Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Tag: Minnesota

Bloody Genius by John Sandford (Virgil Flowers #12)

Virgil Flowers will have to watch his back–and his mouth–as he investigates a college culture war turned deadly in the latest thriller from #1 New York Times-bestseller John Sandford.

At the local state university, two feuding departments have faced off on the battleground of PC culture. Each carries their views to extremes that may seem absurd, but highly educated people of sound mind and good intentions can reasonably disagree, right?

Then someone winds up dead, and Virgil Flowers is brought in to investigate . . . and he soon comes to realize he’s dealing with people who, on this one particular issue, are functionally crazy. Among this group of wildly impassioned, diametrically opposed zealots lurks a killer, and it will be up to Virgil to sort the murderer from the mere maniacs.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

No one is getting Virgil’s jokes. This is because he is knee-deep in academia land, investigating the murder of a well-respected but also generally disliked professor. Apparently those who work at the University of Minnesota do not have a well-rounded sense of humor.

Virgil teams up with Detective Trane from the Minnesota police department, a partnership that starts out shaky but solidifies when Virgil proves himself to be an affable companion. Trane is at a dead end until Virgil discovers some evidence that starts the ball rolling, leading to some of the strangest characters ever seen in a Flowers novel.

I felt that the book was slow going until the last third, when the action started to pick up a bit and the loose ends started to come together. There are a lot of characters and subplots, and unless you keep them straight it will end up being confusing.

The plot blurb notes there is an interdepartmental feud going on, but I found that portion of the story a bit underwhelming. There is less going on there than the publisher would have you believe. I feel it would have benefitted the book to have noted there was a murder on campus and Virgil had to deal with a lot of functionally crazy people; after all, the murder does take place in the beginning of the book and the rest is just smoke and mirrors until the end. At times I wanted to skip ahead, looking for more action and less talking, but I was afraid I would miss something.

Flowers novels are like pizza – it may not always be the best tasting, but it’s pizza. Despite the flaws I noted above, it is always good to see what Virgil is doing. Hopefully the next outing will be more suspenseful and action packed.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Neon Prey by John Sandford (Davenport #29)

Lucas Davenport pursues a prolific serial killer who has gone undetected for years in the newest nail-biter by #1 NewYork Times bestselling author John Sandford.

It was a relatively minor criminal matter, all things considered, but enough that the US Marshals obtained a warrant to enter the home. They didn’t expect to unearth trophies from a score of killings.

Now Davenport is on the trail of a serial murderer, one who was able to operate for years without notice or suspicion. But there’s even more to this killer than meets the eye…


Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

It’s hard to believe that this is Davenport’s 29th adventure. He’s gotten shot, stabbed, punched numerous times, and suffered various other indignities. In NEON PREY he and his fellow Marshals Bob and Rae are hot on the heels of a cannibal. Multiple bodies have been found in the yard of Clayton Deese, and the Marshals want to ask him some questions. Deese, however, is not cooperating.

When Lucas and Co. discover that the livers from the bodies are missing, and the barbeque grill from Deese’s house has been used, they realize that they are not looking for a typical run-of-the-mill killer. Bob, Rae, and Lucas share the spotlight equally, which is different from previous books. It almost seems as though Lucas is part of the supporting cast rather than the main character. Even his “cop talk” is secondary to that of Bob and Rae.

Las Vegas is a quirky setting that provides both sparkle and squalor. There is a section of the book where Deese and his crew hang out at a friend’s ramshackle trailer. As I read on, I could hear the banjos from “Deliverance” in the background – it was that eerie!

My thoughts on this one is that it’s a firm middle-of-the-road Prey novel. What stood out for me was that Davenport seems to be feeling his age (both mentally and physically) here. No spoilers; but I was not ready for some of the plot twists. Kudos to the author for keeping his characters human with relevant emotions.

I’d love to know what you think of #29 – leave me a comment with your thoughts. You can pick up your copy here.


