He's been doing the hard stuff for three years now, but never anything like this.
In the small town of Bluestem, a house way up on a ridge explodes into flames, its owner, a man named Judd, trapped inside. There are a lot of reasons to hate him, Flowers discovers. In fact, he concludes, you'd probably have to dig around to find a person who doesn't despise Judd.
And that isn't even why Flowers came to Bluestem. Three weeks before, there'd been another murder, two, in fact, a doctor and his wife, the doctor found propped up in his backyard, both eyes shot out. Flowers knows two things: this wasn't a coincidence, and it had to be personal.
But just how personal is something even he doesn't realize, and may not find out until too late. Because the next victim may be himself.
©2007 John Sandford; (P)2007 Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.
"Sandford keeps the reader guessing and the pages turning while Flowers displays the kind of cool and folksy charm that might force Davenport to share the spotlight more often." (Publishers Weekly)
A real treat, this newest of John Sandford, and I've listened to them all. Full of twists and surprises. I finished and immediately replayed it, to listen for clues and connections I missed the first time around (many!). The narrator doesn't have Richard Ferrone's gravelly voice, but has an effective tone and pace of his own that I got used to within a few minutes. Appropriately, he sounds just like midwesterners I've known, so his characters are convincing and the narration is enjoyable. Yup, a real treat!
I'm one of those listeners who buys the Davenport audiobooks the day they are released. So I admit to being a little skeptical - and concerned - when I learned that Sandford would publish a book without Lucas as its main character. Trusting that the author wouldn't completely abandon his loyal base, though, I took a chance on this book and was happily surprised.
For one thing, this is a Lucas Davenport universe. Our favorite detective makes a few phone cameos, and Flowers works for him. The setting is upper mid-west, with all its local flavor.
Flowers is an intriguing character. The son of a preacher, he ponders God each night before he drifts off to sleep and can quote bible verses with the best of 'em, yet he's not really religious, at least not in any outward way. He has an innovative way of trying to solve crimes by writing pseudo-fictional stories which include facsimiles of himself, his suspects, and the victims, basically asking himself, "If I were writing a story about this crime, what would come next? What about this 'story' doesn't make sense?"
But Flowers is also battle-worn, tough, cynical, and funny. His personality is a lot like Lucas's, so again, Davenport readers won't have to do a 180 to get to like the new guy.
Like most folks, I'd be happy if Sandford only wrote Prey books, but if writing Flowers books helps Sandford avoid Prey burnout, I have no problem with reading more about Flowers' adventures.
As an avid Lucas Davenport fan and absolute lover of Richard Ferrone's gravelly baritone, I was a little leery of Sandford's last offering. But I absolutely loved it from the bone chilling start to the satisfying finish. Unlike Lucas Davenport, who we all love, but frankly know too well, Virgil Flowers comes into this novel as a vaguely familiar character who we learn to appreciate as the mystery unfolds. A couple of cameos by Davenport make it feel like a familiar Prey sequel. And contrary to some other reviewers, I Thought Eric Conger's narration was simply perfect.
This is classic John Sandford read (or listen in this case). He uses Det. Virgil Flowers as the protagonist instead of Lucas Davenport, but he has the usual interesting story with lots of bodies and a mystery to boot. Flowers makes an interesting kind of hero and the rural Minnesota ambience is well done. I enjoyed this immensely. Just the kind of thing for a long road trip.
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike.
I purchased Dark Of The Moon not realizing that I had already read the book previously. Since I almost never reread even very good books, I was disappointed and almost tossed it back on the shelf. Still, having paid good money and all....
As it turned out, even with the drawback of knowing exactly where the book was going, I still had a great time listening. Sandford writes wonderful characters, not just Flowers and Davenport, but all the supporting players. They are sketched deftly with artful details and they are always consistent. In addition, his plots are tightly constructed, and his action sequences remain tense even when you know what the outcome will be. In fact it was a pleasure to be able to pay somewhat closer attention to how the author fashioned the whole story from beginning to end.
I am glad Richard Ferrone did not do this narration. I love his work on the Davenport books, but Flowers needed a voice which was not a constant reminder of Lucas. The reader did a fine job, and Virgil now has a very satisfying vocal persona of his own. I loved the subtle variation in midwestern accent which Conger used to define character, and I never had any problem knowing who was speaking.
