Mad River by John Sandford

Jimmy Sharp and his girlfriend, Becky Walsh are in way over their heads. With the assistance of Tom McCall, who only agrees to help because of his childhood crush on Becky, the threesome sets out to steal diamonds from a wealthy family. All three come from poor backgrounds and are determined to escape the pattern of ignorance and poverty that plagues their families. But their get rich quick scheme goes terribly wrong. In an instant, a simple robbery turns into murder and the threesome flees. When their junk car dies on them, they carjack an innocent bystander, killing him in the process. Soon, the three are on a killing spree as they desperately try to escape all of their wrongdoings.

Enter Virgil Flowers of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). The quirky Flowers, imagine a cross between a cowboy and a rock star, is known for always solving "the hard ones". And so he is called in to help round up the murderous trio. Unlike some of his other cases, Virgil is almost certain that the three are guilty of the crimes, so this is basically a large scale manhunt. Still, Virgil speaks to many of the locals to try to discover a solid motive for the crimes.

Virgil's unorthodox tactics and sharp wit usually cause him to ruffle the feathers of the local authorities. This case is no different. The murders have rocked the small town and the local sheriff wants to end the spree at all costs, even if that means killing the three kids on the spot. While Virgil is equally determined to bring the trio to justice, he fully believes in the judicial system and his role in it. He knows that with his skills and the assistance of a passionate community, the three will be apprehended and put on trial. That is...if the local sheriff will let him do his job!

This sixth installment in the Virgil Flowers series continues the quick pace, thoughtful narrative, and pure entertainment of its predecessors. John Sandford writes with an efficient prose that never gets in the way of the story or characters and allows for a breakneck pace. Unlike many other mystery novels, the reader and detective know who the killers are from the get go. The fun is instead in learning how Virgil Flowers, one of the most charismatic and enticing characters I've ever read, pursues the criminals. It is the character, not the plot, who is the driving force of this novel. The ending, while maybe not the conclusion readers will hope for, serves as a testament to Sandford's dedication to realism and emotion. Overall, this novel continues the excellent quality of the Virgil Flowers series and I can't wait to read of his next adventure.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and GoodReads.

(2015, 8)

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