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Tag: Virgil Flowers

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.

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

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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.


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