Book Review: Bloody Genius by John Sandford

Posted November 11, 2019 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: Bloody Genius by John Sandford

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Bloody Genius by John Sandford
Series: Virgil Flowers #12
Genres: Thriller
on October 1, 2019
Pages: 372
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also in this series: MatchUp

Also by this author: Rules of Prey, Shadow Prey, Eyes of Prey, Easy Prey, Chosen Prey, Invisible Prey, Phantom Prey, Wicked Prey, Gathering Prey, Dark of the Moon, Heat Lightning, Rough Country, Bad Blood, Shock Wave, Storm Front, Deadline, Extreme Prey, Escape Clause, The Fool's Run, Deep Freeze, The Empress File, Twisted Prey, Holy Ghost, Neon Prey, Masked Prey

Twelfth in the Virgil Flowers thriller series and revolving around a BCA detective based in Mankato, Minnesota, roving the state, solving crimes. (It’s the fall following Neon Prey, 29.)

My Take

It’s Duncan who drops Virgil in the soup, setting up his initial conflict — having to horn in on the local homicide investigation. One that has no clues, no DNA, and an unreliable narrator. It’s a departure from Sandford’s usual third person global subjective POV.

Sandford keeps the action subtle, and that narrator POV does fit with Virgil having missed something as well as that lack of clues and all those involved characters who hide, lie, and twist their comments, not understanding events.

Katherine Green is an odd duck, always on the hop for and full of potential study questions. It doesn’t matter the situation, Green comes up with a slew of questions that keeps me wondering about her.

I don’t think it’s Trane’s yoga mat in the carrel. I’m also surprised that no one else thought of testing that pill bottle cap. And I’m annoyed that we don’t find out what happened with the McDonalds.

The low-key Virgil is wondering if he’ll have to wear a shirt and tie to be taken seriously. Fortunately, it’s a short-lived thought. He is however contemplating the change in his future, from what he had planned to the coming twins, the articles he’s writing, and the novel he’s started. It’s a low-key character arc that suits Virgil so well, as he evolves, slowly.

I like Virgil’s suggestion to Frankie for when the twins arrive.

I think Sandford could have done more with Foster’s character. He raises some interesting questions, but doesn’t go anywhere with it. Harris made an interesting point about the difference between Quill and himself: concepts versus cutting. Makes me think those surgeons are cowboys!

I love this one…

“…Virgil said, ‘I just had a thought.’

‘Don’t be afraid,’ Jenkins said. ‘New experiences can be valuable teaching moments.'”

Megan was something else, but did have her own unexpected character arc. It was nice that she ended up so much better than she began. Booker cracked me up. Sure, I can see his concerns, and his reactions are perfectly plausible; he’s just so “excited”.

There’s a nice blend of family with Virgil’s interaction with Frankie and her Sam as well as with Lucas and Weather. That bit at the end about Virgil’s language is a crack-up, and points up the hazards of taking on a new family role. Then there’s Virgil and the other law enforcement agents — from the antagonistic start to all this interagency cooperation. It’s “amazing” how much Virgil can get done when everyone pulls together! Oy.

It’s a slow pace that’s primarily character-driven and takes awhile to get anywhere. And worth it.

The Story

Yeah, it’s crazy that intelligent people can get so carried away with their outlooks, but people are people. And they’ll defend their perspectives to the death.

And it’s death that finds a famous…and confrontational researcher. A case without clues that is embarrassing the police and pulling Virgil Flowers in to investigate.

There are more suspects than just the impassioned zealots, as Virgil discovers when he must interview the victim’s family and probe into a malpractice suit.

The Characters

Laidback Agent Virgil Flowers is a roving detective for the BCA and good friends with Lucas Davenport. The very pregnant Frankie owns a farm which doubles as her base for her architectural salvage business. Her sons include her oldest, Rolf; Tall Bear; Moses; and, eleven-year-old Sam. Honus is Virgil’s yellow dog (Deadline, 8). John Benson weighs more than Sam.

Johnson Johnson is Virgil’s best male friend. Lucas Davenport is still a US Marshal. Weather is Lucas’ plastic surgeon wife. Letty, their adopted daughter, is still at Stanford. The Davenports’ two youngest are Sam and Gabrielle.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is…
…the state FBI. Jon Duncan is a supervising agent. Del Capslock (Cheryl is his wife), Shrake, and Jenkins are agents and friends of Virgil’s and Lucas’. Barry is in tech services.

