Customer Reviews: Mad River (Virgil Flowers)
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Three teen killers on a rampage in Minnesota. Law enforcement unable to find them. Locals roiling with fear and outrage as the murder spree continues to claim victims. No doubt about it, Minnesota authorities are furiously engaged in the pursuit of unpredictable killers, both officers and citizens enraged by the bold crimes, everything pointing to a bad ending for Jimmy Sharp, Becky Welsh and Tom McCall. The only calm voice in the middle of chaos is Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Virgil Flowers, who liaisons with notoriously hardcore Sheriff Lewis Duke of Bare County, where the parents of the killers live. Virgil wants to keep the young miscreants alive, working concurrently on a murder theory that triggers another, more complicated investigation dependent on the collaboration of the most impulsive of the youths, Jimmy Sharp. Jimmy's homicidal impulses are enthusiastically applauded by girlfriend Becky Welsh, Tom McCall a participant in the trio by convenience, dragged into the drama by the lovers.

Flowers is cast in the same mold as Sandford's popular Lucas Davenport, albeit a younger version, Davenport the star of Sandford's "Prey series" and now Virgil's boss. Like his mentor, Flowers is tall, handsome, rugged and familiar with the part of the state where the murders take place. His prose as vigorous and entertaining as in the Prey novels, Sandford builds the tension of a final confrontation through chapters describing the young killers and their victims and the unfolding conflict between what Virgil needs to happen when the three are caught and Sheriff Duke's intentions for the spree killers. With a little romance on the side- a common Virgil Flowers stress-reliever- the plot remains tight and focused, the author skillfully avoiding an anti-climactic ending while delivering non-stop action to the last page. Written with the same energy and imagination of his early novels, Sandford has a surfeit of material for future installments, the BCA lawman following the large footsteps of his storied supervisor, embellishing the thriller with his own skill set and idiosyncratic behavior. Luan Gaines/2012.
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on October 4, 2012
That "effin" Flowers, as both his friends and his enemies refer to him, is back in a superior police procedural/thriller from John Sandford. This novel is much darker than Sanford's previous books. For one thing, the lines between the good guys and the bad guys are not as sharply drawn. Things are not all black and white. It will perhaps leave you, as it did Flowers (and me) questioning some serious moral truths about the nature and shape of justice. Flowers ends up taking a position on this issue which you may or may not agree with depending on your own views. Everything is resolved in the end but Flowers has to make some choices which leave him unhappy. Flowers' boss Lucas Davenport and his two co-workers Shrake and Jenkins are back to help him out and it is interesting to get a view of Davenport different from how he presents himself in his own series of novels. Along the way we meet a new character, Sheriff Duke, who I hope either Davenport or Flowers will run into again. I downloaded my copy at midnight and ended up not being able to put it down. This is a great read.
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on October 5, 2012
A book by John Sandford is something I look forward to twice a year. They never last quite long enough, but every word is absolutely entertaining and enlightening. Nobody can match Lucas Davenport of the Prey series or Virgil Flowers. This is quite possibly the best Flowers book of the six. Occasionally, Lucas makes an appearance and its even better. Virgil may have been divorced thrice, seems prone to fall into bed quickly, and occasionally makes a mistake BUT this is one good guy.
As he pursues a trio of loserish youth through the Minnesota countryside, he does not lose fact that they should be taken alive regardless of the fact that they have few redeeming traits. The characters are vividly drawn, Sheriff Duke being perhaps the most vividly anal character in my recent recollection. The plot twists and turns and takes off as even those characters with seemingly many redeeming traits prove to be less (A LOT LESS) than sterling. The author has the rare ability to realize that nobody is either all good or bad, or at least most people. Virgil comes off as a bit more idealistic than Lucas, which may shock some readers, but we're all human.

Halloween is fast upon us. Treat yourself to an absolutely delightful read!
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on October 2, 2012
I am like a previous reviewer - John Sandford just can't write them fast enough for me! I have read everything he has written, and he has a smooth, flowing style, but with carefully crafted plot twists, that suck the reader right in. Mad River is Virgil Flowers, a la John Sandford, at his best! Virgil is a smooth ladies' man, but an even smoother crime solver with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. If you are not familiar with the Virgil Flowers series, you will want to know more about this character after reading this riveting story of spree killing in small town America, with some back story intrigue to go along with it!
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VINE VOICEon October 13, 2012
... then maybe this book is for you.

I'm very ambivalent about this book. I've been a Sanford fan since his debut, and ambivalence is a very rare reaction for me.

This book has its moments, and we see aspects of Flowers's character we haven't seen before, especially his rage. But I don't think that's enough to counterbalance the essential lack of meat in the sandwich.

This is, for all intents and purposes, an updating of the Bonnie and Clyde story; a trio of sociopaths leaving a trail of dead bodies in the environs of a rural county in Minnesota, with Flowers on their trail in an effort to stop the carnage and bring them to justice. There's the added wrinkle of a possible murder-for-hire plot involved, and some conflict with a blood-thirsty local sheriff.

