Book Review: Escape Clause by John Sandford

Posted January 16, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 10 Comments

Book Review: Escape Clause 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.

Escape Clause by John Sandford
Series: Virgil Flowers #9, Lucas Davenport #26.5
Genres: Thriller
on October 18, 2016
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also in this series: MatchUp, Rough Country

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, The Fool's Run, Deep Freeze, The Empress File, Twisted Prey, Holy Ghost, Neon Prey, Bloody Genius, Masked Prey

Ninth in the Virgil Flowers thriller series (and 26.5 in the Lucas Davenport series) and revolving around a laidback, determined detective who works out of Mankato, Minnesota. It takes place just after Lucas’ adventures in Extreme Prey, 26.

My Take

Ya know…I’m wondering whatever happened to Virgil’s passion for writing. It was one of the characteristics I liked about Virgil, that detecting was something he did to pay the bills, but writing articles on hunting and fishing was his true passion. What happened to that guy?

Sandford did catch my attention at the start with those obscure words — I thought they were shooting people! Then there’s that psychopath, Peck. Peck is so one-track-minded and certainly does demonstrate that doing drugs is a really stupid idea. All these inconsiderate people who surround him… All those trusting idiots… Those bodies being strewn right and left, and except for one, you really don’t mind that.

It’s a case of working it. Tips and sightings, suggestions and possibilities that arise throughout the case and impresses with me the amount of work and luck it takes.

Poor Virgil. The Simonians think they owe him. That is not a payout that Virgil even wants to think about, but I do think what they come up with was poetic justice.

It is an interesting range of characters, especially with those who work in traditional medicine. Gupti-Mack’s insecure superiority really cracked me up. Then there’s that “trick” Virgil plays on Shrake with the business card, lol. Yeah, I’d take that bet.

There aren’t, however, any characters you can empathize with. Okay, Artur made me cry, but then Katya made up for it at the end. But this lack of empathy is symptomatic of the whole story. There’s an offhandedness about it that did not pull me in. I kinda wonder if Sandford’s heart wasn’t in this one.

The Story

The fall-out from the assassination attempt at the Iowa State Fair is wreaking havoc on the BCA, as all of law enforcement is being committed to keeping the Minnesota Fair safe.

It means Virgil will have to find them tigers on his own.

The Characters

Detective Virgil Flowers works for the BCA and lives in Mankato, although he does spend a lot of time at Frankie’s farm. Frankie Nobles is his girlfriend with a sideline in architectural salvage. Her sons include Sam, the youngest, a fourth-grader; her second son is Tall Bear; and, Rolf is the oldest son.

Wanda “Sparkle” is Frankie’s self-absorbed baby sister pursuing her dissertation. Father Bill is quite the flexible Catholic priest who works the summer months as a bartender at Hanrattys’. Honus is the dog Virgil acquired back in Deadline, 8. Honus seems to be as good at baseball as his namesake.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is…
…the state law enforcement agency. Detectives Jenkins and Shrake crack me up. They’re always described as “thugs”, and they do enjoy a good fight. Detective Catrin Mattsson had been the sheriff’s deputy in Field of Prey, 24, who moved over to BCA in Gathering Prey, 25. She’s already got a great rep going at the BCA. Jon Duncan is Virgil’s boss, happy to be a winner on TV. Beatrice Sawyer is the head Crime Scene tech. Sandy is a very competent researcher who still holds a grudge against Virgil. Clark is one of the duty officers.

Dave the Rotten Bastard is in the attorney general’s office. Lucas Davenport is still unemployed. Van Dyke is a judge. Nguyen Ran is a medical examiner by Regions Hospital.

Apple Valley PD
Officer Andy White.

Mankato PD
Bob Roberts has some bad news for Virgil. Al Foreman is another cop. Detective Donnie Carlson is in charge of Frankie’s case. Lieutenant Carl Beard is with the Fire Department.

Minneapolis PD
Homicide Detective Anderson Huber has another one for Virgil. Kevin Howser is a homicide lieutenant.

Sherburne County Sheriff’s Department
Deputies Buck and James are backup for the visit to Maxine’s.

