Monday, May 22, 2017

Extreme Prey

Extreme Prey
by John Sandford
Recommended Ages: 14+

In this 26th of (to date) 27 "Lucas Davenport" novels, Lucas visits Davenport - the city in Iowa - among other points of interest in the big, corn-and-soybean-growing state south of his usual Minnesota stomping grounds. Although he no longer works for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension - sorry about the spoiler, if you didn't read Book 25, Gathering Prey - Davenport is still at the beck and call of Minnesota Gov. Elmer Henderson1, who is now running for (ahem) vice president. So when Henderson, out on the campaign trail for the Iowa Caucuses, picks up on hints that someone is planning a deadly misadventure for another candidate, Davenport comes to Davenport, etc.

He comes, to start, hoping he will find out there's nothing to it. But first a consultation with a (mostly) retired cybercriminal named Kidd, then another with a shrink named Sister Mary Joseph, convince him the threat is serious. Soon Lucas is working more or less with the cooperation of Iowa's equivalent of the BCA, trying to narrow down a long list of members of fringe political groups in search of a white-haired woman and her gray-eyed son matching Henderson's description of the fanatics to approached him.

The two would-be killers soon escalate to actual killing, yet in spite of their crude methods, remain remarkably elusive. Part of this has to do with another political radical having her own reasons to cover up past shenanigans, including a bombing that wasn't meant to kill three people, but did. Davenport isn't helped by the fact that he is soon chasing two entirely separate killers, or groups of killers, with overlapping agendas and motives; solving one crime won't necessarily lead him to the other killers. But time is running out before the big event - the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines - where the candidate with the most to lose will be most vulnerable to losing it, and where even two well-identified suspects may be hard to pick out of the crowd.

Writing at the top of the form that has made this series, as far as I've followed it, unputdownable, John Sandford (an alias of sometime newspaper writer John Camp) packs a lot of scenic detail, character insight, tight dialogue, and gee-whiz investigative techniques into a steadily accelerating thrill-ride of fun, action, and suspense. I make no promises that if you read this book, you will be experiencing literature for the ages. But I guarantee it will provide an engaging diversion from whatever you want to be diverted from, while exercising all kinds of nerves and brain connections that may not get shaken down often enough. I'm at the end of the series for now (until the next book, Golden Prey, comes out in paperback), but I might go back to the beginning and enjoy it all the way through from Book 1.

1 It's a great name for a fictional politician from a state that has had three governors named Elmer (a Benson, an Anderson, and an Andersen). This is why, when my Dad had a friend named Elmer Anderson and teasingly called him "Governor," the joke worked.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Seven Stupid Reasons to Lose Your Mind

Let me begin with a disclaimer: This list doesn’t go into political or religious issues. If it did, the list could go on indefinitely, and its delicate balance between funniness and offensiveness would probably tip in the wrong direction.

Also, I could have added an eighth item to the list, but I’ve already done the Oxford comma, so let’s consider that subject closed. So, without any further throat-clearing...

7. When someone puts a double-space after a period. I don’t do it, and I don’t allow it to stand when another writer does it and I’m editing their work for the newspaper. But I’ve seen some columns on the internet about this, columns that go way over-the-top in condemning the practice of typing a double space after every period, which many people remember being told to do when they were learning to type.

OK, so those double spaces are unnecessary, wasteful, and, when you’re typesetting a publication, downright disruptive. But here’s the deal. In a matter of seconds, with fewer than 10 keystrokes, you can run a global find-and-replace routine on your document that changes all double-spaces to single-spaces.

You may even be able to create an automation (depending on your software and your programming savvy) that does this at the pressing of shortcut key.

You might also be able to program an autotext subroutine that does this replacement while you type, requiring no keyboard shortcuts at all.

When the problem is that easy to solve, it is totally not worth losing your cool.

6. When someone says “can” instead of “may.” Some people find this grammatical slip especially irksome when they hear it committed by someone who should know better. Instead of overlooking the so-small-it’s-almost-invisible usage mistake, they reply to casual (and sometimes rather serious) inquiries with snarky comebacks like, “I don’t know. Can you go to the bathroom?”

After it’s said and done, they haven’t taught the other person a valuable lesson, other than “Try harder next time not to let them see you call them an asshole with your eyes.”

