Friday, October 16, 2009

Rough Country, by John Sandford

John Sandford's specialty seems to be quirky, tough, politically-incorrect-but-with-the-heart-of-a-new-man cops who have another talent (designing games, travel writing) that gives them additional depth. Now that Lucas Davenport (hero of Sandford's Prey series) has settled into being a married dad who seems to have lost a bit of his edge, Sandford has started a second series featuring Virgil Flowers. Flowers wears obscure rock band t-shirts, has blonde surfer hair, and thinks through the crimes he's investigating while fishing.

Rough Country is set in northern Minnesota, where a guest at lodge catering to women (many of whom are lesbians but also like to play around with the waiters and dock boys) is shot as she watched an eagle's nest from her boat. Although there are numerous red herrings, it seems fairly obvious that the murder--and an earlier killing in Iowa--are linked to Wendy Aschbach's band. Sandford at first makes us think the killer is a woman, then lets us know it's not, and finally clues us in to who the killer is a few pages before Virgil breaks the case. It's an interesting technique, which keeps the reader from getting frustrated with the lack of progress in Virgil's investigation.

Is Rough Country a great mystery? No, but if you like the kind of character Sandford creates, it's a fun read.

Favorite passage:
. . . the sound was so distant, so intermittent, so thready, that it was like aural smoke--a noise on the edge of nothingness.

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