The Bookworm: Crime from A to Z

“Red Knife”

by William Kent Krueger

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of something you wish you’d never gotten involved in?

You know how it goes. A problem is presented and you say you’ll help. You’re eager to get to work. You dig in and things go well. Then you’re asked to do more.

And more.

Pretty soon, you’re up to your ears in a mess you never wanted. What you do want is out of the situation, but that ain’t happening any time soon.

Private Investigator Corcoran “Cork” O’Connor is up against something big: his people need justice for two brutal murders, while the citizens of Tamarack County want answers for another death. In the new book “Red Knife” by William Kent Krueger, Cork knows he needs to cut through clues to solve the problem.

For many years, northern Minnesota’s Ojibwe Indian Tribe co-existed peacefully with local white residents. Sure, there were issues, but they were settled amicably until Kristi Reinhardt, spoiled daughter of businessman Buck Reinhardt, was found dead. Then everyone pointed fingers at the Red Boyz.

Led by Alex Kingbird, the Red Boyz were a tight gang of native young men who were learning to embrace their Ojibwe history and morality. Kingbird advised the Red Boyz, teaching them to stay drug-free and clean. Most of them did…

Except Lonnie Thunder. Lonnie saw money in meth, and he gave drugs to the wrong rich girl. Kristi OD’ed, and her father wanted revenge.

When Kingbird promised to give the grieving father justice, he called on Cork O’Connor to facilitate a meeting. Cork had been the local sheriff years ago and was trusted by both sides. Although O’Connor was Irish through and through, the blood of his native grandmother ran through his veins.

And the meeting might’ve happened, had it not been for the brutal murder of Alex Kingbird. The leader of the Red Boyz and his young wife were duct-taped and executed. The Ojibwe said Reinhardt did it. Others said Thunder was behind the storm. As two deaths become more deaths, war between the cultures seemed imminent. Could Cork slice through the conflict before it got out of hand?

This time of year, it’s always nice to look forward to curling up with a good novel at the end of the day. “Red Knife” is perfect for that.

Author William Kent Kruger knows how to weave a tale. This book, the latest in the Cork O’Connor mystery series, is jammed with a great cast, any of whom could have been the killer. Cork himself is one of those white-hatted guys who see the world in shades of grey and is willing to break the law sometimes, even though he doesn’t like himself much afterward. There are a couple of very well-done twists and surprises in this mystery, which makes it a very satisfying read.

At the end of a long day, don’t you want something that will clear your head of all the clutter? If you do, involve yourself in this novel. “Red Knife” is a clear-cut winner.

“P is for Piñata: A Mexican Alphabet”

by Tony Johnston, illustrated by John Parra

For practically all your life, you’ve known you’re A-B-Cs.

The alphabet is one of the first things your parents taught you. Even some of your favorite baby toys had the A-B-Cs on them and your teacher might even have an A-B-C poster on the wall at school.

When you think of A, you probably think of Apples. B reminds you of a Ball or a Boy. C can stand for Cat or Castle. And in the new book by Tony Johnston (illustrated by John Parra), “P is for Piñata” and all sorts of Mexican things.

If you look on a map, it’s easy to find Mexico. It’s right at the bottom of the United States and above South America. But what else do you know about Mexico? Do you know Mexican history or culture?

Let’s start with A. In Mexico, A is for Adobe. Adobe is a building material made of straw and mud. Adobe brick makers put materials in a tub and they stomp the mud and straw together with their bare feet. They pour the mixture into wooden molds called adoberas and leave them in the sun to dry. Later, they might build a house.

Are you hungry for a snack? Then think about C, because C is for Cacao, which is chocolate. The Olmecs, who lived a long time ago, drank a beverage made of cacao. You might not like what they enjoyed, since their drink was cold and bitter. But thanks to the Olmecs, you can enjoy hot chocolate, chocolate milk and chocolate candy.

And speaking of hot and sweet, H is for Hairless Dog. The Mexican hairless dog, or the xoloitzcuintli might be considered kind of ugly, but they were prized by ancient Mexicans because the little dogs kept their owners warm at night. Can you say “hot dog”?

Did you know that there are volcanoes in Mexico? Yep, L is for Lava because Mexico is on a land-rim where many volcanoes appear, and some of them are still active. The volcano named Popo “belches” ash now and then, which makes the streets look like they’re covered with snow.

And just so you know, Z counts in Mexico, too, because Z is for Zero. The Mexicans invented the number 0, which is the basis for all math. Without it, we would be, uh, nothing.

Your 7- to 10-year-old probably thinks he (or she) is too old for an A-B-C book, but that’s not true. Yes, “P is for Piñata” includes nursery-rhyme-type poems and simple, colorful illustrations. Yes, it’s an A-B-C book, but there’s so much more.

In this book, author Tony Johnson includes side-bars that explain more about the history and meaning behind the word chosen to accompany the letter. Each entry brings Mexican history, art, culture, and legend to light and explains it in a way older kids will easily understand.

If you’re looking for a book that will grow with your child — one he can enjoy now and later — this is one to find. “P is for Piñata” is P-E-R-F-E-C-T.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

© 2008 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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