Rough Country by John Sandford
The tagline for this novel is A land without law. A Killer without mercy. It all sounds very severe. But then again, this is a Virgil Flowers story, so really, how harsh can it be?
Virgil Flowers must be one of the most likeable characters in modern fiction. He is a detective with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), who enjoys fishing, looks like a surfer dude, and really enjoys the company of sexy women.
In Rough Country, Virgil, who is known by the epithet of that fucking Flowers, is called away from a musky fishing competition to investigate the shooting of advertising executive, Erica McDill, at a remote lodge popular with gay and bi-sexual women.
When Flowers arrives, he soon discovers that there is nothing straightforward about McDill’s death, and is drawn into a world of sexual rivalries and corporate jealousies. It seems that Erica was aggressive in many aspects of life, not least in her sexual energies, and Flowers is pushed towards the Ashbach family of Slibe and his two children, 16 years old Deuce, and Wendy, who is a talented singer and an object of desire for both men and women, although she tends to lean more towards the latter.
But Virgil is not convinced that the Ashbach’s hold the answers he’s looking for. There is also the advertising company that McDill ran, and the rivalries to be found there, as well as the possibility that a random nutcase is on the prowl.
As the bodies begin to pile up, the picture becomes even more confusing, but Flowers still has time to chase Signy, whose husband Joe went walkabout. Not weather nor murder can keep Virgil’s mind entirely on the case at hand.
Sandford’s plots are sharp, unpredictable and interesting. He effortlessly weaves the threads together whilst keeping it light-hearted where Flowers is concerned. There may be gun-play, death and destruction, but Virgil has a Lebowski-type approach, at times, which helps to even out the more serious story-lines. He really is that likeable and deserves his own TV series. Here’s hoping.
Rough Country is a thriller in every sense. It is raw, engaging and humorous throughout, and doesn’t fail to entertain.
Sult scale rating: 7.5 out of 10. An enjoyable, light read with a great central character.