I know I am way behind the times, but I have just discovered John Sandford and his two great detectives, Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers. It’s as if I’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, because these are two especially good mystery series. In case you’ve also been hiding under a rock, let me tell you about the author and the books.
John Sandford is actually the pseudonym for a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist turned novelist, John Camp. He was born, raised and educated in Iowa but has worked in Missouri, Florida, and Minnesota. His Pulitzer was won in 1990 for a series of articles on the farm crisis.
Mr. Sandford has lives in Minneapolis since 1978 and its the setting for both of his series. I especially like that the stories are set there. It’s a nice change from big city settings. In looking at the author’s complete list of books, it looks like he manages to pump out two books a year.
The series which features Virgil Flowers started in 2007 and there has been one book a year ever since. I really like the character of Virgil Flowers. He’s smart in lots of ways: he knows the in’s and out’s of the law, the psychology of criminals, he thinks tactically, and he knows a load of pop-culture stuff. He’s a man’s man. He’s an outdoor enthusiast and is writing free-lance articles about outdoor subjects.
In his latest Virgil Flowers novel, Mad River, Virgil is assigned a case that involves a set of three young people determined to run around southwestern Minnesota robbing and killing people. They know the area very well and always seem to be a step ahead of the law. Virgil is smart enough to figure out where they are but he has to have help from the local county sheriff and his men. They offer help, but not the kind of help Virgil wants.
The “Prey” series, featuring Lucas Davenport, is older. It started in 1989. So far there are a total of 21 books in the series. Lucas is a special investigator for the state bureau of investigation. (He is actually Virgil Flower’s boss.) In his most recent book, Stolen Prey, Lucas begins with a multiple murder of an upscale family that looks more like a drug style or retribution style killing. But, this is the family of an executive vice president of a bank. Nothing seems to fit until Lucas digs a lot deeper.
Stolen Prey is a rather complicated story. It makes sense as it unravels piece by piece. In this novel the reader gets to know Lucas and his doctor-wife and high-school-age daughter. I liked that. It made him more human. His daughter plays a key role at the end of the story.
Both stories were excellent and I can confidently recommend them to you. I don’t think it makes a difference if you start with any one of the books. I know some of you like to start a series at the beginning for the sake of continuity. That’s okay, but for the rest of us, each novel is a stand alone story.
Thanks to Penguin Publishing for my review copies. My library had copies of all of John Sanford’s novels. Check your library too.