As a part of our reading challenge research, we often discover authors who hadn’t previously been on our radars but quickly become new favorites. We found author William Kent Krueger’s book Ordinary Grace for our 1960s list from the Decades Reading Challenge, and it received excellent reviews from our readers.
This Tender Land was even more beloved when we added it to our 1930s list and our Read Around the USA book list of characters Traveling Across State Lines. With hundreds of reviews from our readers, it continues to average a 4.5 out of 5 rating, with 100% saying they would recommend it to a friend.
With those titles being so highly praised by our readers, we included another Krueger title, Lightning Strike (the Cork O’Connor series prequel), to the Lifetime of Reading Challenge Child Protagonist list. Most recently, The River We Remember made our Best 2023 Book Club Books list.
Now, we’re excited to dig into all of the William Kent Krueger books that have made up his phenomenal career.
Krueger’s writing often blends a mystery with vivid descriptions of the landscape and even a little history. You can see evidence of the various authors that Krueger says influenced his writing, like Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway. However, he always adds his own unique spin to these legendary styles. His inclusion of Native American characters and gorgeous Minnesota settings are recurring trademarks of his writing.
We’ve compiled a complete list of all William Kent Krueger books below, with the first section dedicated to his standalone novels, followed by a section of the Cork O’Connor series books in order. Below that, you’ll find some additional FAQs about this talented author.
William Kent Krueger Stand Alone Books
This section lists the William Kent Krueger stand-alone books in reverse chronological order, with his newest book first. Unlike the Cork O’Connor series, these stand-alone books do not have any common characters or continuous storylines, so you can read them in any order.
Cork O’Connor Series Overview
Iron Lake, the first Cork O’Connor series book, was published in 1998 and still remains popular twenty-five years later. As of 2023, there are 19 released titles in the series, with #20 now available for pre-order ahead of its 2024 release.
The title character, Cork O’Connor, is the protagonist of the series. The mystery novels contain highlight the character’s mixed Irish and Ojibwe heritage along themes of family, identity, cultural diversity, and the social issues facing Native American populations.
As a character, Cork is resourceful, using his experience in law enforcement to solve mysteries as a private investigator for the good of his community. The series is set in fictional Tamarack County, Minnesota, which is based on the real northern woods of the state, known for the dynamic mix of forests and lakes.
Each book in the Cork O’Connor series contains a separate mystery with different plots, including murders, missing persons, conspiracies, and hidden secrets. The great outdoors almost always comes into play, with Cork hiking or surviving in the wilderness on the search for answers. If you love a mystery with great storytelling and well-crafted characters, we think you’ll enjoy these novels.
Cork O’Connor Books in Order of Publication
Some of the titles in the Cork O’Connor series are included free with an Audible Membership as of 11/8/23, including books 1-3, and book 7.
Cork O’Connor #1
In the first book, we are introduced to Cork O’Connor, who has recently lost his job as sheriff of Tamarack County. He becomes embroiled in a complex mystery involving a wealthy businessman’s missing wife, a powerful Indian artifact, and a web of secrets from the past.
Cork O’Connor #2
Cork is hired to find a runaway teenager, and his investigation takes him deep into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, where he stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the region’s natural beauty.
Cork O’Connor #3
Cork becomes involved in a series of violent and racially charged events when a local Indian activist is murdered, and he must navigate the complexities of tribal politics and family secrets to solve the case.
Cork O’Connor #4
In this installment, Cork’s family is put in danger when he investigates the brutal murder of a judge in a small Minnesota town. He uncovers a network of corruption and deceit that reaches into the highest levels of power.
Cork O’Connor #5
Cork becomes embroiled in a murder investigation while working as a part-time sheriff in a small town. He must untangle a complex web of relationships and secrets to find the truth.
Cork O’Connor #6
Cork is drawn into a mystery involving an old friend and a secret he has kept for many years. As he investigates, he discovers a dangerous conspiracy that could have devastating consequences.
Cork O’Connor #7
Cork is asked to find a missing plane and its passengers, which leads him to uncover a disturbing plot involving organized crime and a vengeful enemy from his past.
Cork O’Connor #8
Cork’s life is thrown into turmoil when a family member is murdered. He seeks justice, but in doing so, he becomes entangled in a deadly conflict between two rival Ojibwe Indian families.
Cork O’Connor #9
Cork faces a personal tragedy when his wife, Jo, is involved in a small plane crash. While searching for her, he stumbles upon a conspiracy involving a missing wealthy oilman and a remote mountain in the Rockies.
Cork O’Connor #10
Cork investigates a series of old unsolved murders that seem to be linked to a long-buried secret. As he delves into the past, he uncovers a dangerous truth that could threaten his family.
