So, everybody knows John Sandford, right? Tall, rugged-looking guy, Pultizer-prize winning journalist, modest demeanor, writes about fourteen books a year, all of which end up on the New York Times best seller list? (Okay, it’s his real-life persona, John Roswell Camp, who won the Pulitzer and he doesn’t actually publish fourteen books a year – it’s just 31 novels since 1989.) He’s got a new one out, and it features Virgil Flowers. If Lucas Davenport is the urbane, big-money family man, Virgil’s his rough-edged, woman-loving cousin.
In this post, I likened Virgil to Jimmy Buffet. I also think Matthew McConaughey could take the movie role, slipping easily into Flowers’ classic rock-n-roll T-shirts. (Click here for a list of said t-shirts.)
Now there’s a new Virgil Flowers novel out, just as rollicking and convoluted as ever. Storm Front features a dying college professor who steals a priceless – and potentially world-changing – ancient biblical artifact from a dig in Israel. Professor Elijah Jones sets course immediately for Mankato, Minnesota, home territory for our own Virgil Flowers. Virgil’s busy. He’s got buxom criminals to investigate. Closely.
Jones’ goal is to ransom the artifact to the highest bidder, thereby securing the future of his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife, who is going to need a lot of very expensive care after her husband’s death. Of course, this being a Virgil Flowers novel, there’s a whole cast of unusual characters, including a faux-historian from the Israel Department of Antiquities (Yael Aronov One) who’s so fit and kick-ass that we’re not surprised too much when we find out she’s really probably from Mossad, the real Yael (known as Yael-Two, and much dumpier and home-loving than Yael One). Also: Tag Bauer, an enterprising TV showboat of a “field archeologist,” various spies and hit-men, the above-named buxom criminal with previously unknown ties to Elijah Jones, and Jones’ daughter, Ellen, who insists that her father, despite his end-of-life larceny, is not a bad man.
As always, several of the characters are charmingly over the top, the reader is required to wend her way through a labyrinthine plot, and all’s well that end’s well at the conclusion. Some folks don’t care for this: on Amazon today, although there are 206 five-star reviews, there are also 72 one-star reviews. Put me solidly in the three-star territory… you’re not going to learn a lesson of any kind in a Virgil Flowers novel, and there’s no character development to speak of, but you are going to have a heck of a ride.