You see, the distinction between “can” and “may” seems to be vanishing in casual American speech. Using “may” when most people would instinctively say “can” has practically become a social-class shibboleth.

So, when someone gives enough thought to the may/can distinction to be conspicuously precise in their usage, Joe Average begins to suspect they are either an uppity snob or a pedantic bore. And if they correct him, he knows they’re the latter.

Another thing to understand about the American mindset is that people don’t like it when someone seems to look down on them or think himself superior to them. All it takes to move from a warm embrace to a cold shoulder is to act like, in your mind, you don’t belong or fit in.

My advice would be to let it go when you hear someone use “can” instead of “may,” and try not to let the thought “What an ignorant yokel” show in your eyes. You might fool them into thinking you’re all right.

5. When someone says “I could care less.” This old chestnut has been roasted on many a tweeter’s or Facebooker’s news feed, in a thousand variations on “Top 10 Grammatical Errors Everyone Needs to Stop Making Yesterday, or Die Screaming!”

What’s particularly lame about this one is that it isn’t even grammatically incorrect.

I mean, the subject agrees with the verb; it has all the parts of speech necessary to make a complete sentence; it’s spelled and punctuated correctly. So why is this wrong?

It’s “wrong,” apparently, because the person objecting to it doesn’t understand why the sentence “I could care less” makes perfect sense, as it stands.

Believe me, and I speak from experience, you can point out to them that redacting this idiomatic expression to read “I couldn’t care less” is a classic example of over-correction, and all you will achieve is to bring down on yourself a column of Internet vitriol that, if matched in physical reality, would melt the flesh off your bones.

I submit that people who are offended by the imprecision of the statement “I could care less” are afflicted by a grammatical form of OCD. Either that, or they just have a blind spot to the clear meaning of a saying that has been in use for generations.

The crowning irony is that the “corrected” version, “I couldn’t care less,” actually doesn’t hold up under cross-examination. What, really? You couldn’t care less? So, it isn’t at all possible that a subject could exist about which you care less than the given one? How about that!

“I could care less,” on the other hand, actually can be understood in at least a couple ways.

For one: Have you ever heard of straight-up sarcasm? Similar remarks include, “Big deal!” and “Wow,” and “Isn’t that special?” and “Thanks for sharing,” and “Like I give a rat’s ass.”

For another, there’s the related technique of murder by understatement, in which a outwardly positive remark is so insultingly bland, it isn’t necessary to say the intended put-down aloud. For example: “That’s a unique point of view” (but don’t expect me to take it seriously), and “I’ll give that all the consideration it deserves” (which isn’t much).

In the same vein, I like to think of “I could care less” as being followed by an unspoken clause like, “but that would take more effort than it’s worth,” or “but that might be dangerous.”

On a literal level, however, you have to hand it to whatever it is you don’t care about: you could care less, hypothetically speaking, even if at the moment you can’t think of anything that you would care less about.

4. Pineapple on pizza. Gordon Ramsay, the chef with the filthiest mouth on cable TV, and the president of Iceland are dead set against it; but I could care less, and the sentiment seems to be widespread.

As long as enough people like the ham-and-pineapple, or Canadian-bacon-and-pineapple, combination of pizza toppings, it’s going to be worth pizza restaurants’ while to violate these elitist jerks’ canons of good taste.

It is apparent from the internet backlash that a siginficant slice of the population pie likes theirs with pineapple on it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that combo; at times, I rather crave it.

I think I first encountered something like it in Germany, in the form of a tomato, pineapple, cheese, and ham sandwich served on an English muffin, which my hosts called a Hawaiian-style something or other. It seemed like a great idea, and the crowd who seems to agree should be allowed to hold this opinion in peace. The world is big enough for that, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be sad if someone actually could (like the Icelandic president joked about doing) lay down a law against even a trivial, grammatically dubious belief like “pineapple goes good on pizza”? What kind of world are we building for the next generation if we’re willing to pick public fights over ludicrously subjective opinions such as “Pineapple pizza is wrong?”

Anchovies, however, are another story. It’s not so much that I hate anchovies; I really don’t. I just know, from experience, that whatever else you put on a pizza, if it has anchovies on it, it’s an anchovy pizza, period.

