Trouble has returned — for the 19th time! — to the northern Minnesota town of Aurora, population 3,700. That's a lot of mayhem, even for a fictional place, and former sheriff Cork O'Connor is hip-deep in it in "Fox Creek," the latest addition to William Kent Krueger's mystery series.

Three guns-for-hire have come looking for a woman who has taken refuge with Henry Meloux, forcing the ancient Anishinaabe healer (and recurring character, if you're not in the know) to escape into the wilderness with the woman and Cork's wife. Cork is hard on their heels as he tries to unravel who the woman really is, why these men are looking for her and who hired them.

Adding to the urgency is the vision of Henry's death that has visited the healer. Cork is hesitant to put much stock in it (his relationship with the spiritual returns again and again throughout the series), but there's no doubt that Henry is in trouble. And the race is on.

Krueger wastes no time plunging into the action, using present tense to maintain immediacy and ratcheting up the tension through interspersed points of view in short, taut chapters. The author has consistently called himself a storyteller, not a writer, as if the one was somehow lesser than the other. But from "Iron Lake" — the first in the Cork O'Connor series — to "Fox Creek," Krueger has exhibited a mastery and control that can't be denied. Maybe he should start calling himself an alchemist, because he has the formula down to an art.

Maren Longbella is a Star Tribune copy editor.

Fox Creek

By: William Kent Krueger.

Publisher: Atria Books, 400 pages, $28.

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