorgeous and sad portrait of life on the plains in a small town dealing with racism and post war depression. I found this incredibly similar to To Kill A Mockingbird and my heart ached for Noah

  • Mary B.

    Manchester, MO

    Willliam Kent Krueger’s description of rural Minnesota in the 1950s is beautiful and haunting, as are all of the characters in this tale of love and coming to terms with a difficult past. Loved it!