Twisted Prey by John Sandford

Lucas Davenport confronts an old nemesis, now more powerful than ever as a U.S. senator, in the thrilling new novel in the #1 New York Times-bestselling Prey series
Lucas Davenport had crossed paths with her before. A rich psychopath, Taryn Grant had run successfully for the U.S. Senate, where Lucas had predicted she’d fit right in. He was also convinced that she’d been responsible for three murders, though he’d never been able to prove it. Once a psychopath had gotten that kind of rush, though, he or she often needed another fix, so he figured he might be seeing her again.
He was right. A federal marshal now, with a very wide scope of investigation, he’s heard rumors that Grant has found her seat on the Senate intelligence committee, and the contacts she’s made from it, to be very…useful. Pinning those rumors down was likely to be just as difficult as before, and considerably more dangerous.
But they had unfinished business, he and Grant. One way or the other, he was going to see it through to the end.

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Twisted Prey is the 28th book in the bestselling series by John Sandford. The teaser here is that Federal Marshal Lucas Davenport may finally be able to put paid to the evil Taryn Grant, who got away a few books back (see Silken Prey). An “accident” involving a US Senator is brought to Davenport’s attention, and soon enough, all the wonderful characters of Sandford’s imagination come out to play. I especially enjoyed reading the pithy cop talk between officers Bob and Rae; the scene with the donuts was spot-on!

Taryn Grant is quite the narcissist in this book, as she manipulates others to do her bidding. Despite Davenport’s more-than-a-hunch feelings that she is the bad guy, there is no clear evidence linking her to the accident in the beginning of the book. She’s got plenty to hide, though, and does it well. Shame that such a smart female character has to be so evil. She is not my favorite bad character – despite her ambition she seems too flat for my liking.

There was a bit too much politics in this installment to be perfect; all the discussion of defense contracts and the like bogged the story down a bit. This was a middle-of-the-road book; familiar characters doing familiar things, yet it took just a touch too long to wrap up. This may be due to the setting being Washington, DC – when the stories take place in Minnesota there is something oddly comforting about the location. I wonder how much of the story was written out of inspiration vs having to wrap up the Taryn Grant situation?

However, no Prey book is truly heinous. We also find that Davenport isn’t untouchable, as an encounter with some bad guys leaves him screaming like a little girl (one of the funniest vignettes in the book). He is getting older and feeling it, which is a refreshing touch.

Twisted Prey is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours of your time, however, long time Sandford fans may feel a little let down with the heavy concentration on the politics. Let’s see what happens in the next installment – maybe Lucas will be back on his home turf again.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up on Amazon.

Escape Clause by John Sandford (Virgil Flowers #9)


The first storm comes from, of all places, the Minnesota zoo. Two large, and very rare, Amur tigers have vanished from their cage, and authorities are worried sick that they’ve been stolen for their body parts. Traditional Chinese medicine prizes those parts for home remedies, and people will do extreme things to get what they need. Some of them are a great deal more extreme than others — as Virgil is about to find out.
Then there’s the homefront. Virgil’s relationship with his girlfriend Frankie has been getting kind of serious, but when Frankie’s sister Sparkle moves in for the summer, the situation gets a lot more complicated. For one thing, her research into migrant workers is about to bring her up against some very violent people who emphatically do not want to be researched. For another…she thinks Virgil’s kind of cute.
“You mess around with Sparkle,” Frankie told Virgil, “you could get yourself stabbed.”
“She carries a knife?”
“No, but I do.”

Forget a storm – this one’s a tornado.

Many thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

Seeing a new John Sandford book on the shelf is always a thrill, and even more so when it’s a Flowers outing. Sandford’s Davenport character is well written, but Flowers is truly a joy to experience. It seems to me that the author permits himself to really cut loose in writing about Virgil’s exploits; his writing seems to mirror Carl Hiaasen’s more than his own.

That being said, I love Carl Hiaasen. His character development ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, and so it goes here with ESCAPE CLAUSE.

