Cork O'Connor is a man beset with troubles, some of them of his own making. But he's a bend-not-break man: an admirable man. And he needs to be, for it's winter in hardscrabble Aurora, Minnesota. The blizzard that buries the small lakeside town also buries some ugly things with it. Like nasty secrets--and brutal murder. So here's Cork, who used to be sheriff, who used to have a wife who loved him, who used to have a purpose to his life, sort of stumbling into situations that bewilder him to the nth. There's the apparent suicide of Judge Parrant. Suicide? Judge Parrant?. Not that cantankerous old misogynist. There's also a missing boy, a good and responsible boy, with no reason in the world for him to have run away. Then there are the murky goings-on over at the casino, where gambling is producing so much wealth for the Native American population that they've begun calling it ""the new buffalo."" And finally, there's the windigo, a spirit so malevolent that it can unnerve even those who don't actually believe in it. Almost despite himself, Cork is soon behaving like the lawman he no longer is, looking for answers that are very hard to find. And yet he does find some. Some of those he discovers, though, he soon wishes he hadn't. Minnesotan Krueger has a sense of place he's plainly honed firsthand in below-zero prairie. His characters, too, sport charm and dimension, although things start to get a bit shaky toward book's end. Still, this first-timer's stamina and self-assurance suggest that O'Connor's got staying power.