Tag Archives: Bad Blood

That F-in’ Flowers

Good heavens, that John Sandford is prolific.  I discovered this author in the early 1990s, when his “Prey” series, featuring Minnesota cop cum videogame developer Lucas Davenport, was new.  Since then, Sandford has published 21 in that series (Buried Prey the most recent), as well as four books in the Kidd series, two standalones, and five recent books with private eye Virgil Flowers.  (You can read my review of Bad Blood, a previous Flowers book, here.)

I got the ARC for the new one in the Flowers series, Shock Wave, from Murder and Mayhem in Muskego and it’s hot off the press with an October 4, 2011 publication date.  (Brief MMM plug:  Fun conference, $30 reg fee includes lunch, and my book bag had easily over $100 of new and not-yet-released mysteries.  Awesome.)

I picture Flowers as a young Jimmy Buffet, all inappropriate Hawaiian shirts, long blonde hair, and a devastasting way with the ladies.  Cops who come in contact with Flowers – Davenport’s friend and longtime off-the-record colleague – call him “That fuckin’ Flowers,” primarily because he’s often at the center of any off-kilter investigation.

My Virgil.

Shock Wave has a ripped-from-the-headlines story, wherein big-box chain Pyemart wants to come into a small Minnesota town, upsetting the ecological and socioeconomic balance.   Somebody’s trying to keep them out.  With bombs.  It’s up to Virgil to figure it out.

As always, there’s a potential love interest.  (Amusingly, he explains the sobriquet “that f’in’ Flowers” with faux modesty, explaining he has a certain popularity with the ladies.)  Plot twists and characters who are not what they seem.  Plenty of breezy fun balanced by actual and potential mayhem.

I enjoyed Shock Wave.  Sandford fans will, too, as will anyone who’s looking for a solid PI story with amusing characters.  It’s not deep, it’s not insightful, but it’s fun and perfect for an afternoon’s read, preferably with a warm beverage and a dog by your side.

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!