Fourth in the Virgil Flower series, “Bad Blood” returns to a theme familiar to readers of this series ---sex. Usually it is some form of perversion and the issue comes to light while Virgil is having an intimate relationship with the local lead investigator. Such is the case here though it takes a bit to come to light with readers knowing far more than the investigators involved.
According to Bob Tripp, Jacob Flood died in a freak accident at the grain elevator while he was unloading his late fall harvest. Jacob, like all residents in the area, has been working way too many hours on way too little sleep trying to get the harvest in before winter sets with a vengeance. So, he could have slipped, banged his noggin and died under a pouring stream of soy beans. Of course, that would not explain why none of the soy beans found their way into his lungs. Or why his skull shows two blows to the head. One made slightly before the other and it was made by a cylindrical object that readers already know was a t-ball bat.
It also does not explain what happened to Bob Tripp within hours of his arrest. Lee Coakley, sheriff of Warren County, has a huge problem and not just because she has two murder victims. Supposedly Tripp committed suicide in his jail cell. But, there are indications that he might not have committed suicide which means her deputy, Jimmy Crocker, who also happens to be the guy she defeated in the last election, is a suspect. This, as well as other issues, creates political connotations no matter what she does. What the good sheriff needs is an outside impartial investigator to look into what happened. Tripp confessed to what he did but didn't say much before his death. Sheriff Coakley needs to know the whys behind both cases as well as prove what happened to Tripp in the jail cell.
Once he gets permission from his boss, Lucas Davenport (the Prey Series) at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Virgil Flowers and his very well-earned reputation is sent in to figure out what is going on. In addition to figuring out how to relieve the good sheriff's loneliness, Virgil investigates what will ultimately be part of some of the worst crimes in Minnesota's history.
Filled with an amazing and often disturbing amount of references toward sex with adults and minors, this mystery moves fast. Like the weather in the book, character descriptions are bleak. The focus, when it isn't on the relationship between Virgil and Coakley, is on the case and getting those involved in a twisted religious cult to talk. Along the way there will be more death and violence as this read skims along. While it could be read as a stand-alone, it would be better to have read these in order so that you have a greater feel for the Virgil Flowers character. Unfortunately, while breaking the case and trying to break his motel room bed, he breaks no new ground in terms of character development. The quest of the latest available woman is a sad cliché at his age and one that seems to provide hours of amusement for all involved in the book.
A novel that moves quickly with some pretty horrible and somewhat graphic moments, this is typical Sandford in this series. Average for him still makes him better than most out there. It is unfortunate that he not only continues to feel the need to make cases revolve around some sexual prevision, he also feels the need to tell readers the identities of killers from page one. Author John Sandford is way too talented to need to rely on either one and creates a much better book for the reader when he does not write down for the lowest common denominator.
Bad Blood: A Virgil Flowers Novel
G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Group, USA, Inc.)
Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System. These are tough times for the libraries, so please do your part to support them.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2011