Reviewed in the United States on October 9, 2018
“Holy Ghost” is the eleventh in a series of Virgil Flowers novels, but it can be read as a stand-alone. Although I have read several of the earlier books in the series, this review is oriented towards the reader not familiar with Virgil Flowers. My reasoning is that most fans of Flowers will already have purchased the book. I apologize in advance to those fans if I’ve erred.
POV: Third person. I’m grateful for that decision, as I believe the more neutral stand that third person permits is a better fit for the wry sarcasm that I detect in the narrative.
BLUSH FACTOR: There are plenty of profanities, including several “f” words. There also is slang regarding issues of activities normally occurring in the bedroom, if you get my drift. Probably, you won’t be reading this aloud to your prayer group.
ADVENTURE: Yes, to wild hunting grounds of rural Minnesota with its wild fly population waiting for the great white hunter. You’ll understand this factious reference better while perusing chapter one.
THE WRITING: A tongue-in-cheek look at rural life for a war vet opens this suspenseful tale of murder. The opening drips with sarcasm and is almost over-the-top. Had I not known some folks in southeast Ohio who reminded me of this mayor, but who WERE over-the-top, I might have burst out laughing. Instead, I just got this wry-looking smile…
I hasten to add, though, that at some points in the book I did break into an audible chuckle. There are times when I believe you will, as well.
GRAMMAR, EDiTING & SUCH: This is a first-rate production by a premier writer.
CHARACTER: Anybody not familiar with Sandford’s Virgil Flowers will probably find him to feel familiar, for he is the natural-born big brother I’d have sought out when I was younger. After all, any man who loves his dog as much as Flowers loves Honus has to be a hero.
SOUL: Since I live in rural North Dakota myself, and have come to know a number of folks who could well be characters in “Holy Ghost,” I
‘…decided Bilbija was right: the thing hadn’t been opened in years, and part of the problem with pushing it open was that it had been tarred shut.
On the other hand, the roof had good sight lines to the places where the shooting victims had been standing. When Virgil walked around the roof, he found the second floor was built over half the structure, with the back half dropping to a single story. If someone had a short ladder—not even a stepladder but one of the three-step stools used to reach high cupboards—he could have climbed onto the back roof, then used the stool to climb to the top. Getting down would be even faster, if it had become necessary to flee. He could have gone from roof to roof with no more than a three-foot drop.
If the shooter climbed up and down the back of the building, between the wall and the dumpster by the kitchen door, he might even do it unseen.
Virgil put it down as a possibility. The roof didn’t show any footprints, discarded DNA-laden cigarette butts, a book of matches from a sleazy nightclub, an accidentally dropped driver’s license, or any other fictional possibilities, so he went back down the hatch and pulled it shut.
“Find anything?” Bilbija asked.
“A nice view, but . . . no.”
“Didn’t think you would,” Bilbija said. “Say, you want a beer or a quick shot to keep you going? I got a nice rye.”
Virgil declined the offer and worked his way back up Main Street, this time behind the stores on the west side, and found a more complicated situation, a mix of mostly ramshackle prewar houses and small businesses, some of them in converted houses. The ProNails place had a dusty, handwritten “Out of Business” sign in a window, but Auto Heaven, Buster’s Better Quality Meats, and Trudy’s Hi-Life Consignment were still operating; nobody had heard a shot fired.
Because of the way the houses and businesses were mixed, there were multiple spaces and slots between hedges and behind fences where a rifleman could have hidden. Virgil was lining up a theoretical shot down toward the churches when a man’s voice called, “Hold it right there! I got a gun on you!”
Virgil raised his hands: “I’m a cop. Don’t shoot.”
A heavyset man in a blue T-shirt and a ragged pair of Dickies coveralls stepped out from behind a garage twenty feet away. He was maybe fifty, balding, with a wind-eroded face. He was aiming an ancient twelve-gauge double-barreled shotgun at Virgil’s stomach. “Cop, my…’
Sandford, John. Holy Ghost (A Virgil Flowers Novel) (pp. 33-35). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The honest look at rural life is not always a pleasant sight. City folks are probably not impressed by us, but that’s tough. I loved the insight into people who feel just like my neighbors and I enjoyed the mystery too much to take any stars away due to language.
Five stars out of five.
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