by John Sandford
Recommended Ages: 14+
The killers, plural, are an elderly man and the teenaged great-grandson in whom he has instilled a passion for Communism. Together they carry out a series of reckless yet infuriatingly successful stealth killings, fighting to protect their aging spy cell from post-Soviet Russian intelligence, from the Russian mafia, and from discovery by the American authorities. But as good as they are at covering their tracks, Lucas is even better at sniffing them out - realizing, for example, that the physically wrecked suspect they have framed for the murders would never have been able to outrun him in the hilly streets of Duluth.
This mystery hops back and forth between the sleuths' and the killers' points of view, building sympathy for both sides of their deadly game, and ultimately leading to the type of ending that reminds one of real life - bitterly short on satisfying resolution, but with the characters' frustration felt by the reader, and their compromises with their consciences sitting uneasily on ours. It's a grim, gruesome, sometimes shockingly violent, heartbreaking, occasionally sexy, not infrequently funny, fascinating exercise in the arts of committing and solving a series of crimes that stir up memories of revolutionary fervor. It is a glimpse into a type of extremism that could, and perhaps does, hide under the guise of ordinary citizenship. And it comes to one of those climaxes in which you bite your nails, in part, out of concern for what will happen to the bad guy. So, it's a most interesting cocktail of crime thriller and tragedy, set in a part of Minnesota not far from where I went to high school. I could have known the junior killer in this tale. The thought gives me chills.
John Sandford, in case you just tuned in, is the pen-name of sometime Pulitzer-winning journalist John Camp. His fiction also includes the Virgil Flowers novels, a spinoff of this series.