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Heat Lightning (Virgil Flowers, No. 2) Paperback – October 6, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 461 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At the start of bestseller Sandford's solid second thriller to feature officer Virgil Flowers of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (after Dark of the Moon), a gunman shoots Bobby Sanderson as he's walking his dog one night in Stillwater, Minn., then places a lemon in the dead man's mouth. Sanderson's killing is one in a series, and Flowers soon discovers that all the victims served together in Vietnam. When Flowers learns that Vietnamese firing squads stuck lemons in the mouths of their human targets, he pursues leads in the local immigrant community, where he hooks up with the attractive daughter of a radical professor who'd written a paper about Agent Orange. Eventually, he settles on the owner of a security company involved with the upcoming Republican National Convention as his prime suspect. While the less than credible plot builds to a highly unlikely resolution, most readers will enjoy spending time in the company of the genial Flowers. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Pulitzer prize-winning journalist John Sandford is the author of the Prey series, four Kidd novels and the Virgil Flowers series. He lives in Minnesota. Visit www.johnsandford.org for more information.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425230619
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425230619
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (461 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Sandford was born John Camp on February 23, 1944, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He attended the public schools in Cedar Rapids, graduating from Washington High School in 1962. He then spent four years at the University of Iowa, graduating with a bachelor's degree in American Studies in 1966. In 1966, he married Susan Lee Jones of Cedar Rapids, a fellow student at the University of Iowa. He was in the U.S. Army from 1966-68, worked as a reporter for the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian from 1968-1970, and went back to the University of Iowa from 1970-1971, where he received a master's degree in journalism. He was a reporter for The Miami Herald from 1971-78, and then a reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer-Press from 1978-1990; in 1980, he was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, and he won the Pulitzer in 1986 for a series of stories about a midwestern farm crisis. From 1990 to the present he has written thriller novels. He's also the author of two non-fiction books, one on plastic surgery and one on art. He is the principal financial backer of a major archaeological project in the Jordan Valley of Israel, with a website at www.rehov.org. In addition to archaeology, he is deeply interested in art (painting) and photography. He both hunts and fishes. He has two children, Roswell and Emily, and one grandson, Benjamin. His wife, Susan, died of metastasized breast cancer in May, 2007, and is greatly missed.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Someone's ritualistically torturing and murdering a bunch of Vietnam Vets (a subject near to my heart, as I am one), and Lucas Davenport assigns the case to that rascally womanizer Virgil Flowers in this fast-paced thriller from John Sandford.

Flowers is an engaging hero: smart, tough, witty, and ready at the drop of a skirt.

Sanford displays his usual deft skill in engaging us in the story as well as the characters, with a novel plot line, fully realized secondary characters, and dialogue that shows a true "ear" for the way people talk in real life.

This book moves like a runaway train, and will keep you entertained from first page to last.

A solid five stars.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to admit that my enthusiasm for John Sandford has waned a little in recent years. While never delivering a really bad novel, I've found most of Sandford's recent work has been pretty unremarkable. In particular, I was underwhelmed by both the last Virgil Flowers novel (Dark of the Moon) and the last Lucas Davenport novel (Phantom Prey). I wasn't going to bother with Heat Lightning, but in the end I decided I might as well give it a read.

It turns out its pretty good. Not great, but a solid Sandford novel.

Sandford forges into new territory (for the author) by incorporating a little international intrigue into the novel. While hardly a spy novel, Heat Lightning does include a CIA component, foreign assassins, and Homeland Security. The plot is sufficiently complex (although the twists were fairly predictable) and the author capably builds the suspense.

Flowers is more engaging in this novel than his first solo outing. `Heat Lightning' is a reasonable page-turner, but even if it weren't for the suspense, I might be inclined to keep reading just to find out what Virgil's next T-Shirt is going to be. I suspect Sandford searches the internet for indie bands with strange names, and probably isn't all that familiar with the artists on Virgil's shirts, but it's still nice to see `Death Cab for Cutie' get some shirt exposure; and while I'm not a huge fan, it's great to see Canadian artists like `Bif Naked' get recognition as well.

(In the unlikely event that the author happens to read this - I'd like to see Virgil don a `Sleater-Kinney' T-shirt next time around.)

I think most Sandford fans will enjoy this novel.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The answer to the titular question is a resounding "No!" But a series of torture murder victims are found with lemons stuffed in their mouths. Virgil Flowers, an officer with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, investigates the murders. He finds a trail leading to a gruesome crime committed in Vietnam back in 1975, when things were falling apart there for the U.S.

John Sandford writes with a wry sense of humor about the resourceful, gritty, womanizing Flowers. Flowers uncovers a conspiracy involving the CIA, high officials in the current Vietnamese government, Homeland Security, and the smuggling of stolen heavy equipment into Canada. Things are not always as they seem. The line between good and evil gets blurry.

The focus of Flowers' romantic ardor (which seems to know few bounds) is the twenty-something daughter of a leftist professor. Said professor, during the sixties, had criticized the U.S. role in Vietnam. Flowers thinks the professor knows something about the "lemon murders." While he is investigating the professor, Flowers is also "investigating" the daughter.

The book drags a bit early on, but the last three hundred pages build to a slam-bang conclusion that is full of surprises.

Sandford skillfully captures the atmosphere of St. Paul and the surrounding region in Minnesota, as well as the state's border with Canada. Flowers is an outdoorsman, and Sandford vividly weaves this into the plot via episodes set in the backcountry.

I do have one reality check on the book: If you are thirsty and a friend throws an ice-cold bottle of beer to you from twenty yards away, would you try to catch it?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a fan of the Prey series and the Kidd books, so when Sandford came out with the Flowers series, I was worried that the author would over extend himself. I was wrong. Sandford has created a very novel character in Virgil Flowers. From his long hair and his vast collection of tee shirts, Virgil is a one of a kind cop. The story flows naturally and the characters sound real. Virgil is fully rounded person and his name is not about his personality, but his way with the ladies. The story is not one of those mysteries where the detective uses deduction or those where CSI plays a big part. In the novels it is plain old grinding it out leg work, look for clues, follow leads, dead ends, and luck. In between Virgil talking about God and picking the right band shirt, the action is simple and to the point. No facncy shooting or "wow" action, but realistic action of the normal cop. One reads these books for the Virgil Flower and not really for the msytery. A very satistfing novel.
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