William Kent Krueger Books in Order – Complete List

William Kent Krueger is an American author best known for his Cork O’Connor mystery series, set in Minnesota.

Here is the list of the Cork O’Connor novels in order of publication and the William Kent Krueger stand alone books. Currently, except for Lightning Strike, which is a prequel novel, the series reading order is the same as the publication order, and there are no short novellas included in the series.

Latest William Kent Krueger Books

Spirit Crossing
Spirit Crossing (Cork O’Connor #20), 2024

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Cork O’Connor Books in Publication Order

  1. Iron Lake (#1), 1998
  2. Boundary Waters (#2), 1999
  3. Purgatory Ridge (#3), 2001
  4. Blood Hollow (#4), 2004
  5. Mercy Falls (#5), 2005
  6. Copper River (#6), 2006
  7. Thunder Bay (#7), 2007
  8. Red Knife (#8), 2008
  9. Heaven’s Keep (#9), 2009
  10. Vermilion Drift (#10), 2010
  11. Northwest Angle (#11), 2011
  12. Trickster’s Point (#12), 2012
  13. Tamarack County ( #13), 2013
  14. Windigo Island (#14), 2014
  15. Manitou Canyon (#15), 2016
  16. Sulfur Springs (#16), 2017
  17. Desolation Mountain (#17), 2018
  18. Lightning Strike (#18), 2021 (prequel novel)
  19. Fox Creek (#19), 2022
  20. Spirit Crossing (#20), 2024

Cork O’Connor Companion Books

Standalone Novels in Order of Publication

Novellas and Short Stories in Order of Publication

Anthologies and Short Story Collections in Order of Publication

Non-Fiction Books

  • Writing Murder: A Basic Guide to Writing Mystery Fiction (aka A Basic Guide to Writing Mystery Novels), 2012

William Kent Krueger Biography

William Kent Krueger books in order

William Kent Krueger was born in 1950 in Torrington, Wyoming. He always wanted to become a writer. While in third grade, William wrote a short story titled The Walking Dictionary, which his teachers warmly praised.

He knew then that he has found his career niche. He was also influenced by the fact that his father taught high school English and his mother was a musician and actress. His parents were always supportive of his love for books, and he was basically raised in a literary family.

In his early years, he moved with his family quite a lot around the United States. When he graduated from high school, William has already lived in six different states.

He enrolled at the Stanford University wanting to become a cultural anthropologist, however during the 1970 student protest, in which he got involved in, he had to leave the university after a year of being a student due to issues with the administration, as he participated in protests against the Vietnam War, especially the students’ march against the presence of ROTC on their campus. As Krueger was on a scholarship in college, he lost it after the riot and he could no longer continue studying.

Next, he started working the odd jobs, such as lumbering timber, digging canals, laying pipeline, and working in construction. At the same time, he continued writing, becoming a freelance journalist, and writing short stories and sketches. His wife was earning a law degree, so to support her in her studies, he worked as an administrator of a university research laboratory.

Around this time when he was 40, author William Kent Krueger finished the manuscript for his debut novel, Iron Lake, which would become the first book in the Cork O’Connor crime mystery series. He started writing the book in 1992, he finished it in 1996, and the book was published in 1998. Back then, he was still working full time.

Soon it won several prestigious awards, including the  Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the Barry Award for Best First Novel, the Minnesota Book Award, as well as the Loft-McKnight Fiction Award.

William Kent Krueger’s books for the series are set in Minnesota, often involving the local Native American reservations. Even the series’ chief character, former sheriff of Aurora in Tarmarack County Cork and current private investigator O’Connor is part Anishinaabe / Ojibwe and part Irish. Krueger was always fascinated by the Ojibwe culture, read several books on it, and met and talked with many Ojibwe people.

When he first started writing books, William Kent Krueger would write in coffee shops for a distraction-free environment (free of telephone calls, for example).