Cork O’Connor #11
During a violent storm, Cork’s family becomes trapped on a remote island in Northwestern Minnesota. As they fight for survival, they uncover a sinister plot that puts their lives in danger.
Cork O’Connor #12
A childhood friend of Cork’s is accused of murder, and Cork is determined to prove his innocence. In the process, he confronts his past and makes shocking discoveries about the people he thought he knew.
Cork O’Connor #13
In this novel, Cork investigates a series of gruesome murders and must confront the darkness within his community while dealing with personal challenges.
Cork O’Connor #14
Cork is asked to find a missing girl from a nearby Ojibwe reservation. His investigation takes him to the dark world of human trafficking and the supernatural entity known as the Windigo.
Cork O’Connor #15
Cork is determined to find answers to a decades-old mystery involving his father’s disappearance in the wilderness. As he unravels the truth, he faces a relentless adversary who will stop at nothing to protect the secrets of the past.
Cork O’Connor #16
Cork travels to Arizona on a personal mission and becomes entangled in a dangerous drug cartel operation. His skills are tested as he tries to save his family and avert disaster.
Cork O’Connor #17
A catastrophic plane crash on a mountain in the remote Boundary Waters ignites a complex investigation led by Cork and his son Stephen. As they delve deeper, they encounter a web of corruption.
Cork O’Connor Prequel
Also listed as Cork O’Connor #18
In this prequel to the Cork O’Conner mystery series, we see Cork as a child in 1963. His dad is the Aurora, Minnesota sheriff, who must investigate after Cork finds a body hanging in a tree. As his dad runs the official investigation, Cork looks for answers of his own.
Cork O’Connor #19
Cork is in a race against time to save his wife, a mysterious stranger, and an Ojibwe healer from bloodthirsty mercenaries. As he tries to track the killers, his skills are severely tested by nightfall and a late season snowstorm.
Cork O’Connor #20
Expected Publication: August 2024
Available now for pre-order
The disappearance of a local politician’s teenage daughter is major news in Minnesota. As a huge manhunt is launched to find her, Cork’s grandson stumbles across the shallow grave of a young Ojibwe woman—but nobody seems that interested.
Printable List of William Kent Krueger Books in Order
Looking for a printable version of this chronological William Ken Krueger book list, including the full Cork O’Connor series in order? Our Buy Me a Coffee BFFs have access to a cute two-page printable tracker featuring the covers of all his novels! Join our membership site today for instant access to your copy, along with some other fun perks!
FAQs About William Kent Krueger Books
Do you have to read the Cork O’Connor books in order?
Reading the Cork O’Connor series in order of publication allows you to see the growth and development of characters between investigations. However, consider starting with the 2021 book Lightning Strike, instead of the first published book, Iron Lake, before proceeding through the rest in order of publication.
While Lightning Strike was published more recently, it’s a prequel and takes us back to Cork O’Connor’s childhood. By starting with Lightning Strike, you’ll get insight into Cork’s coming of age and the events that drive his personality and decisions throughout the rest of the series.
That said, if you’ve already read some of the Cork O’Connor series, it’s fine to pick up Lightning Strike at any time.
How many books are in the William Kent Krueger series?
As of the end of 2023, there are 19 books published in the Cork O’Connor series. You can find the list in order above.
Is William Kent Krueger still writing books?
Yes, William Kent Kruger is still actively writing books and publishes new releases regularly. His most recent standalone book, The River We Remember, was published on September 5, 2023.
Will there be more Cork O’Connor books?
Yes! In a 2021 interview with Park Bugle, Krueger claims he is “nowhere near finished with his marquee fictional character.” The next book in the series, Spirit Crossing, is available now for preorder and is currently scheduled to be published in August 2024.
Is William Kent Krueger from Minnesota?
William Kent Krueger was raised in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and then briefly attended Stanford University in 1969 before being kicked out for participating in a Vietnam protest in 1970.
After that, he moved to Nebraska to pursue Diane, the girl he hoped to marry. He made the right decision and together, they moved to Minnesota in 1980 for Diane to attend law school. They remained in St. Paul after law school, making it their long-time home. They have now been residents of Minnesota for over forty years. He still loves the region, which is the setting of most of his novels.
Have any William Kent Krueger books been made into movies?
While there have been discussions about making Ordinary Grace and Iron Lake into movies, no screen adaptations have been completed. In 2020, Krueger met with producers about Ordinary Grace and felt good about the direction of script development, so cross your fingers that it will resume now that we’re past the pandemic and writer’s strike. We’d love to see any of his novels on the big screen.