A review of Shock Wave: A Virgil Flowers Novel, by John Sandford
@@@@ (4 out of 5)
Virgil Flowers considers himself a “shitkicker” and tends to dress, talk, and act like one, favoring T-shirts from rock bands, cowboy boots, fly fishing, fast motorboats, and, shall we say, casual language. Here he is in conversation with one of his suspects in Shock Wave, a trade school instructor:
Virgil: “So, where you at?”
Suspect: “You don’t need the ‘at’ at the end of that sentence. If you’d asked, ‘Where are you?’ that would have been fine.”
Virgil: “I’m colloquial.”
Virgil sometimes uses words like “colloquial” because, in reality, he has a college degree (in ecological science) and a scary-high IQ, and, though everyone seems to comment that he looks nothing like a cop, he is the most successful detective in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprensioin (BCA).
In Shock Wave, the fifth in John Sanders’ Virgil Flowers series, Virgil is sent to investigate a fatal bombing at the site of a future big-box store that is carefully positioned not to be a Wal-Mart even though it clearly is. There, he encounters the founder of the Wal-Mart-like chain, an irascible old man with a million-dollar secretary and $32 billion net work, along with the mayor and members of the city council of a small town in the far reaches of Minnesota. As the novel’s first bombing is followed by a second and then, in quick succession, another, Virgil and the local sherrif race to identify the bomber — and, along the way, come to grips with the corruption on the city council that gave the green light for the store to be built.
John Sandford is a master of novels like this. In addition to the Virgil Flowers series, he has published 21 entries in the “Prey” series featuring Virgil’s boss, Lucas Davenport, 4 more in another short-lived crime series, plus two unrelated novels and a couple of nonfiction books as well — starting in 1988. If your skills run more to language than to mathematics, please note that Sandford (a pseudonym for a former Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist) has been writing an average of about 1-1/2 books per year. Others are more prolific, but Sandford’s plots are invariably inventive, his characters three-dimensional, and his prose eminently readable.