Quick review: John Sandford’s Bad Blood

Gotta admit it, I like that Virgil Flowers.  He’s got a way with the women, but he’s a love-em-and-leave-em kind of guy.  He gets called in on the interesting cases and he’s not above bending the rules.

Plus, John Sandford is as smooth a writer as they come.  Here’s a sample from Bad Blood, wherein a good kid murders a bad man.

With Flood profoundly unconscious, or maybe already dead, Tripp lifted the man and pushed him into the grain flow, face up, reached out, and pulled his mouth open.  Soybeans were spilling from the truck like water from a pitcher, flowing around the unconscious farmer, filling his mouth, nose ears.  They gathered in his eye sockets, and in his shirt pockets, and in the John 3:16 hat. They squirted down into his overalls, slipping through the folds of his boxer shorts, hard and round, looking for a resting place in a navel or a fold of skin.

That’s some nice writing.  I like the flow of the words, the rhyme of sockets and pockets, the way his words make you feel the ever-rushing trickle and flow of the beans that will finish the job.

Bad Blood is a police procedural, of course, and it’s more of the how-do-we-prove-it than the who-did it variety.  Once the pieces fall into place and you think you’re just going to march through the rounding up of the bad guys, Sandford surprises you with a genuinely scary twist.

The book is an engaging read and well-crafted, the characters are likable, but I never really got emotionally connected with the evil of the crime.  Sandford’s characters say it’s horrible and talk about the fact that the victims are damaged, perhaps irretrievably… but the only victims we actually see don’t draw you in and make you see the horror.   These are girls, ages 12 to 15, who are matter-of-fact about what occurred to them and that they didn’t like it and we are supposed to be struck by how insane they must be to be so calm.   Plus, since we do not get the characters’ thoughts – just what they say and do – it’s easy to stay disengaged.

Overall, Bad Blood is well worth reading.  A quick look at the average rating on Amazon shows it a 3.6 out of 5 – I think that’s a bit low!

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