People should have the right to order an anchovy pizza, but they shouldn’t expect anybody who wants a pepperoni pizza (for exmaple) to compromise with them by sharing an anchovy-and-pepperoni pizza, because there’s no such thing. There may be a measurable quantity of pepperoni on the pie, but the only thing these two guys will taste in each bite is anchovy, to an overpowering degree.

Anchovy a-fish-ionados (heh) should take a cue from some people I know who can’t or won’t eat cheese in any form; rather than trying to get others to split a cheeseless pizza with them, they just order a separate pizza with no cheese. A separate anchovy pizza may be worth the expense, even if it does make the whole room stink. But I digress.

3. Ketchup on a hot dog. I’ve actually allowed myself to be drawn into an argument about this in a Facebook comment thread. It’s not that I’m against people being allowed to disagree about this. I am just basically, instinctively honked off by the intolerance of the largely Chicago-centric culture of saying, “If you put ketchup on hot dogs, you’re wrong,” or “This hot dog stand reserves the right to refuse service to anyone who asks for ketchup,” etc.

I don’t personally consider ketchup to be an essential hot dog condiment, but I do find it complements certain other combinations of hot dog toppings.

Also, just as an added dig, I think the “Chicago dog” is stupid. If a wedge of pickle bigger than the sausage link is essential for its appreciation, you might want to look at improving the taste of your sausage.

Me, I’m a Sonic “New York dog” man: sauerkraut, brown mustard, and grilled onions all the way, baby! But I do wish the clerks at Sonic would act a little more like they believe in their product. The last two times I’ve ordered this, the cashier has asked me two different ways (each time!) whether I understood I was getting a hot dog with sauerkraut, brown mustard, and caramelized onions on it. Are you sure you want all that, mister? Yes, yes, that’s why I’m ordering it!

2. Whether the end of the toilet paper (or paper towel) goes under or over the roll. Come on, folks. Why are you still bitching at your loved ones about this? The roller works either way. If you’re so concerned about it, try to make sure you’re always the one who puts the new roll of paper on the rack.

For the sake of world peace, learn to co-exist about something as stupid and trivial as whether the end hangs down toward you or away from you. Or let the rule be like the one that has solved many a debate over which radio station to tune in while riding together in a car: let the driver choose. This doesn’t necessarily pre-suppose that the vehicle’s occupants take turns driving. Maybe it’s an incentive to not always be a passenger in somebody else’s car, and to get your own before your regular driver’s taste in music drives you nuts.

1. Related to that: Whether the toilet seat stays up or down. Again, why the backbiting and recrimination about this? If she falls into the bowl because she didn’t look to see which way the seat was angled, she could take some responsibility for looking before she, um, leaps. If he whizzes all over the seat because his aim is only precise to an opening the size of the bowl with the seat flipped up, he could take some responsibility for wiping the seat off with TP before he washes his hands. (And let’s be honest, he probably needs to wipe the rim after going with the seat up, anyway).

As for me, I think the simplest solution to this dilemma is to keep the lid closed on the toilet when not in use. But I speak as a pet owner who has, more than once, had to fish a kitten out of the (ugh) drink. Dog owners might have their own icky reasons for deliberately leaving the lid up, so Fido can always find a fresh(?) supply of drinking water. But apart from that and worrying about sewer rats crawling out into your home (a phobia my late, beloved grandmother had, after feeling whiskers tickling her keister one time during a visit to the basement john), there’s no reason everybody shouldn’t be able to leave the seat up or down, for the next potty-goer to adjust to his or her own requirements.

Again, co-exist, people. Save your intolerant tirades for things that really matter, such as whether to drive 15 mph below the speed limit or 15 mph above it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ms. Bixby's Last Day

Ms. Bixby's Last Day
by John David Anderson
Recommended Ages: 10+

When Ms. Bixby announces to her sixth-grade class that, due to her cancer diagnosis, she cannot finish the school year with them, the kids plan a party to send her off. But her health deteriorates faster than expected, and that means they won't have a chance to say goodbye. That's when best friends Topher, Brand, and Steve decide to take matters into their own hands, skipping school the day before Ms. Bixby is due to be transported to Boston for more advanced treatment. All they have to do is negotiate a few bus rides, make a few purchases, and get into their teacher's hospital room. What could go wrong?

