The Cold Nowhere by Brian Freeman: A fifteen-second review



Jonathan Stride hits his stride in this story of a traumatized young girl running for her life in Duluth.  Not only do you become familiar with Duluth’s environs, but the story is taut, well-paced, and will keep you turning pages far into the night. I’ve read it twice and couldn’t put it down either time!   $7.50

Deadline by John Sandford: A review



Your friends and neighbors on the school board may not be the kind of people you thought they were. They might be murderers. And after they kill the reporter who has uncovered the millions of dollars the board members have embezzled from the school budget, more and more people crop up who need to be murdered in order to keep the lucrative secret.

But fear not. Virgil Flowers is on the scene. He’s already in town, in fact, trying to uncover a dog kidnapping ring as a favor to his friend Johnson Johnson. Dogs in the area have been stolen and are on their way to labs for loathsome experiments.

Just who and how many people will end up dying at the hands of the school board is anybody’s guess. And will Virgil find the beloved pets before they are shipped off to have unspeakable things done to them?

Sandford is in his element with the eighth Virgil Flowers installment. Virgil is his sweet, sexy, nonconformist self, skirting Davenport’s orders (a little) while he hunts the murderers and the dognappers. Is this what he was up to while Davenport was up to his ears in dead bodies in Field of Prey, and Virgil was “unavailable?” We think so.

A good, fun read. Deadline, by John Sandford. $13.95 at The Book Shop.

John Sandford’s Field of Prey

field of prey


Sandford’s latest Lucas Davenport novel does not disappoint. Lucas is in his usual form, discovering 23 bodies this time around, thrown over a series of years into an abandoned farm cistern. (The population of Minnesota is in radical decline given all the bodies that turn up in Lucas Davenport’s vicinity.) Well, Davenport doesn’t actually discover the bodies, but of course he catches the killer. On the way to the discovery of the rapist/sadist/murderer, one of Davenport’s coworkers is killed, Del gets shot in El Paso, and Virgil is up to his ears in we-know-not-what in Iowa.
The pace of the plot gets a little bogged down in spots, and I found myself thinking “Has Lucas gotten dumber?” as he fails time after time to put the pieces together. In the end, though, he saves the damsel in distress in the nick of time. I think he should start riding a white horse instead of driving the Porsche.
All in all, a good, exciting read, the murder rate in Minnesota notwithstanding.

Johansen, Sandford, or Slaughter?

I’ve recently read three of Iris Johansen’s books, three of Karin Slaughter’s, and most of John Sandford’s.  I cannot recommend Iris Johansen to anyone who is interested in actual detective fiction, although that is the section in which we at The Book Shop display her novels.  We put them there because we don’t have an “adventurous romantic wish fulfillment” section.  The underlying plot of each of the three I’ve read is the same–a supposedly independent woman becomes embroiled in a nasty, life threatening situation not of her own making.  Also involved is a smart, dangerous, good looking man who comes to protect her, and he naturally falls deeply in love with her during the ensuing adventure, and she with him.  The specifics of the individual plots are not uninteresting, but the unbelievable progression of the romance and the poor writing are too profound to overcome.  I won’t be reading any more of them.

Karin Slaughter has a much better style, and while we do learn about characters’ personal lives, they are not a predictable as Johansen’s.  Her stories are well put together, complicated, and exciting.  The only drawback from my point of view are the horrific depictions of violence to which we are subjected.  Even recurring characters are the victims of difficult to stomach abuse by criminals, and when they survive, there doesn’t seem to be any devastating emotional effect of the ordeal.  Victims are still functional, and while sometimes reminded of the abuse, manage to live their lives quite normally.  I try to remind myself that it is fiction, after all.

Similarly, Sandford’s stories are intricately plotted and keep us eager to find out who done it.  His characters are sympathetic and, of course, noble, brave, and honorable.  We like them.  But as with Slaughter, the violence can be downright nauseating, and victims of it seem to bounce back with no ill effect.  He also has a tendency to pile up the bodies, increasing the actual murder rate in Minnesota to a quite unbelievable degree.

Overall, I’ll keep reading Sandford and Slaughter.  As dreadful as the violence is, it’s easier to take than the fantasy romance Iris Johansen makes us slog through.

International Intrigue in Mankato

Storm Front A Virgil Flowers mystery by John Sanford


Mankato is awash in spies, a Mossad agent, Hezbollah, would-be movies stars, artifact collectors, an actively dying professor, a brilliant and beautiful redneck with 5 sons, and Virgil, in Sanford’s new novel.

“That f—ing Flowers,” as he is known in the law enforcement community, is charged with escorting an Israeli antiquities expert who is to authenticate a “stele” that has been stolen from a dig in Israel by a terminally ill Gustavus archeology professor.
Can it get more complicated than this? Can Virgil untangle this web of evil and deceit? Not without the help of an “unnamed” government agency. Undaunted, and not even exhausted, Virgil works his usual magic and all becomes (semi) clear.

Exciting and fun, though a little confusing, Sanford’s latest will keep you turning pages late into the night. A good read.

$13.95 at The Book Shop