Tag Archives: Patricia Cornwell

‘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.

A good read

I stayed up too late last night finishing a book. Both Mrs. Poolman and I read for pleasure, she more than I. Mrs. P can knock of a standard paperback book in a single off day.

The book I was reading, The Time Traveler’s Wife, was not my typical fare. I tend to lean more towards action fiction and historical non-fiction. I enjoy authors like John Sandford, James Patterson, W.E.B. Griffin, Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, John Grisham and Patricia Cornwell. I also have a spot in my heart for Andrew Greely. On the non-fiction side, I consume history, especially military history. And if it flies and shoots, I’m all over it.

Time Travelers WifeAll of that is just a way of setting up that I really enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife. I have always been intrigued with the fictional treatments of time travel, starting with HG Wells’ The Time Machine and working on up through Michael Crichton’s Timeline (another really outstanding time-travel book, by the way). Before reading it,  I suspected The Time Traveler’s Wife was a literary version of a “chick flick.” You know what I mean – a movie that deals mostly with relationships and emotions and one of the endearing characters dies at the end, usually of a long lingering illness. (See Steel Magnolias, Terms of Endearment, Fried Green Tomatoes, and others.) While The Time Traveler’s Wife does have many of those characteristics (I won’t spoil it by being more specific.) those are balanced out by the fact that it is still an interesting, well written story that moves along.

The story is about Henry and Clare. Henry has a genetic abnormality that causes him to involuntarily travel in time. One moment he is here, and the next, he is stark naked in another place and time. The author, Audrey Niffengger, avoids the cliché of many time-travel authors by not inserting her  character into any historical settings. This is not a story in which the protagonist performs any great or historical acts. Henry’s time travels are much more personal.

Very early on, Henry and Clare meet. Clare is a stranger to Henry, but Clare has known Henry all her life. An older Henry was repeatedly transported back in time to Clare’s childhood. So when they meet, Henry is Clare’s long-time visitor and friend, while Henry has yet to meet Clare in his “real life.” The book develops their relationship, more or less following the chronological pace of Henry’s “real life.” There are lots of adventures and a couple of mysteries.

All told, it was a good book and I’m really glad I read it. It is definitely worth the effort. We didn’t see the movie when it was at the theaters. I’m looking forward to it’s release on DVD in a few months.