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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

Excellent choice

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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

    Rural

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Whodunit

    Whodunit

Synopsis

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.
The River We Remember

PROLOGUE

The Alabaster river cuts diagonally across Black Earth County, Minnesota, a crooked course like a long crack in a china plate. Flowing out of Sioux Lake, it runs seventy miles before crossing the border into Iowa south of Jewel, the county seat. It’s a lovely river filled with water that’s only slightly silted, making it the color of weak tea. Most folks who’ve grown up in Black Earth County have swum in the river, fished its pools, picnicked on its banks. Except in spring, when it’s prone to flooding, they think of it as an old friend. On quiet nights when the moon is full or nearly so and the surface of the Alabaster is mirror-still and glows pure white in the dark bottomland, to stand on a hillside and look down at this river is to fall in love.

With people, we fall in love too easily, it seems, and too easily fall out of love. But with the land it’s different. We abide much. We can pour our sweat and blood, our very hearts into a piece of earth and get nothing in return but fields of hail-crushed soybean plants or drought-withered cornstalks or fodder for a plague of locusts, and still we love this place enough to die for it. Or kill. In Black Earth County, people understand these things.

If you visit the Alabaster at sunrise or sunset, you’re likely to see the sudden small explosions of water where fish are feeding. Although there are many kinds of fish who make the Alabaster their home, the most aggressive are channel catfish. They’re mudsuckers, bottom feeders, river vultures, the worst kind of scavengers. Channel cats will eat anything.

This is the story of how they came to eat Jimmy Quinn.

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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 (9,705)

  • Gail M.

    Bessemer, MI

    Krueger never disappoints me. I have read every one of his books. His characters are so well thought out that you’d swear they’re real. Every mystery is woven with people, feelings, memories, & time❤️

  • Holly L.

    Algona, IA

    I ❤️ anything written by WKK! A story of growing up living in the Midwest and the prejudices there. When the most disliked man in the county is murdered, a small town cop needs to find who did it. ❤️

  • Hannah T.

    Anchorage, AK

    I fell into this story with an earnest desire to learn the details of each character’s journey, their hauntings, their heartaches. The resolve wasn’t what I’d hoped for, but life is rarely happy-ended

  • Allison A.

    Prosper, TX

    One of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. I didn’t want it to end, but the way it ended leaves you feeling complete. The characters each had a purpose and you became engrossed in them.

  • Josh O.

    Arvada, CO

    Wow!!! Amazing. War does not only touch those who are fighting. It stays with soldiers and they bring it home with them. That’s what happened to the small town on Jewell and it’s people. Great read!!!

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