Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mad River - by John Sandford

Mad River is book #6 in John Sandford's Virgil Flowers series.  In southwest Minnesota, not far from Virgil's hometown, a trio of youngsters is terrorizing the community.  As part of an apparent armed robbery, they kill a young woman in her parents home.  Their attempts to run result in a crime spree with innocent victims piling up rather quickly.  Virgil is a somewhat unorthodox state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) investigator who joins in the hunt.

If you are unfamiliar with the series, Flowers is a rather unconventional super-cop.  Although he doesn't shy away from dangerous situations, he is not a macho mercenary type and does not like carrying a gun.  While very intelligent and often innovative, he's a talented but normal guy who employs effective police work and just gets the job done.  He's very likable and loves the outdoors (his fishing boat is probably his most prized possession).  He enjoys beer, women, burgers, and conversation, but also spends a good amount of time pondering God (though he is the son of a Lutheran minister).  He is a kind and thoughtful person, but has had problems with long-term relationships (he's already been divorced three times).  Like most of Sandford's characters, he is an interesting, somewhat quirky, and well-developed personality.

This book is not a mystery.  While Virgil is a good investigator, this is about a case where Virigil is, for the most part, forced to deal with events as they play out.  This is a criminal thriller, of sorts, and the plot has a number of suspenseful moments.  The storyline, however, is also about Virgil's rationalization and handling of the situations and emotions that surround the case as it plays out beyond his control and he must deal with the ethics of improper and unattainable justice.

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