John Sandford trots out a new detective, Virgil Flowers, in the Dark of the Moon. A bit player in one of Sandford's previous Prey books, Flowers holds his own as a down-home, good old boy detective tasked with solving a series of gruesome murders in rural Bluestem, Minnesota. The mystery roars along in typical Sandford fashion while Virgil's romance with the sister of the small town's sheriff heats up. I am no fan of romance novels but the steamy love scene in a secluded swimming hole is, well, hot until a sniper shows up to spoil the fun. While Sandford's usual hero, Lucas Davenport, is a sophisticated and suave solver of crimes, Flowers is more plodding, but no less heroic. Like Lucas in his early appearances, Flowers is a definite Tom Cat with an eye for the ladies. This fast-paced mystery contains one of the finest shoot-outs in modern detective fiction with Flowers coming off as a fearless fighter as he participates in a DEA raid on a drug lab. One of the most engaging features of the novel is the camaraderie among law enforcement types that permeates the book. Sandford has Lucas Davenport make only brief appearances in this outing, appearances in which Davenport generally comes off as annoyed at Flowers for bothering him too early. Still, Sandford has another winner with the Flowers character and I look forward to Virgil's next adventure. Before Sandford pens that one, I'd like to seem him resurrect one of his earliest and greatest crimer solvers, Kidd. Armed with today's staggering technology, a Kidd mystery would be irresistible.
I liked this story a lot. I loved the mystery and the way it kept me guessing right up until the very end, and in this book, I was guessing literally until the last couple of sentences which was a nice twist. I liked getting to know Virgil, I have started listening to the next book.
My experience with any series (books or television) is that the first book or first episode aren't as good as the rest of the series. I've learned to give it time for the character to develop. This series shows a lot of promise.
The narrator was a little too monotone for me. After listening to 17 books read by Dick Hill, I'm a tough critic there.
There were just a couple things that were annoying in the story--I didn't love the part where he is writing a mystery book on the side. I got a little confused each time that happened.
I also didn't find his womanizing charming. I get that for a detective's character to be developed that it needs some flaws, but there were a couple of comments about women that made me go "ewww." Hopefully that part of his character gets down played in future books, or made sexy or something instead.
Really liked it overall.
Love Virgil Flowers character and the book. John Sandford has done it again. Just as I wait anxiously for the next "Prey" book, I'll be looking forward to the next VF installment.
I've been enjoying listening to the Lucas Davenport series, so when I saw the Flowers books I thought, "why not?". It turns out the first one was already in my Library. Hhmm, I thought, how did I miss that one? It took no time at all to realize that the reason I never really read it was because of the narrator. Conger is irritatingly lackluster. He needs to take both elocution AND acting lessons--pleeese. I want so much for him to actually allow words to be fully expressed instead of clipped, squeezed, and rushed--and in a monotone, yet! I would love to read the rest of the Virgil Flowers series (my mystery/detective addiction must be fed), but the thought of listening to more Conger? I dunno. Of course, I didn't like Farrone much at first, either. Although my original complaint about Farrone (lack of distinction between characters, mostly--he is very expressive) still hold, he has gotten somewhat better (except sometimes), and I've gotten more used to him.
Flowers is intelligent, shrewd, a guy's guy, and a ladies' man--as is Davenport--but more of an alter ego in terms of the aggressiveness and "meanness" which Sandford plays up in Davenport's character. I'm hoping he develops into a very different character all his own, distinct from Davenport--otherwise, what's the point in having another series instead of just more Davenport books? I think the difference needs to be more than just city detective, country detective.
Sandford's detective novels are mostly quite well written, fairly graphic (tho' not sexually, which somewhat wastes the Davenport and Flowers hotness factor), and the plots are inventive, if sometimes far-fetched. I don't know yet if the pattern of behavior in Sandford's criminals will be as violent and psychologically driven in the Flowers books as in the Davenport series, but I see no reason a twist on that formula won't work again. While I am always on the look-out for novels of this genre on a par with Larsson, Nesbo, Adler-Olsen, Le Carre, McKinty, French, Huston and now Robert Galbraith, and I don't think these are, I still find Sandford's work well done and fun to read, especially when working around the house and in my studio.
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