During a day of misadventures and discoveries, each of the boys reveals - secretly, between himself and the reader - his own unique reason for needing a teacher like Ms. Bixby, and for caring about that Good One in particular. The upshot is a heart-warming, tears-and-laughter journey of a book, shifting between three narrators' points of view, and ending with an out-of-chronology chapter that explains all. It's a surprise, don't-read-without-a-box-of-Kleenex middle-school boys' book from an author previously known for his off-the-wall tales of superheroes and villains.

John David Anderson is also the author of Standard Hero Behavior, Sidekicked, Minion, The Dungeoneers, Insert Coin to Continue, and most recently, another middle-school-themed story about the issue of bullying, titled Posted.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Pilfer Academy

Pilfer Academy
by Lauren Magaziner
Recommended Ages: 10+

In her second novel, the author of The Only Thing Worse Than Witches takes the popular idea of a secret boarding school that teaches unusual kids to do unusual things, and gives it an especially goofy twist. Described as "a school so bad it's criminal," Pilfer Academy doesn't just recruit its students; it kidnaps them. That's what happens to George Beckett, the naughtiest of his parents' six children, at the beginning of this book - snatched off the street by a daffy pair of teachers who subscribe to such dark arts as pasting together ransom notes, practicing stealth, picking locks, and perfecting the art of disguise. Yes, kids, it's a school for thieves.

The teachers aren't just criminal; they're criminally insane, like the pasta-scarfing headmaster, Dean Dean Deanbugle, who maintains order by threatening his students with a mysterious punishment called the Whirlyblerg. The school isn't just a museum of stolen artifacts; the whole manor house, grounds and all, was stolen from the Duke of Valois while he and his wife went out for coffee. The school's motto is "Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers." Try to sneak into the kitchen at night, and you might spend your detention brushing the teeth of a tankful of piranha. Try to sneak into the faculty lounge, and you may face even fiercer safeguards, such as a flock of man-eating chickens. Try to escape, and... let's not even talk about that. It's just too horrible. (So whirly. So blerggggg!)

But after acing his midterm exam, George finds himself wrestling with his conscience. Also, he misses his family, including the brother who is always putting him in a headlock. He decides he just has to escape. And while his roommate Milo would probably like nothing better than to see George gone, the only help he's going to get is from his best friend Tabitha, who is just so good at thieving that she doesn't feel challenged any more. Picture Hermione Granger storming out of Trelawney's class at Hogwarts, and extend it over all her subjects. The trouble is, the only way to escape from the school... is to steal it.

This is my first taste of Lauren Magaziner's writing. Though I am interested to want to read her previous book, it did bear some of the hallmarks of inexperience. Its goofiness was so over-the-top that the story almost couldn't hold together; which might actually work for some hyperactive children. I was interested to find a blog post by Magaziner, listing her favorite so-silly-they're-scary children's-book villains, in whose company Dean Dean Deanbugle really does fit in. I think she shows promise as a children's author, but still has room to grow. Also, her book had the bad luck to come out at about the same time as the similarly school-for-young-criminals-themed Munchem Academy book by Commander S.T. Bolivar III, The Boy Who Knew Too Much. But this specific branch off the Hogwarts family tree is budding in all directions, as evidenced by Soman Chainani's The School for Good and Evil, Victoria Forester's The Girl Who Could Fly, Catherine Jinks' Evil Genius, Stuart Gibbs' Spy School, Gitty Daneshvari's School of Fear and The League of Unexceptional Children, and all their sequels. I don't know if this book is going to have a sequel; but in spite of losing a few points by being just a little too harmlessly silly, it still made me laugh; for that alone, I'll be interested in seeing whatever else Magaziner puts out.

