Tag Archives: Crime

‘Mad River’ is an excellent read!

If you take a look at the “Books” tab at the top of the page, it will be no secret that I’m a big fan of author John Sandford. I just finished his most recent Virgil Flowers novel, “Mad River,” and loved it.

Sandford’s books aren’t great literature; he doesn’t even try for that. He just tells a great story.

The Virgil Flowers series is one of two of Sandford’s crime novel series. His primary, and longest-running series is the “Prey” series, which he began about a hundred years ago. That series of books focuses on a Minneapolis police detective, turned assistant chief, turned state investigator, Lucas Davenport. Davenport is smart, rich, urbane and smart-assed. Several years ago, Sandford took one of his secondary characters from the Prey books, Virgil Flowers (also known by his friends and colleagues as “that f_cking Flowers”) and created a second series of crime novels. While Davenport and his crew work the Twin Cities, Flowers works crimes out in rural Minnesota.

While it is helpful to read some of the books in order, it is not necessary. While with some authors (Patricia Cornwell, for instance) there are often important plot references to previous books, that is not so with Sandford’s books. It helps to know the characters, but you can pick up any of his books and fully enjoy it without having read any others.

Sandford’s strength is in his characters. His protagonists are the kind of people you would love to go hang out with for a while. He even creates bad-guys who can generate some empathy. And since all his main characters are wise-crackers, the dialogue can be great.

In Mad River, Flowers is standing on a street corner drinking beer with a friend when he gets a call from Davenport to work a multiple murder in a small down several hours drive away. When Flowers tells Davenport he won’t be in any shape to drive for a few hours, Davenport agrees and tells Flowers to be careful with the alcohol and driving.

“It would be best if you were gunned down in the line of duty and not killed in a drunk-driving accident.”

Mad River focuses on a trio of teenagers who start a minor killing spree across the Minnesota countryside – a kind of Bonnie and Clyde with a sidekick. The main plot isn’t a mystery, since there is never any question about who did the deed. It’s Flowers’ job to catch the kids before they kill two many more people, and hopefully before the local sheriff’s department takes things into their own hands and kills the kids first. There is also a sub-plot about what prompted the trio to start their crime spree to begin with.

As always, Mad River is a well written and compelling crime novel. Grab it for your own enjoyment or buy it as a Christmas present for a good friend or family member. They will thank you for it.

Grandmother of the year!

This doesn’t require any editorial comment.

PALMETTO, Ga. (AP) — Police in Palmetto are looking for a grandmother and her boyfriend after her 13-month-old grandson ingested cocaine.

Authorities told WSB-TV on Monday that the baby was brought to Piedmont Newnan Hospital, then to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. Doctors reported that the child tested positive for cocaine. The boy is expected to survive.

Investigators said warrants have been issued for the child’s 34-year-old grandmother, Ebony Daniel, and her 22-year-old boyfriend, Charlie Martin. Daniel and Martin have not been arrested.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I may be one of the last people to climb on board the Steig Larsson bandwagon. His “Millenium Trilogy” has been on the bestseller lists for some time, but for some reason they didn’t grab my attention. I’ve had “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” sitting on my “to read” shelf for months. Finally, last month I broke down and read the novel and I’m glad I did.

The story is essentially a crime mystery with a number of side plots, placed in Larsson’s home country of Sweden. A discredited financial journalist is hired by the aging patriarch of an old, rich industrial family to investigate the mystery of what happened to his teenaged granddaughter who went missing, and was presumed murdered, one day in the 1960s. However, the rest of the family are lead to a believe that the journalist, Mikael Blomqvist, has been hired simply to write a family history.

Blomqvist is assisted by the brilliant, but seriously odd Lisbeth Salander, aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Lisbeth is an absolute freak, but an extraordinarily compelling character.

As they delve into the family and the mysterious disappearance, they find all kinds of bizarre stories. That family had some serious issues!

I thought the story started slow. I was nearly 100 pages into the book before things really started to pick up. However, once they got going, I found myself staying up and reading much later than I should on work nights to see what was going to happen.

My advice – Don’t give up on the book too soon. Give it 100 pages. You won’t be disappointed.

I am really looking forward to the next two books in the series.

 

Another winner from John Sandford

If you are looking for a Christmas present for a reader, try “Shock Wave” by John Sandford.

I make no bones about it – I am a big John Sandford fan. His  reading his latest cop-thriller, “Shock Wave,” is outstanding.

Sandford has written about a thousand books, but his two primary series are both crime-police-mystery oriented. The Lucas Davenport “Prey” series takes place in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. The main character is Lucas, a brilliant, rich, good looking, sophisticated, etc. cop. His other series revolves around state crime investigator Virgil Flowers, who works for Davenport, but investigates in the rural parts of Minnesota.

Sandford’s plots are good, but his characters and dialogue are even better. With only a few exceptions, even his “bad guys” are engaging and frequently charismatic. Virgil is definitely the kind of guy I’d like to hang out with, even though the opportunity only comes in a book.

In “Shock Wave,” someone is planting bombs in small town to prevent the construction of a new big box store there. Virgil is trying to figure out who it is.  The plot is compelling and moves along. It gets “two thumbs up.”

