Tag Archives: virgil flowers

‘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.


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.



A great summer read

I just finished reading John Sandford’s Storm Prey. I have enjoyed Sandford’s books since the first one I read, Rules of Prey. I look forward to them so much, I had this on reserve at the library before it was even released. I think I was the first borrower of this particular book.

Sandford has several series of books he’s written over the past 20 years or so, but the “Prey” series is the original and the most prolific. The books are cop stories. The main character is a Minneapolis detective (later turned assistant chief, state investigator, etc), Lucas Davenport. Lucas is smart, cool and self-made rich. He drives a Porsche and solves crimes with his brain. Each book centers around some heinous crime that Lucas and his wise-cracking team of investigators attempt to solve. Nothing new there. The key to the books is the characters. I look forward to each next book, because I enjoy “hanging out” with Lucas, his team and family. .

One of Sandford’s strong points is that he develops the bad guys as well as the heroes. He allows the reader to understand the antagonists’ motivation and empathize a little. One of his more memorable and sympathetic characters was Clara Rinker, a female “hit man.”

Throughout the series, you follow the ups and downs of Davenport’s career and general life, including his bouts with depression, his romances, break-ups and marriage.

Some of are mysteries, but not all.  In Storm Prey, for instance you knew who the bad guys were from the opening pages. The issue in this story is whether the cops are going to get the bad guys before the bad guys kill Davenport’s surgeon-wife, who happened to see the bad guys as they escaped from a crime scene.  .

Sandford has a couple of other series, most recently a spin-off of the “Prey” series that focuses on one of Davenport’s state investigators, Virgil Flowers. “That f_ckin’ Flowers,” as he is known to his friends and colleagues, does not usually work the Twin Cities. While Davenport is cool in a $1,000-suit-and- $500-Italian-shoes kind of way, Virgil is cool at the other end of the style spectrum. He hass long, blond “surfer hair” and is prone to wearing jeans, cowboy boots and rock band tee-shirts. Most of the time, he tows his fishing boat behind his truck and occasionally stops to fish while working out the details of a case. The way he attracts women makes Davenport “writhe with envy” according to Davenport’s wife.

Sandford’s third series is the “Kidd Series.” His main character is an artist / high tech thief, who has a bit of the Robin Hood “rob from the rich and give to the poor” mentality in him.

If you want some fun summer reading, pick up one of Sandford’s books and give it a shot. If you like it, go back to the beginning (Rules of Prey) and work your way through the chronological series. You won’t regret it.