Gathering Prey

Gathering Prey
by John Sandford
Recommended Ages: 14+

This 25th book in the Lucas Davenport mystery-thrillers stretches the franchise's Minnesota-based outlook. It begins with Letty, daughter of Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Agent Lucas Davenport, befriending a pair of "travelers" during her freshman year at Stanford University in California. It follows the pair to South Dakota, where cute, apple-cheeked Henry disappears, leaving tough young Skye shaken. Convinced there may be something to her ravings about the "devil" getting Henry - understanding "devil" to mean a Charles Manson-like villain named Pilate, who comes complete with a band of insane groupies - Lucas helps Letty bring Skye to St. Paul with an offer to help her find her friend. Henry actually does turn up, murdered in pretty much exactly the way Skye suspected, which makes her seem a bit less crazy. Meanwhile, Pilate and his groupies continue their drug-fueled crime wave across northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Ah, the UP: a place I have never visited, but that I know feel I have experienced with vivid impressions on most of my senses (maybe not taste, so much). I've come to trust John Sandford's descriptions of cities, small towns, and countryside in the Upper Midwest, after reading his account of places I've been and finding them as I remembered them. I wouldn't mind seeing the UP in person, sometime, if I could do so at the wheel of the Mercedes SUV Davenport drives. But I'll pass on some of his gruesome and heartbreaking discoveries, such as a northwoods "underground railroad" for undocumented Somali refugees sneaking across the Canadian border, or the murdered body of a drug dealer found inside the melted remains of a Winnebago Minnie RV, or the innocent folks who pay with their lives for getting in the way of the Pilate juggernaut. For most of Pilate's crew, the rampage ends in an armed standoff in a small, Upper Michigan town where the cops have set up a roadblock. But there is still blood to be shed, bodies to drop, and traps to snap shut before Lucas, Letty, and the wider public can breathe safely.

There's a bit more to this book than a by-the-numbers, police-procedural murder investigation. Lucas, for example, stretches his jurisdiction a bit, sticking his once-broken nose into investigations in three or four other states, getting deputized in Michigan, and moving from a favor to his college-age daughter to a bloodbath on the streets of a tiny Michigan town. He learns more than you ever thought there was to know about the Insane Clown Posse and their fan subculture, known as the Juggalos. He also faces political and bureaucratic consequences for this case that will change the course of this series - and not too soon. I'm already reading Book 26, Extreme Prey. After that, I might have to dig back to Book 1, Rules of Prey.

John Sandford is a pseudonym for John Camp, a now New Mexico-based writer who won two Pulitzers during the 1980s while writing for the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. I guess that answers my question, posed in a previous review, about how a guy from N.M. got to be so good at describing places in MN. His other novels, besides the Lucas Davenport/Prey series, include four now very dated "Kidd" novels, featuring a cyber-criminal; 10 "Virgil Flowers" novels, a spinoff series featuring a Davenport protégé; a young adult trilogy co-written with Michelle Cook; a few stand-alone thrillers and non-fiction books, and even a sci-fi thriller.

Field of Prey

Field of Prey
by John Sandford
Recommended Ages: 14+

I usually like to start reading a series of books at the beginning and go straight through it in order. But the opportunity to get into John Sandford's "Lucas Davenport" thrillers fell into my lap in the form of books 24 and 25 of the popular series, which stretches back to 1989's Rules of Prey and is due to add a 27th title later this year. I got them, along with the first two books of the spinoff "Virgil Flowers" series, for a total of $2 at a garage sale. I call that a reasonable inducement to start reading a series at any point in its progress. And while some pieces of main character Lucas Davenport's backstory remain somewhat vague to me - like how he became super-rich while also serving as an ethically clean state homicide detective - this 24th installment in the series is enough of a stand-alone mystery to keep me hooked from beginning to end.

Lucas Davenport is a high-fashion clotheshorse, a high-speed driver of either a Porsche or a Mercedes SUV, and a politically well-connected agent in Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He has approximately four detectives working under him - the thuggish Jenkins and Shrake, who would rather be golfing; the laid-back, and frequently laid, Virgil Flowers, who would rather be fishing; and my favorite, Del Capslock, a character whose name the author obviously made up while staring blankly at his computer keyboard. When Del gets shot in this book, one wonders if he might die to make way for a new character named Tab Backspace.

One fine week, when all his subordinates are working on other cases, Lucas gets pulled into a serial killer investigation that started when a couple of horny teenagers paused for a pee, while parking on an abandoned farmstead near the city of Red Wing in southeastern Minnesota. The kids smelled something so bad that one of them brought a cop back with him the next day, and the two of them found an abandoned cistern full of decomposing bodies. Some of the remains in this grisly burial turn out to have been grave-robbed, but most of them appear to be the work of a serial rapist and strangler, who may have caused the disappearances of as many as 20 women in about as many years.