I won’t tell you who the guilty bomber is, but here is a hint; Sandford’s antagonists are usually engaging and frequently charming.  Figure it out for yourself.

 

 

John Sandford’s latest a winner of a summer read

John Sandford is one of my favorite authors. He has several series of cop/crime fiction going and they are all great.

I just finished the latest in his “Prey” series – Buried Prey. It’s slightly different than many of his previous novels, but very good. It is an excellent summer read.

The main character in the “Prey” series is Lucas Davenport. When the series started, nearly 20 years ago, Lucas was a homicide detective in the Minneapolis Police Department. Lucas is smart, urbane, quick-witted and rich. (Not a bad combination. I want to be Lucas when I grow up.) He got all the tough cases. At the present point in the series, Lucas is the head of the Minnesota “Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.” And again, he gets all the tough cases.

In Buried Prey, building excavators unearth the bodies of two young girls, dead for a quarter century. It is a kidnap-murder case that Lucas worked as a young cop. Much of the book is a flash-back, as Lucas recalls the details of the summer the girls disappeared. Lucas is besieged by guilt over the case. The police were quick to close the case and pinned the murders on a homeless man who was killed by the police during his arrest. Lucas knows deep in his heart that the homeless man was innocent, but being a young cop, he went along with his bosses and “caved in.”

Sandford brings out some of Lucas’s personality characteristics that remain hidden in most of his books, including self-doubt, a sense of guilt, and a near-pathological drive for revenge.

As with nearly all of Sandford’s books, Buried Prey gets a thumbs-up. Very good!

French burkas, racial profiling and the Tebow-Super Bowl flap

Listening to the news on the radio while I drive to work is a great source of inspiration for blog material.

As a sign I saw in a gift shop recently said, “Everyone is entitled to my own opinion.”

They are fighting over burkas in France these days. Those are the robes for Muslim women that cover their entire body including their face. France is considering banning them in public buildings, citing subjugation of women and security as the reasons. Naturally, those on the other sides are yelling about freedom of religion and France’s national identity. It’s interesting how Muslim leaders will cry for religious freedom when they are in the minority. However, try to wear a tee-shirt with “What would Jesus do?” written on it and see how far you get in the streets of Saudi Arabia or Iran. I suspect the mullahs would be singing another tune.

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A bill is scheduled to be introduced into the Georgia General Assembly today that would outlaw racial profiling. I am ambivalent about this issue.

On one hand, I don’t think someone should be arrested or harassed because of the color of their skin. ie: driving while black, etc.

On the other hand, crime is a serious issue in Savannah. Even out in our little suburban enclave, it is something to be concerned with. And at least here in Savannah, the vast, overwhelming majority of street crimes (assault, robbery, burglary, etc.) are committed by African Americans, primarily young, male African Americans. A story in yesterday’s local newspaper described arrest activity from the weekend and showed the mugs of the 12 people arrested. Ten of the twelve were black men. Unfortunately, this is not an anomaly. This brings me back to the initial question:  Do I want to take away from the police one tool that might help them keep myself, my home and my family safe?  I don’t know.

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Our favorite-son quarterback, Tim Tebow, is taking hits this week, and not just at the Senior Bowl practice in Mobile. He and his mom are going to appear in a anti-abortion Super Bowl commercial paid for by the Christian advocacy group “Focus on the Family.” Supposedly, the ad will have Tim and his mom talking about her experience when pregnant with Tim. As the story goes, she had a difficult pregnancy and was advised to terminate the pregnancy for her health. She refused to do so, and the end result is Tim, a remarkable young man by any standard.

I am not a big fan of Focus on the Family, for what little I know about them. Nor have I seen the TV spot, but then again, neither had anyone else.

Nonetheless, the Women’s Media Center, with backing from the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority and other groups, are throwing the penalty flags in Tim’s and CBS’s direction.

“An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year – an event designed to bring American’s together,” said Jemhu Greene, president of the Women’s Media Center.

“…an event designed to bring American’s together”??? I thought it was an event designed to determine the champion of the National Football League, provide an excuse for some Sunday afternoon parties and to make a lot of money for a bunch of people. I never knew it was supposed to be some kind of national unity event. Silly me.

I wonder if Ms. Greene has ever been to a viewing party or a football game where there were decent percentages of fans of both team? (Super Bowl, Florida-Georgia, Texas-Oklahoma, a BCS championship game, etc.)  I suspect she has not. If she had ever actually been to one of those games, she would know that unity is not a concept that comes to mind.

I don’t believe the women’s advocacy group really have much to complain about except that the Tebows’ message will probably be something they will disagree with.

The funniest shot comes from SI.com’s Greg Doyel.

“If you’re a sports fan, and I am, that’s the holiest day of the year,” he wrote. “It’s not a day to discuss abortion. For it, against it, I don’t care what you are. On Super Sunday, I don’t care what I am. Feb. 7 is simply not the day to have that discussion.”

The irony is just pure honey. According to Doyel, Super Bowl Sun“Thou shalt keep holy the Lord’s…” day is too holy to be despoiled by any talk of morals, ethics, or, God forbid, religion. No further comment is necessary.

For myself, it just gives me something to look forward to watching the game.