It is of no use to say that I was looking for some light reading books because I was traveling last week. I am addicted to reading pulpy thrillers, the greater the body count, greater is my enjoyment. There I have finally admitted it. Romance generally does not do anything for me, but a well-written crime thriller really, really hits my thrill spots :).
That said, it’s been ages since I read a John Sandford novel. For those not into thrillers as such, here is a little background information on John Sandford and his novels.
John Sandford is the author of the best-selling crime fiction series called the “Prey” series, starring the extremely well-fleshed out homicide detective Lucas Davenport. Lucas is a rather unusual detective in that his behavior frequently mirrors those of the psychopaths he pursues. His maverick nature and his use of unnecessary force to capture his criminal and his unapolegetic stance make him an unusual detective. A very intriguing character who midway through the series was married off and settled down. Once he got married, the Prey series lost a little bit of its charm for me. His wife and family were very boring and all the domestic bits dragged the pace of the novels.
I then tried another series of books written by John Sandford called the Kidd series. These books turned out to be just about average reads, and then I drifted off into Grafton/Cornwell territory.
However, last week, when I spotted Heat Lightning in the library, I decided to give John Sandford one more chance. And he delivers and how!
Heat Lightning is the second book in the Virgil Flowers series (Dark of the Moon is the first one). This series is based in Minnesota where Virgil Flowers is a detective in the Minnesota State Bureau of Crime Apprehension (BCA) working under Lucas Davenport.
Virgil is a hippy-dippy, music-loving, God-fearing, womanizing, easy going kind of guy who just happens to be an excellent detective. He is also extremely likeable and manages to sell the book on his own personality.
Virgil is woken from sleep with a call from Lucas Davenport. He is asked to investigate another in a series of murders. All murders have a common motif. The victims are ex-Vietnam war veterans and their dead bodies are propped up on war memorials with a lemon placed in their mouths, which is what the Vietcong do when they kill their enemies. As each one dies, the surviving members of the group get even more scared and paranoid about their personal security and safety.
Virgil quickly focuses on a pacifist university professor with strong ties to Vietnam who may or may not be a CIA agent, the professor’s daughter who may or may not be falling in love with Virgil, two Vietnamese businessmen who may or may not be Vietnamese Intelligence agents, a Vietnamese Consular official who may or may not be the head of his intelligence service in the US, and several former Vietnam soldiers who may know why these former special forces soldiers are being targeted. There, now you know there are plenty of red herrings scattered throughout the book.
I guessed one of the killers pretty early on in the story, but this in no way hampered my enjoyment of the novel. The story is fast-paced and entertaining. There is a lot of action (without being gory), and the finale rocks.
Overall, it is a great book and I hope to be enjoying more books from this series. It is not as great as the Prey series but still well worth reading.