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Book Review - Mad River by John Sandford

Category Book Review John Sandford Mad River
Mad River (A Virgil Flowers Novel)

While I've gotten burned out on the Lucas Davenport series by John Sandford, I like what he's doing with the Virgil Flowers character as a separate series of novels.  Mad River is the latest installment, and I looked forward to getting it from the library when my name made it to the top of the hold lists.  I wanted to like it... I really did.  But it seems like the book was about a third too long with an ending that fell flat (in my opinion).  I never got lost in the action, as much as I wanted to...

The plot revolves around Flowers getting called in on what turns into a serial killing spree.  Three people from a small town in Minnesota are looking to pull off a few burglaries to get some money and head west.  But the first home invasion goes bad, and one of the occupants ends up getting shot and killed.  Unfortunately, that just makes it easier to kill the next person, and the next person, and so on.  Flowers gets a lead on who is responsible for the trail of dead bodies, but finding the three killers isn't as easy as it sounds when you're in the middle of nowhere and there are few eye witnesses left to point the way.

In terms of plot, the book wasn't bad.  You know who the killers are, and the story shifts from Flowers to the killers and back again to advance the action.  He suspects there's a different motivation other than money, but he can't get the proof he needs to take appropriate action.  And that's where I had problems.  Once that angle was introduced, it felt like the story just went in circles in order to kill time before the end.  Even when "the end" happened, the larger resolution seemed like a tacked-on finish to take up another 50 to 100 pages.  I hit the last page and actually said "that was it?"  I was disappointed...

I'm hoping Mad River is just an "off" installment in the Virgil Flowers series.  I don't want to put it in the same "in no big rush to read new ones" category as the Lucas Davenport novels have become for me.  But I'm definitely holding my expectations in check to see what direction things go.

Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed


Gravatar Image1 - This one seemed like more of a character piece about Flowers than the hardcore action pieces of the past. On the other hand, Flowers is more of a character than Davenport (who's fun, but always been a bit of a two dimensional tough guy).<br /><br />I liked the story even though I didn't care for the baddies at all and I thought the plot was a little lazy.<br /><br />Also, what happened to all the money at the end (remember, it was left buried)<br />

Gravatar Image2 - "Character piece" is a good way to put it. But even then, they didn't go very deep. I would have expected him to be resolving some major issue in his life, and that wasn't the case.

I also agree with "lazy". The money wasn't resolved at all, like you said. And I had a major problem with weeks and months passing towards the end of the story with nothing more than a few sentences at most. It felt like a deadline was fast approaching or he had written himself into a corner and didn't have a way out while maintaining the pace of the story up to that point.

Gravatar Image3 - I just finished "The Panther" by Nelson DeMille and had almost the same impression. The John Corey books have been great fun, but this one was too straightforward. Everything clicked along until the big surprise at the end (which was fairly predictable). The classic "john corey smartass" was almost too constant as if there had to be a line in every paragraph. It seemed very staged.

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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