A series of bloody murders in Minnesota’s farm country, and the supremely likable detective who will stop them.
John Sandford’s Mad River stars Virgil Flowers, a supporting character in Sandford’s Prey novels who graduated to his own series with 2007′s Dark of the Moon. This sixth installment stands capably alone; series readers will recognize certain characters, but the plot twists and building suspense require no backstory.
Flowers is an investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension called out to the tiny farm town of Shinder to investigate a string of brutal murders, starting with a highway patrol officer. The spree is quickly connected to a trio of local youths, and as the tension mounts and the murders spread across the state, the challenge is to catch the killers before the vengeful local cops get to them. Flowers suspects there’s a connection to something even bigger and needs the killers taken alive.
The central plot is riveting, but strained relations within the law enforcement community, Flowers’s visits with his loving parents and his dalliance with an old flame provide further drama. The story’s travels around the state add local color: expanses of empty farm land make the killers nearly impossible to track. Perhaps the greatest strength of Mad River, though, lies in Flowers himself. It’s hard to think of a more balanced and genial investigative hero, yet he’s still able to keep cops and bad guys alike in line. The bulk of the mystery is revealed fairly early on, though the killers’ motivations and dynamic remain riveting until the final pages–and the ultimate question persists to the tantalizing end.