Minneapolis Homicide
Sergeant Margaret “Maggie” Trane is leading the investigation; her husband is a doctor. Lieutenant Carl Knox is Maggie’s supervisor. Detective Sergeant Ansel Neumann gives Virgil the two-dollar tour.

Bill Offers is a cop with Narcotics. Julia Parker is the assistant medical examiner at the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office; Honey Marshall is a medical examiner investigator. Harmon Watts is a Hennepin County assistant attorney.

St Paul PD
Detective Roger Bryan is quite competent.

University of Minnesota
Dr Barthelemy “Barth” Quill, MD, PhD, is a brilliant but cold genius, “famous for his research into innovative therapies for spinal nerve injuries”. Alex Nolan is an alias. Quill’s coworkers include Carol Ann Soboda, Carl Anderson is the lab director, Julie Payne knows everything, Sally is a tech, Robert Harris is a microsurgeon, Ann, and Rosalind.

Megan Quill is Quill’s loser daughter with even more loser friends: Jerry Krause and Brett Renborne. Dick is Megan’s neighbor. Butch Olsen is a friend of Jerry’s. Jerry’s mother, Connie, lives in Faribault. Brett’s landlady works as a secretary at the Minnesota Historical Society. Wife #3 is Nancy Quill, an associate professor of linguistics, and about to be Quill’s ex. Jen is Barth’s housekeeper. Trixie Hahn is Megan’s mother and Barth’s first wife who lives in White Bear Lake. Kaitlin Chambers is a friend of Megan’s in White Bear. Bunny Quill is Barth’s sister and co-heir to their father’s (Darian Seebold Quill) very successful company, Quill Micro-Sprockets.

The newly tenured Professor Katherine Green is head of the Department of Cultural Science. Green’s students include Clete May, who likes to “lean” into women and has a thing for kyūjutsu archery; Terry Foster, who is an older grad student, is a former captain of military intelligence (Joe Lee is Terry’s neighbor); and, Sandy Thomas is a friend with benefits who’s had some five or six majors.

Alice is a barmaid at the beer joint, The Beacon. Harry (he owns three McDonalds and entertains youth theories) is a customer with lots of NCIS-influenced theories. Genevieve O’Hara is caring for a dying mother and formerly worked at the Andersen Library.

Boyd Nash is a sociopathic scientific predator. Dexter Hamm expedites information. China White sells drugs. Long Wayne Gibbs, a.k.a., Long Doyle Gill or Long Bob Greer, is still in the porno field. Paisley likes to tie people up. She’s got a scary brother. Lilith is a friend of hers. Abigail Cohen is hiding behind several names.

The lazy John “Jack” Combes is a sometime criminal lawyer and a friend of Quill’s with whom he plays handball. Carleton Lange, Shelly Carter, John Brennan (John Brennan LLC) is working the McDonald lawsuit for the university, Jared Miles (he’s with DC&H), and George Wesley are lawyers. Larry “Call me Lare” Hardy is the sleazy Robin Jones‘ boss. Don Wright is the chief assistant county attorney in Dakota.

Lonnie Marks can pour a foundation. Frank McDonald, an electrician, had a terrible accident. His wife, Ruth, is an RN. Jon-Ellen Nord settled out of court. Dave Jensen has an architectural printer.

Surface Research is…
…an innovative paint company owned by Stuart L Booker, Jr. Andi is Booker’s wife. Allen Young is a night guard.

Blue Earth, Minnesota, is…
…where Virgil had that “brown” meal. Jewel Blue doesn’t believe Poindexter.

Fulda, Minnesota, is…
…where Virgil would rather be, investigating a group marriage.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a complement of blues and oranges in layers of transparency. It’s the deep royal blue of a nighttime sky with the university library set back on the campus grounds. Superimposed on top of that (and initially appearing to be the oranges of autumn leaves) is an exploded spine with black nerves. The text is mildly transparent with the yellow of the author’s name at the top — an info blurb in a partially transparent white is to the right of the author’s first name. The title is a transparent pale orange with the series information in a soft green to the left of the last word of the title.

The title is both victim and killer, a Bloody Genius.

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