A Virgil Flowers Novel
A Lucas Davenport Novel, No 22
October 2, 2012/ ISBN 978-0-399-15770-7
May 15, 2012/ ISBN 978-0-399-15768-4
Thriller / Police Procedure
by Elise Cooper
latest books, Mad River, a Virgil Flowers novel, and Stolen
Prey, a Lucas Davenport novel are must reads for his realistic
plots and characters. Mad River was just released and Stolen Prey
came out in May, which means that Sandford is able to keep his fans
happy twice a year.
Mad River’s plot explores three destitute teenagers
who have no chance in life and go on a killing spree in the countryside
of Minnesota. Virgil Flowers, a BCA law enforcement officer is furiously
engaged in pursuing these killers before someone else dies. These
killing sprees are reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde although it’s
very likely that the killers, Betsy Welsh, Jimmy Sharp, and Tom
McCall never heard of them. Sandford explained that he writes his
books to entertain, but “I like to talk about some social
issues. In Mad River these three kids are not very bright, don’t
have a very good education, and cannot hold a job, even at Walmart.
When the reader first meets them they are essentially homeless,
living in a Pontiac with unrealistic dreams.”
The reader will be able to compare these characters to what is happening
today in America where a lot of uneducated people have no chance
in life because they have no experience in technology. Sandford
directly commented, “These people used to have laboring jobs.
They were hard workers but found their jobs disappearing. They are
being displaced. The easiest jobs to wipe out are the manual labor
ones that are being taken away by machines and computers.”
Sandford is able to play with the reader’s emotions, even
allowing some sympathy for these murderers by showing how things
are not always black and white, good and bad. He wanted to point
out that these teenagers became evil because of circumstances.
With both types of books, the “Prey books” and the “Flowers
books” he crosses over with the main characters. Both Lucas
Davenport and Virgil Flowers make cameo appearances. For Sandford
that makes sense since Davenport is Virgil’s boss and they
both work for the same agency, the BCA. He decided to write the
spin-off Flowers series once he had the Davenport character settle
down, get married with three children, with Flowers as a womanizer
with a sense of humor.
The plot of Stolen Prey, his book released in May, takes
off after Lucas Davenport investigates a gruesome murder of a family:
husband, wife, their two children, and their two dogs, all mutilated.
Through his investigation he is able to trace the murders to a drug
cartel, a money-laundering operation, and a murderer from the Mexican
police. Because of Sandford’s superb writing skills he is
able to portray the killings in a very realistic way, showing how
the Cartel commits horrendous crimes. Unfortunately, there is a
side plot of Lucas getting mugged and robbed at an ATM machine,
which distracts from the intense and riveting main plot.
Sandford noted that living in New Mexico and California, he sees
drug traffickers as a big problem. His social issue in Stolen Prey
was to inform the reader, “… Many people are getting
killed. I wanted to point out that its not just happening in these
states but in the Heartland as well.”
Is there a difference between the two books? According to Sandford
the “Prey books” are darker, more violent, more serious,
harder to write, and more complicated. On the other hand the Flower
books are lighter, less complicated, and he can display his sense
of humor. He has both men working for the BCA, Bureau of Criminal
Apprehension, because it is a state agency that really exists and
has jurisdiction anywhere in Minnesota. This enables him to use
the setting as a road map to the state. He also explained, “A
small town that does not have a homicide cop will have the BCA put
a case together since they have the manpower and forensic equipment.
Having jurisdiction anywhere allows me to move out within the whole
state. It gives me flexibility for the setting.”
He also gave a heads up for his next book, which will be another
one in the “Prey” series. A rich, well-educated, pretty
woman decides to run for the US Senate. As the Democratic candidate
she finds herself losing the election, in part due to her narcissistic
personality. Through her security people she uses a dirty trick,
planting child pornography on her Republican opponent’s computer.
When the perpetrator tries to blackmail her she shoots him and the
Both these books, Stolen Prey and Mad River, have
elaborate twists and turns. He builds the tension that comes to
a climax in the final chapter. Once again Sandford has written books
with innovative and fast-paced plots, complex characters, and commentary
that is insightful and realistic.