Deadline by John Sandford

Virgil Flowers is known for being the go to guy in investigating "the hard ones". As a lead investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, he has gained a reputation as much for his unorthodox personality as his professional victories. In Deadline, the eighth novel to feature Flowers, author John Sandford places his character in a situation that seems to be quite mundane in comparison to his previous outings. Virgil's buddy, Johnson, requests his help in finding some dogs that have gone missing from various local townspeople. It isn't the most glamorous of cases, but Virgil is always happy to help a friend.

As he investigates the case of the dognappers, Virgil soon discovers there is more to the story than meets the eye. Amongst the rugged hills of rural Minnesota lie dark secrets that stay hidden to most. Residents claim they hear the barking of dogs at different times in the night, fading in and out as if they are on the move. Could an overly observant child who knows the landscape like the back of his hand hold the key to finding the missing pups? Is it worth risking a boy's safety to uncover the truth?

As the novel began, I was a bit hesitant of an entire book being devoted to missing dogs. Luckily, Sandford supplements this plot with a story about a crooked local school board. While investigating the animals, Virgil learns of a reporter who was murdered shortly before he broke a story of the board's wrongdoing. Desperate to cover the trail of their crimes, the board holds secret meetings to eliminate anyone who stands in their way. Naturally, Virgil becomes their prime target.

After the odd and uneven narrative departure in Storm Front, Deadline marks a return to form for the Virgil Flowers series. Sandford takes Flowers back to what he does best, a straightforward chase between characters who all walk a thin line between right and wrong. The fact that the reader knows exactly who is behind the crimes that Flowers investigates does little to deter from the enjoyment of the story. It is not the discovery of a secret that makes this book works, but rather the buildup to justice. Beyond the thriller elements, Deadline brings a new depth to Virgil as a character. He is in a committed relationship now and is starting to recognize the danger of his work. More so, he is learning that his unconventional methods can lead to destructive consequences for those he surrounds himself with. Deadline combines Sandford's quick pacing with fascinating characters who face moral dilemmas to create one of the strongest installments in this stellar series. I can't wait to see what the next book will bring!

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

(2016, 32)

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