The main bad guy is a disgraced doctor who pops Xanax like M&M’s. The other bad guys are truly caricatures of villains, even down to how they meet their untimely demise. In fact, I would say that this book by far is the most gory and strange Virgil story yet.

It starts out normal enough: our hero is asked to track down two missing tigers from the Minneapolis zoo. Once he starts shaking the tree, all sorts of things start falling out. We learn about the dark side of traditional Chinese medicine, and also experience a sub plot with wild characters as well – Virgil’s girlfriend has a sister named Sparkle who is dating a priest.

Don’t let the rollicking crazies fool you – this is a serious mystery that will keep you turning the pages. Even though we know whodunit already, seeing them brought to justice (or not) is captivating. Virgil is getting tired of handling animal cases (remember the dognappers from a previous book?) but he throws his all into tracking these rare tigers down with a fervor that will delight the most sensitive animal lover. He truly has fun while on the job, and it shows.

ESCAPE CLAUSE can be read as a standalone novel, but fans of Virgil will delight in all the in-jokes and references to previous adventures. Sandford keeps getting better and better. This was one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0399168915″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].


Deadline by John Sandford

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”yes” align=”left” asin=”0399162372″ cloaking=”default” height=”500″ localization=”yes” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ width=”329″]

There is nothing better than a new Virgil Flowers mystery. This one has Flowers investigating a dognapping ring, when he is asked by Lucas Davenport (of the “Prey” novels) to look into the murder of a reporter. As Virgil gets deeper into the case, local school board members start dying. It turns out that certain board members had planned the reporter’s death–but are they now killing each other?

The plot in this installment is not complicated, but it’s full of that great Sandford wry humor that has become the hallmark of the Flowers series. There is a down-home, redneck quality to this one that I thought was funnier than most. Virgil’s friend Johnson Johnson (his father named all his sons after outboard motors, and Mercury, Johnson’s brother, got the better end of THAT deal) calls him to help figure out where all the town’s dogs are going. We encounter a cast of characters and situations that personify what would happen if Deliverance was mixed with the business world:  gun nuts, meth heads, embezzlement, backstabbing, and politics.  Even though we know who the bad guys are right from the start, the book will hold your interest as the plot advances.

Flowers is helped out by Johnson, of course, who is by far the most colorful of the characters. He’s willing to shoot his gun off at the slightest provocation, and so is young Muddy, a not-quite-teenager who pops up out of the background to give Virgil some hints on where those missing dogs may be. The dognapping side plot is a lighthearted addition to the murder investigation, and gives Sandford a chance to show off those quirky Minnesota rednecks. Some great conversation is had between Virgil and Johnson:

Virgil went carefully back to his truck, climbed inside, and found Johnson with a high capacity Para-Ordnance .45 in his lap. 

“Jesus, Johnson, what were you gonna do with that?”

“I saw somebody at the window,” Johnson said. “If they shot you, I was gonna hose the place down.”

Virgil thought about that for a moment, then said, “All right.” He looked up at the porch. Zorn had gone back inside, but Virgil could see him hovering behind the screen. “That’s a bad man, right there,” Virgil said. “Doesn’t even bother to trim his nose hair.”

“That is a bad man,” Johnson said.

The writing from chapter 28 onwards is one of the funniest and well written scenes I’ve ever read. There is a mob, dogs running loose, crazed female anti vivisectionists (called Auntie Vivians), gunshots, wrecked trucks, and plenty of other action. Sandford has raised his own bar with DEADLINE and gotten better, hard as that is to believe.  Virgil Flowers is one of my favorite fictional characters, and it feels as though Sandford had a rollicking great time with this one. It’s a great stand alone book, and possibly the best one so far. I hope there are many more in store.

Want your own copy? Click [easyazon_link asin=”0399162372″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here .[/easyazon_link] Let me know what you think.


© 2020 gimmethatbook

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