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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review: Dark of the Moon by John Sandford

Title: Dark of the Moon
Author: John Sandford
Series: Virgil Flowers (book one)
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Publication Date: October 2, 2007
Reviewer: Ethan

Summary (as quoted from Amazon) :Three murders in just as many weeks in the quiet rural town of Bluestream is unheard of. It?s also no coincidence. And it?s not over: Detective Virgil Flowers is about to be pulled into the middle of a killer?s violent personal vendetta.

Review: As a fan of mystery/thriller novels, I am always looking for great new series to read. Despite numerous recommendations, I have never read a novel by John Sandford. To date, he has published 21 novels in his popular "Prey" series, but I decided to begin with his more recent series, featuring Virgil Flowers.

Flowers is not your run of the mill detective. He keeps his blonde hair at a surfer length, wears "band" t-shirts, and has a kind of bad boy reputation. Despite these quirks, Virgil Flowers knows how to get the job done. Three years ago, he was hired by Lucas Davenport of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to help solve "the hard stuff". When he gets sent to the small town of Bluestem to investigate the gruesome murder of a local doctor and his wife, he is thrust into the center of the "hardest" one he has ever faced.

Upon his arrival, Virgil witnesses the home of Bill Judd Sr. explode into flames, killing the local business man and leaving Flowers to believe that the apparent arson, now murder, is connected to the town's other recent events. With the assistance of the young Bluestem Sheriff, Jim Stryker, who is desperately seeking the approval of the town for reelection, Flowers uncovers a decades old conspiracy of financial fraud, lustful infidelity and a possible drug operation that threatens to rock the sleepy town. Add to all of this a psychotic serial killer, and you've got one exciting novel.

John Sandford seems to have found the perfect balance of plot, character, and setting that makes his novel compulsively engaging. In Virgil Flowers, Sandford has imagined an oddball protagonist that you can't help but root for. Sandford's simple prose keeps the story moving while still providing enough description to give the reader a sense of the small town setting. I felt the ending was a bit rushed, but the clever twists and interesting characters make this novel worth reading. I look forward to encountering this character in the other four novels in this series. After reading this, I have to agree that John Sandford produces strong thrillers. Perhaps I will try to tackle the 21 volume "Prey" series in the near future.
- Ethan

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