At first, Lucas isn't heavily involved in this case. Then the agent in charge of the investigation turns up murdered, apparently after having a sudden insight into the case that puts him at the loud end of the killer's gun before he knows what he's found. Lucas, one of the last people to see BCA Agent Bob Shaffer alive, has to identify the body, and a short time later, finds a text on his phone from Shaffer's widow, saying, "Find him and kill him." And so, even though he still isn't the agent in charge of the case, finding the guy who put all those bodies in the cistern becomes a personal matter. Unfortunately, trying to make the connection Shaffer made, that led to his death, doesn't work. Doing the same investigation that Shaffer had already documented, also seems like wasted time. Solving the case becomes an exercise in looking at the evidence in a way it hasn't been looked at before. And the pressure is on, with the press hounding the BCA about why the creep hasn't been caught yet, an eyewitness spreading suspicion about an innocent suspect, and a female county investigator slowly accepting the grim reality that someone in her community is a murderer.

This is one of those mysteries in which the reader is privileged to know whodunit from the beginning, though there is a twist connected with the killer's identity - or rather, a twistedness in his state of mind that you might or might not see coming - which ensures that Lucas' final race to save his female colleague from becoming the Black Hole Killer's next victim will make you a nervous wreck.

John Sandford is the pen-name of John Camp, an award-winning journalist who, I am surprised to learn, lives not in Minnesota but in New Mexico, in spite of the bulk of his fiction being set in the Land of 10,000 lakes. He writes with a level of geographical and cultural accuracy that seems convincing to me, a longtime former resident of Minnesota who still visits family there from time to time. His writing is also well stocked with laughs, sexiness, and grit in its depiction of believable good guys trying to catch believable bad guys. The back-cover blurbs by reviewers and other authors often describe Sandford's novels as great "summer reads." I don't think I could stretch a book out over a whole summer. But 27 of these would make a nice dent in my next two or three weeks of vacation.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Heat Lightning

Heat Lightning
by John Sandford
Recommended Ages: 14+

I found this second of 10 "Virgil Flowers novels" together with its predecessor, Dark of the Moon, at a local garage sale last week, and was kept up late several nights in a row by the addictive pleasure of reading them. I suppose one reason I get a kick out of them is that they're set in Minnesota, where I lived many years and where most of my family still lives. It keeps mentioning places I'm familiar with; the main character even lives in the town where I went to college. Settings and characters I recognize come recognizably to life in their pages. But also, they're just fun books. They have a fascinatingly cool, laid-back, skirt-chasing, joke-cracking, outdoorsy, smarter-and-tougher-than-he-looks crime solver in the main-character slot - a guy who can be described roughly as a 30-something cross between a surfer dude and a cowboy, and who gets out ahead of a coordinated team of serial killers when they've written him off as a harmless hick.

Virgil Flowers works the southern Minnesota range of the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, under the command of Lucas Davenport (hero of his own 27-novel series by the same author), who once memorably promised to give him "the hard stuff." His involvement in the case featured in this book began with the execution-style murder of a New Ulm, Minn. title company owner, found propped up against a veterans' memorial with a lemon stuck in his mouth. Bodies continue to drop, looking exactly like that, but spread out all over the state - including one victim, a former St. Paul cop, left practically on the state capitol lawn. Stopping these crimes is especially urgent, as the Republican National Convention is coming to the Twin Cities in a week or two. But as Flowers pieces together the connections between the victims, he realizes there's a hit list, and the guy in charge of the RNC's security is either on the list, or he's the one calling the hits.

Time is running out, especially after Flowers himself unwittingly leads the killers to one of the victims. He enjoys the unusual (for him) sensation of realizing he's been played for a fool, but only for a moment, before beginning a race toward a deadly showdown with a team of killers whose motives and methods are full of disturbing implications. It's a mystery married to a spy thriller married to a tale of political intrigue, with elements of tragedy and a spark of romance thrown in for fun, and the guy who breaks it all open is going to be a dude who wears rock band T-shirts under his sport coat and, now and then, takes a break from chasing killers to go fishing. How very Minnesota.

Besides the aforementioned 37 novels featuring either Virgil or Lucas, John Sandford is the author of four Kidd novels, the recent "Singular Menace" trilogy co-authored by Michelle Cook, the "Lincoln Rhyme vs. Lucas Davenport" novella Rhymes with Prey co-written with Jeffery Deaver, the recent science-fiction novel Saturn Run co-authored with Ctein, and the novels The Night Crew and Dead Watch.