Friday, January 8, 2016

John Sandford's Virgil Flowers series: #FridayReads

When Rules of Prey first hit the book stores, I was living in Minnesota and worked for the police department in a small town. John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport police procedural series, with his sharp writing and consistently entertaining stories, hooked me deep. Then, in 2007, he switched to a new protagonist, Virgil Flowers. Not yet ready to leave Davenport behind or to concentrate on a new main character, I didn’t immediately follow. 

Four paragraphs into Dark of the Moon, first in the Virgil Flowers series, I was hooked again. In turn, I read Dark of the Moon, Heat Lightning, Rough Country, and Bad Blood. Each is a break-neck fast read. And because of Sandford’s consistency, it made sense to review all four books together.
Dark of the Moon
The question 30-something Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator Virgil Flowers must answer is, “Who is killing all those small town old folks, and why?” The suspects are many, all are likely, and the possible motives aren’t unique. But Sandford’s fast-paced writing style and vividly written scenes make reading in long spurts easy and entertaining. All of his characters are fully fleshed out, leaving little question about who’s who. The only sorting required is between the fairly “good” guys and gals and those proved guilty.
Heat Lightning
When a man is shot and a lemon is found shoved in his mouth, the assumption is the killing is gang-related. More victims with the same M.O. pile up before Virgil Flowers starts to get a handle on the situation. Meanwhile, we learn of atrocities perpetrated during the Vietnam conflict are coming back to bite someone. This novel has plenty of action mixed with background story about the Vietnam era, all of it interesting. I’m noticing lots of t-shirt modeling by Detective Flowers. As readers have come to expect from John Sandford, this novel displays the depth of his extensive knowledge in all topics and locations included in the story.
Rough Country
The third novel in the Virgil Flowers series is filled with excellent examples of colorful description worthy of a how-to guide in creative writing. John Sandford's attention to detail never falters. And every character, whether likeable or not, is well-developed.
Bad Blood
After reading the first three novels in John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers series, I took a break. His thrillers always leave the reader wanting more but fearing the next novel will disappoint. But the only thing disappointing about BAD BLOOD was that it ended. In this book of the series especially, I felt a distinct comparison to Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens. Be aware that Sandford doesn’t write with an eye to the female population or to the feminine side of men. It appears he has come full circle on the issue of equality and taken a stand: Don’t like what he writes - then don’t read it. His writing remains solid. A writer can still learn a lot from reading John Sandford’s novels.
 Next up for review is:
The Janson Equation by Douglas Corleone

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