By Troy Patterson
Updated January 11, 2008 at 05:00 AM EST

In 1844, 16-year-old Elisha Stone joins a team bound for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — a surveyor seeking iron, a scholar hunting for Chippewa artifacts, and their ”half-breed” guide, Susette, with whom the boy tries his own explorations (”She tasted of whiskey and salt. Elisha felt as though he was falling”). Meanwhile, Elisha’s minister father travels from Massachusetts to tell his son of his mother’s death, and encounters spiritualists and doomsday cultists. Karl Iagnemma’s prose glides confidently in The Expeditions, but his schematic plotting — the double quest, the clockwork betrayals — makes the wilderness look horribly tidy. B