Initially, Iron Lake was supposed to be a standalone novel, however, eventually, it became part of the Cork book series which now includes 20 books, with the latest one, Spirit Crossing, published in 2024.

Cork O’Connor (full name Corcoran O’Connor) is a complex character who is trying to find his spiritual path. Coming from two very different cultures, he is searching for his place in the world. Initially, he turned his back on God, feeling that he got no love from God either.

Especially, after his wife dies, Cork O’Connor is not sure how to move forward and how to heal. While this information is common knowledge, and it happens rather early in the Cork O’Connor series, later on, things will be looking up for him, but I won’t say more to avoid spoiling it for newer readers.

Cork O’Connor is a resilient person who always bounces back from his problems (this is why the author actually gave the main character this name, way before he knew that he would have a whole series on his hands).

William Kent Krueger’s books focusing on Native American culture mixed with crime mystery are often likened to those of authors like Nevada Barr, Thomas Perry, and of course, Tony Hillerman/Anne Hillerman.

Besides the Cork O’Connor books, there are four additional standalone novels. This Tender Land, was published in 2019. Both so-far published books are crime mysteries as well. Ordinary Grace, standalone book #2, is a coming-of-age story in a small town involved in murder, while The River We Remember, published in 2023, is a historical mystery novel.

The author is currently living in St. Paul Minnesota where he is working on his next book.

If you love enjoyed mystery series set in placed strongly influenced by Native American culture, then reading the William Kent Krueger books in order for his popular Cork O’Connor series is a worthwhile journey to take. The publication order is the same as the reading order for this series except for Lightning Strike, which is a prequel story.

What is William Kent Krueger’s most recent book?

The new book by the author is Spirit Crossing, the latest in the Cork O’Connor series, released in 2024.

William Kent Krueger Awards and Nominations

Here are some of the more prominent awards William Kent Krueger received or was nominated for over the years.

  • Iron Lake won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel in 1999
  • Iron Lake was nominated for the Dilys Awards for Best Book in 1999
  • Boundary Waters was nominated for the Dilys Awards for Best Book in 2000
  • Purgatory Ridge was nominated for Dilys Awards for Best Book in 2002
  • Blood Hollow won the Anthony Award for Best Novel in 2005
  • Mercy Falls won the Anthony Award for Best Novel in 2006
  • Thunder Bay was nominated for the Anthony Awards for Best Novel in 2008
  • Thunder Bay won the Dilys Awards for Best Book in 2008
  • Red Knife was nominated for the Anthony Awards for Best Novel in 2009
  • Red Knife was nominated for the Barry Awards for Best Novel in 2009
  • Ordinary Grace
    • won the Anthony Award for Best Novel in 2014
    • won the Barry Awards for Best Novel in 2014
    • won the Dilys Awards for Best Book in 2014
    • won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2014
    • won the Macavity Awards for Best Novel in 2014

Authors to Check Out If You Like William Kent Krueger

  • Brian Freeman
  • C J Box
  • Harlan Coben
  • J.A. Jance
  • James Lee Burke
  • Jeffery Deaver
  • Joe Nesbo
  • John Sandford
  • Louise Penny
  • Robert Crais
  • Steve Hamilton
  • Steven F. Havill

3 Comments

  1. Do the Cork O’Conner books need to be read in order or can they be stand alones?

  2. Thank you for writing incredible books. I remembered hearing you speak of writing about 10 years ago at a marriage retreat. At the time I had two kids under 10. The thought of reading for pleasure was comical. Hearing you speak, I could tell you had a heart for adventure. I tucked your books in my mind for “someday”… Well now I’m a partial empty nester and that “someday” has arrived.
    My only regret was having waited to read your fantastic writing that feels like I’ve stepped right into the scene. There’s so much joy reading your books, I almost am sad to flip that last page.
    Thank you for your art, your writing that so delights and inspires this middle aged mom and all who read your work!

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