Sunday, June 4, 2017

Bad Blood

Bad Blood
by John Sandford
Recommended Ages: 14+

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Agent Virgil Flowers' latest case bears a disturbing resemblance to a row of dominoes starting to topple. First a small-town high school jock, known by everyone to be a good kid, takes an aluminum tee-ball bat to a local farmer's head and tries to make it look like an accident at the grain elevator. Then the kid wakes up dead in his jail cell, but the medical examiner sees right through a crooked deputy's attempt to make it look like suicide. Then said deputy apparently blows his own brains out with his pants unzipped, which is odd, using a gun with his fingerprints wiped off it, which is even odder. Each murder seems to be either covering up for an earlier murder or, in the case of the kid with the bat, avenging the previous victim. But who the previous victim is, in that murder, is what leads Flowers and a nice-looking, divorced lady sheriff to break open the child sex abuse ring of the century. The perps? An entire, though very small, church body whose members are very secretive about their rites and beliefs. Holy cats!

It's nice for Virgil, a likeably easy-going and highly competent detective who's been burned three times in marriage, to have a passionate and tender relationship with the similarly scarred Lee Coakley, though, of course, it won't last. It's nice to know, too, that this revolting case doesn't cause them to develop an aversion to romance. This book, for all its popular-entertainment standard of literary merit, delivers a disturbingly believable look inside the mindset of a closed-off little sect that, sometime since its members immigrated from Germany, has developed some certifiably fruity ideas about the "world of law" versus the "world of spirit," and in particular, about "righteous" men's sexual uses for women, girls, and even some boys. Not only does this horrifying group breed itself a female serial killer - a rarity even in crime fiction - but it also leads to some of the most suspenseful, scary, and violent scenes in the John Sandford oeuvre, so far as I have read it. Whether or not justice is done, and in spite of a lightening leaven of humor and sexiness, at the end the good guys will be left with burdens on their conscience, the victims with agonizing disorders of the mind and soul, and the reader with the unsettling sensation that this book won't be gotten over quickly.

This is Book 4 of the Virgil Flowers thrillers by John Sandford, a pseudonym of two-time Pultizer Prize journalist John Camp. A 10th novel in the series, titled Deep Freeze, is due to be released Oct. 17, 2017. Other books in the series include Storm Front, Deadline, and Escape Clause.

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