Deep Freeze by John Sandford

"Same old Flowers shit. You gotta ride with it."

For years, my favorite literary crime hero was James Patterson's Alex Cross. While I still faithfully read the Cross series, John Sandford's Virgil Flowers has recently ascended to the top spot. There's something about his eccentric investigative antics and never wavering moral compass that makes Flowers a must read. Like any long-running series, Virgil Flowers has had his highs and lows. The last two novels, both focusing largely on finding missing animals, have been true to form. Beyond his usual case studies, Flowers was allowed to truly evolve as a character in new and exciting ways. With Deep Freeze, the tenth installment in this series, John Sandford attempts to take his character to new heights by returning to a familiar setting.

The rough and tumble lady's man Virgil Flowers has been steadily dating his girlfriend Frankie for the last several books. Seeing the way Frankie interacts with her sons has started to cause Virgil think about potentially being a father one day, a role the three time divorcee never imagined he would even consider. The couple's vacation is cut short when Virgil is called by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to travel to Trippton, Minnesota. Virgil has a troubled history with the small town. The last time he was there, he encountered a dog smuggling ring and a corrupt and murderous school board.

This trip sees Virgil investigating the murder of a local banker who was pulled from a frozen river by a local fisherman. She was last seen alive at her home where she hosted a meeting of several other townspeople. They were gathered to plan their 20th high school reunion. As Virgil begins to interview the attendees of that meeting, he begins to see that each of these people may have had some incentive to murder the victim. What is it with this small town?!

As if things weren't already complicated enough, Virgil also receives a request directly from the governor's office. Mattel, maker of Barbie, has commissioned a lawyer from LA to present a cease and desist to a local woman who has been buying, altering, and reselling the dolls. She adds voice boxes to the dolls that cause them to spew suggestive and highly off-brand sounds that Mattel is eager to see stop. The problem is, the this seemingly insignificant operation puts food on the table to many struggling families within the Trippton community. Citizens are less than eager to assist in this particular investigation.

In this tenth novel in the Virgil Flower series, John Sandford continues to develop his character in ways that make this long-running series seem as fresh as ever. Virgil seems to be more calculated in his approach to investigation and takes less risks than he did in earlier novels. This can probably attributed to his relationship with Frankie. There's a couple close calls in this book that have him pleading with police to not inform Frankie of what happened. His concern for her well-being has definitely shifted his actions. Still, he continues to have the quick wit and keen ability to read between the lines of the people he interviews. I always marvel at Sandfords ability to reveal a killer from the start of a book and still hold my attention and create suspense out of an investigation that I know the answer to. Deep Freeze is no different. It is the perfect display of Sandford's writing prowess and the wonderful character he has created. Bring on the next Virgil Flowers adventure!

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

(2017, 44)

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