Monday, November 25, 2013

I needed a good laugh

I have vented here before about some of the strange things authors do. Well, I stumbled across another howler last night. I was reading a murder mystery, Boundary Waters, by William Kent Krueger. It's part of a series set in the mythical Minnesota community of Aurora, a town that appears to be somewhere in the general vicinity of the real community of Ely, Minnesota (close to the top of the state and to the east of US-53 in the map provided below). The fictional town is close to the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area and has, like much of northern Minnesota, become popular with tourists, especially since the local Ojibwe opened a casino. There's a lot to like about the Krueger's books: they're fast paced, well-written, and have sufficient plot twists to keep a reader guessing.

I do, however, have a quibble with the author, albeit a minor one. He is really, really lousy when it comes to thinking up names for his characters. Most of the time his efforts are just sort of clunky and unnatural feeling, but a lot of authors have similar problems. I can live with something awkward. But, please, Mr. Krueger, when you're grasping for names don't just look at a state map, spot a town name, and reverse the order. I swear that every time the victim in a cold case murder got mentioned, I started laughing. "Marais Grand." Unbelievable. Oh well, at least he didn't name her "Harbors Two" or "Bay Silver."

Boundary Waters does have a real blooper in it, but it's one of those things most people won't notice or care about. The main character's ex-wife is described as being a military brat, the daughter of a woman who was single and a captain. Well, the book is set in the late 1990s, the ex-wife is somewhere around 40, so it would be impossible for her to have a mother who was career military. Getting pregnant used to be an automatic out regardless of rank or marital status. Up until the late 1970s, women could get married and stay in, but they couldn't have kids. Krueger tosses in the supposed military background as part of fleshing out the ex-wife's backstory. It would probably bother me more if I thought the ex-wife's background was going to turn into a major plot element in the series, but given that the sample chapter of the next book implied he's killing the wife off soon -- it looks like she's going to die in a plane crash -- I figure it's irrelevant. Just another small example of no matter how much research authors do, there's always going to be something they screw up.


  1. I can relate. Back in the 80s there was some guy writing a mystery series in which the hero was a forensic anthroplogist. For whatever reason, he decided to make the hero's wife an NPS ranger. Her profession was strictly there as window-dressing, and never played any role in the plot. The portrayal was wildly unrealistic, and whenever the character opened her mouth, whatever came out was always laughable to anyone who ever spent any time around rangers or the NPS.

  2. When I get a book with unrealistic or unlikable characters I usually don't finish them. But, when I hit an author I like I read everything in his or her series - in order.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  3. Kreuger's books are actually pretty good. I figure every author is going to mess up on something; clunky or slightly odd names are a minor glitch, especially when most readers would never notice. The character's name only hit me as odd because I know Grand Marais is a town in Minnesota. I have now read the first two books in this particular series (Iron Lake and Boundary Waters) and plan to look for the rest. When I first noticed them at the library, I figured out right away it was a series so have been trying to read them in the order in which they were written.


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