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I wanted to like it... I really did...

  • Dec 9, 2012
While I've gotten burned out on the Lucas Davenport series by John Sandford, I like what he's doing with the Virgil Flowers character as a separate series of novels. Mad River is the latest installment, and I looked forward to getting it from the library when my name made it to the top of the hold lists. I wanted to like it... I really did. But it seems like the book was about a third too long with an ending that fell flat (in my opinion). I never got lost in the action, as much as I wanted to...

The plot revolves around Flowers getting called in on what turns into a serial killing spree. Three people from a small town in Minnesota are looking to pull off a few burglaries to get some money and head west. But the first home invasion goes bad, and one of the occupants ends up getting shot and killed. Unfortunately, that just makes it easier to kill the next person, and the next person, and so on. Flowers gets a lead on who is responsible for the trail of dead bodies, but finding the three killers isn't as easy as it sounds when you're in the middle of nowhere and there are few eye witnesses left to point the way.

In terms of plot, the book wasn't bad. You know who the killers are, and the story shifts from Flowers to the killers and back again to advance the action. He suspects there's a different motivation other than money, but he can't get the proof he needs to take appropriate action. And that's where I had problems. Once that angle was introduced, it felt like the story just went in circles in order to kill time before the end. Even when "the end" happened, the larger resolution seemed like a tacked-on finish to take up another 50 to 100 pages. I hit the last page and actually said "that was it?" I was disappointed...

I'm hoping Mad River is just an "off" installment in the Virgil Flowers series. I don't want to put it in the same "in no big rush to read new ones" category as the Lucas Davenport novels have become for me. But I'm definitely holding my expectations in check to see what direction things go.

Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

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review by . December 24, 2012
Mad River: A Virgil Flowers Novel by John Sanford is the latest in an increasingly enjoyable series. When you see the subtitle A Virgil Flowers Novel you know exactly what you are getting in the read--- a profane loner type cop who will be unorthodox in solving the case while also making the time to check out the available ladies. The job will get done, political and probably law enforcement big shots will be annoyed, and the body count will be fairly high.    Continuing the …
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Thomas Duff ()
Ranked #42
Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … more
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*Starred Review* Three rural Minnesota teenagers, Jimmy Sharp, Becky Welsh, and Tom McCall, are on a crime spree. It started with the murder of a store clerk during a botched robbery. Victim number two died in a car heist as they made their getaway. Then they decide “what the hell” and settle a couple of personal scores. The kids are murderous but not dumb, and they avoid capture from an ever-growing cadre of pursuers that includes Virgil Flowers from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Flowers is the nominal head of the investigation, but he struggles to keep control of the various law-enforcement agencies involved. He’s determined to take the kids alive, an end game that’s not endorsed by his associates. As the pursuit continues, he’s able to establish phone contact with Welsh. At least one of the killers has moved from abstraction to human, and Flowers becomes more determined than ever to bring them in alive. Flowers is a complex character camouflaged by his long hair, rock-’n’-roll T-shirts, smart mouth, and fearlessness. The son of a minister, he is burdened by a spirituality that subtly influences his every decision. It’s more pronounced in this case as he fights the pack’s need for revenge and, in the end, leaves readers assessing the morality of the kids as well as their pursuers. This may be the best entry in a stellar series. --Wes Lukowsky
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