That's all there is to the plot, and it's thin gruel, really. A lot of chasing, not much detecting; much like the car chases on TV that so seem to mesmerize so many people and which I find duller than dirt.

The best I can give it is 3 stars.
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on October 9, 2012
There aren't many books I'd pay $14.99 (Kindle) sight unseen, but John Sandford hasn't let me down yet. EVER. This series about Virgil Flowers, a special investigator for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), is terrific. Read the books in order if you can, sometimes they refer back to "older cases" and it helps you know what they are talking about.
Bloody murders, criminals-both smart and dumb, some sex, lots of family secrets and a good moral dilemna made this book a very quick read. You know "who dun it" from the first page but somehow that doesn't distract from the story.
If you like murder or detective mysteries, you won't find many with better characters than the ones Mr. Sandford puts in his books. And if you get this book and like Virgil and his gang, check out the "Prey" series with Lucas Davenport. I don't think you'll be sorry.
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on October 25, 2012
I downloaded based on the good reviews. I was wondering when the story would elevate itself from other crime/suspense/thriller novels. It never did. I won't be reading anymore of john sandford novels, but may try them on audio since i can get free at library. All in all; nothing special or noteable for me.
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on April 25, 2015
I've read all of the Davenport/Prey books, and am now pretty much up to date in the Flowers series. I'll start by saying I really like the Flowers character, as he serves as an excellent counterpoint to Davenport's gritty, tough guy cop persona. Virgil gets more cerebral at times and does show a stronger streak of liberal morality than Lucas ever did. The fact that the more recent Flowers' books have Lucas making more frequent appearances really adds something interesting to the moral dilemma of hard-assed tough guy cop vs. "peace officer"...not that Virgil isn't beyond shooting it out when he has to.

That said, the stories themselves are losing something, and maybe Sandford has fallen into the publish or perish mode...or maybe he really is using too much outside help in his "writing." I really found the story line here kind of weak, and have to say the same thing about the last 2 Prey novels I read. This book is about some kids who go on a killing spree. Yes there's some drama, but really no least for me. Most, if virtually not all, of Sandford's prior works had that distinct who-done-it feel to them; the notion that you really couldn't put the book down. But this book and the last few Davenport's don't seem to have that. I can't and won't condemn the writer...maybe it's burnout or maybe he's in a bit of a slump. And given how much I've enjoyed Sandford's books over the years, I'm sure I'll continue to get each new one as it hits the shelves. But again, I'm finding his recent stories a bit disappointing, despite the fact that the characters themselves are still among my all-time favorites. Maybe Sandford needs to emulate DeMille with his Corey series; write less often, but keep it top notch.

If you never read Sandford, you may very well enjoy this book, and I hope you do. If, like me, your a long time reader of Davenport and Flowers, the best I can say for this effort is that it was just ok.
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on October 5, 2012
Cold blood murder doesn't happen very often in the Minnesota coutryside but when it does happen, the state sends Virgil Flowers to solve the crime. The local sheriffs' departments do not have the resources to perform the necessary crime lab work or to do the detective procedures necessary to solve the crime. So when a trio of small town losers go on a killing spree Virgil must track them down. The killers are based on an amalgamation of real life characters Bonnie and Clyde and Charles Starkweather and Carol Fugate. If you like good character development then you will like this story because the book takes the time to develop the characters. There is not a lot of mystery to the plot but it does have a small twist in the death of one of the victims. Another interesting character in the book is the local sheriff and he is based loosely on real life sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa county in Arizona. The sheriff built a tent city concentration style camp for criminals and the state made him shut it down. Needless to say, the sheriff is not happy with the state.

I admit that I am a Virgil Flowers fan. Virgil is a big city liberal cop working a beat in countryside of mostly conservative cops and citizens. Virgil keeps a stash of rock and roll tee shirts and wears them as part of his uniform along with blue jeans and boots, which irritates the heck out of the local constabulary. Virgil doesn't like to wear his gun either, which can lead to problems sometimes. Virgil is unique in that for a cop, he doesn't like gun play or shoot outs and he is really not into physical violence or altercations but often times he gets caught up into it. It kinda follows him like a dark cloud. One thing Virgil really likes though, is manipulating the media and crime suspects which makes things interesting.

If you like good character development and an interesting detective that tows a Ranger bass boat behind his state supplied vehicle (much to his boss's dismay) then buy the book. The only reason I gave it four stars instead of five is that I would like a little bit more mystery or whodunit in the story line.
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on October 23, 2012
Probably a biased review here, because I really like Sandford's writing style and the developement of his characters.

If you are aware of Sandford's novels, he focuses on two law enforcement people, Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers--this is a Flowers novel and it hits the mark again. Virgil is about as laid back as a "cop" can be, but he is diligent and dogged when he works a case. There is no real mystery here--two young losers (male and female) go on a savage killing spree and Virgil frantically tries to apprehend them before they can kill again, but can't find them easily.

The novel moves quickly and the dialogue is snappy and very believable. It is a fun read though not exactly mentally stimulating-- not much to puzzle over.
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