St. Paul PD
Officer Bowers is backup at the apartment. Sergeant Random Powers is investigating a disappearance.

Minnesota Highway Patrol
Jason Rudd saw the Ferrari first.

Pierce County Sheriff’s Office is…
…in Wisconsin. Deputy Sheriff Roger Briggs have another one for Minnesota.

The Minnesota Zoo is…
…in Apple Valley. Katya and Artur are a pair of protected Amur tigers. Dan Best is the head of maintenance. Joel Charvin was working clean-up that night. Bob Moreno. Joe Werner wonders about Barry King who lives near the Dvorsky rental. Gloria Ortiz is Barry’s worried girlfriend. Virginia Landseer is the zoo director. Robert McCall is the chairman of the board; he plans to bring in a psychologist for traumatized animals. Nancy Farelly and Gina Larimore are board members.

Toby Strait is in Lucas’ database for selling black bear gallbladders (Field of Prey, 24; he’s got his own interesting side story, lol). Inez is his girlfriend. Jan Aarle runs one of Strait’s snake farms. Strait also works with Carvin Exports and Bobbie Patterson who operates Patterson Biologic Resources in Wisconsin.

Dr. Randolph Bern is with the American Association of Zoological Gardens. Maxine Knowles runs an animal rescue refuge with some retirees (they do have a clever idea there), and is a nutjob. Crewdson is a rich animal lover who makes a huge donation. Dick Ho is a shipper. Sandra S.A. Gupti-Mack is a healer. Dr. Carolyn Monty-McCall is a psychotherapist with a subspecialty in traditional medicines.

Daisy Jones is a news reporter who knows the game. Vance is a real estate agent selling Don and Marge Schmidts‘ house. Curt and Hank Yoder, the Yos, are sheetrockers who love to fish. A friend of theirs, Jerry Pratt, has some metalcutting skills. Broda is a neighbor next to the house Chuck and April Dvorsky rent out. Chris Cooper, a school friend of Tall Bear’s, missteps. Virgil’s neighbors in Mankato — Jack and Emmy own the house behind Virgil and Kyle (he’s a service manager at a car dealership) and Janet Wilson live next door — might wanna think about movin’. Alice Hall and her husband own a farm. Buddy Gates is a mailman, and Judy knows where he lives.

Winston Peck VI, MD, does have a medical degree. One he can’t use because of those sexual assault charges. It’s okay. He’s set himself up as an expert in native medicines. Maxwell Broom is a neighbor.

Hamlet, a.k.a., Gus Smith, and Hayk Simonian are brothers, and not too bright. From Armenia. It seems they have six more brothers, including Levon and Dikran. Mother Simonian likes TV but her English isn’t very good.

Zhang “X” Xiaomin is the idiot son of a Chinese crime boss, Zhang Min. Horace Turner is a ruthless defense attorney.

Castro runs a canning factory with some dubious employment practices. Stout and Vic seem to be supervisor/enforcers or something. Ramona Alvarez gets talked into sneaking Sparkle in. Her husband, Leandro Cortez, is less than pleased.

Brad Blankenship hasn’t endeared himself to anyone, except maybe his partner, Frederick “Slow Freddie” Reeves. His brother, George, sure hates him after what was revealed about George’s wife, Ellen Frye. Okay, Brad does have another friend, Dougie Howe, who customizes motorcycles at Harley Heaven. Dan and Jane are paranoid friends of Dougie’s.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a subdued and cloudy marine blue sky hazy over a distant city skyline, merely a background for the huge font used for the author’s name (in navy blue) and the title in a combination of yellow and orange. I guess it’s so big because it’s a large print book…?

I’m thinking the title is all about Katya, Virgil’s Escape Clause with a play on those claws, er, clause.

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10 responses to “Book Review: Escape Clause by John Sandford

    • You’re right, Laura. I certainly cannot condemn Sandford’s entire series…just this one, lol. And as you say…with so many books, any author will have a down time. I can’t imagine how much pressure is on them to continue to produce at such a high level time after time.

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