Sunday, November 6, 2016

Escape Clause by John Sandford

Escape Clause: A Virgil Flowers Novel by John Sandford --- 392 pages

Virgil Flowers started out as a supporting character in Sandford's Prey series of crime thrillers starring Lucas Davenport, lead investigator in the Minnesota Department of Criminal Apprehension.

But Flowers was too intriguing a character in his own right and eventually Sandford spun him off in his own series of crime thrillers.

In this the ninth adventure in the Flowers series, Virgil is in charge of tracking down the miscreants who have stolen two rare Amur tigers from the Minnesota Zoo.  The clock is running, because Virgil quickly realizes the likely reason the tigers were taken is their value as ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine. So he needs to find them before the criminals (literally) put them through the grinder.

Sandford's villains are always interesting, and the villain here is a doozy: Winston Peck VI, a doctor who lost his license to practice because he couldn't keep his hands off his female patients. Peck has reinvented himself as a purveyor of traditional herbal nostrums.  He's popping Xanax like candy and that's not helping his mental processes.  He has two henchmen, the Simonian brothers, plenty of brawn but very little brain, supplied by his very wealthy Chinese backer on the west coast. The backer's angry and alienated son is the go-between for his father and Peck.

Virgil quickly picks up on Peck, but the sociopathic ex-doctor is hard to pin down as he systematically eliminates everyone who could tie him to the crime.  Virgil also has to deal with the rest of the Simonian brotherhood, who arrive in Minneapolis breathing vengeance for the deaths of their brothers, and prepared to preempt the law.

As always Sandford doesn't pull the punches when he describes the crimes committed; but at the same time, he uses the mordant humor of his cops to deal with the gruesome details.

There's also a subplot involving Virgil's now established relationship with Frankie Nobles and her family.  Is it possible that the wily Virgil has met his match at last?

A solid hit in a great series.

Click HERE to read a review from Publishers Weekly.

Click HERE to read a review from Kirkus Reviews.

Click HERE to read a review from the Huffington Post.

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