Book Review: Holy Ghost by John Sandford

Posted December 12, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 6 Comments

Book Review: Holy Ghost 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.

Holy Ghost by John Sandford
Series: Virgil Flowers #11
Genres: Thriller
on October 9, 2018
Pages: 373
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, Neon Prey, Bloody Genius, Masked Prey

Eleventh in the Virgil Flowers thriller series, a spin-off from Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series and revolving around a laid-back detective and takes place in Wheatfield, Minnesota.

My Take

It’s a slow roll of a read, and I don’t think you actually have to be a detective for people to talk to you in Wheatfield, lol. It’s such a small town that you meet everybody. And get answers back since Danielle has a town blog where everybody keeps an eye on what’s happening.

And, heck, all Virgil has to do is find a shooter. In a countryside where most everyone shoots.

I do love Virgil. He’s so casual and easygoing, as is the story. I mean, how many detectives do you know who usually take their boat on a case? Ya never know when you can grab a few hours to fish… Then there’s his wondering if he’s been in the countryside too long when he starts “comparing and contrasting the different varieties of livestock odors”, *more laughing*

It’s refreshing that Virgil believes in engaging the people in the location he’s investigating, which is so different from most all detective stories where they all keep the information tight to their chests. Lucky for him, he’s usually working small towns…where everybody knows most everyone else.

Talk about truth in advertising, lol… Wheatfield’s mayor is elected based on his slogans: “No More Bullshit: We’re Fucked”, “Beer Sales on Sunday”, and “I’ll Do What I Can”. He’s probably the best and most honest mayor they’ve ever had.

Lordy, that Skinner… Seems he’s real successful with the ladies and has “screwed half the women and girls in town”. Crack me up…again. Nor does Skinner have much time for cops…hassling a poor lad just for driving around with an open beer. When he was twelve, lol.

It’s a miracle that pushes Virgil into reflecting on his own faith and his father. Another reflection was that the six most religious states are also among the ten states with the highest murder rates; the six least religious were among the ten with the lowest murder rates. Hmmm…

Sandford gets a bit in on sexual harassment too and how overboard we’ve gone with political correctness. Poor Katie. The archbishop, however, has it right, and there’s more than one way to care for souls.

Mom’s Cafe is a hoot. I can say that because I don’t have to eat there…

It’s that third person global subjective point-of-view that allows us to hear and feel what various characters are thinking, what they’re doing. All in that laidback Virgilesque way.

Never take cover in life, stand out in the wind.

The Story

Wheatfield, Minnesota, is a dying town until the Virgin Mary shows up, courtesy of a zealous mayor and his cohorts. And that’s when the sinning starts…with that sniper shooting down innocent people.

It’s a notoriety no one in the town wants, and it’s one that brings Virgil Flowers to their doors.

The Characters

Detective Virgil Flowers is a roving agent for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in Minnesota who lives in Mankato with his dog, Honus. He switches between his place and the knocked-up Frankie Nobles‘ farmhouse. Her sister, Sparkle, has a suspect morality. His father was a Lutheran minister. Dr Karel is Frankie’s obstetrician.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is…
…the state cops. Jon Duncan is Virgil’s boss. Bea Sawyer is the crime scene crew chief; Don Baldwin is her partner. Jenkins (he discovers the truth about black clothing, *laughing*) and Shrake are the resident BCA thugs. Sandy is a researcher/hacker Virgil knows…and knew *eyebrow waggle* Harry Scorese is good with audio.

Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation
Bell Wood is a major crimes investigator who’s done a tour in Iraq and is a major in the National Guard these days. He’s also a friend of Virgil’s. Jack Carey hears the gossip. Special Agents Katie Easton and Joe Rivers come along for the bust.

Wheatfield PD
Sheriff Karl Zimmer knows Virgil. Don, Lucy Banning, Logan, Ronnie, and Darren Bakker are some of his deputies. Hartley is a judge. Phil is a lawyer.

Wheatfield, Minnesota, is…
…dying. Its mayor, Wardell Holland, a former first lieutenant who lost a foot in Afghanistan who passes the time shooting flies. The seventeen-year-old, brilliant John Jacob Skinner becomes his partner, in so many ways. They’ll be running the local store, Skinner and Holland, Eats and Souvenirs, with the help of Janet “Jennie” Fischer. She’s been engaged to the sleazy Larry Van Den Berg, an over-the-road truck driver for nine years. Ralph Van Den Berg is his brother; Jill is his wife. Billie is their daughter.

St Mary’s is the Catholic church where the Virgin Mary appeared. Based in St Paul, the skeptical Father George Brice comes down and says Mass. Harvey Coates and his wife and Betty Rice are pilgrims.

Marge Osborne is retired, sold the farm, and came back to Wheatfield with the first Virgin sighting. She’s on the parish council and is the source of funding for the repairs and cleanup. Barry is her son who owns a carpet cleaning business. Ole Birkstrum sold the house.

Danielle and Roy Visser rent out a nice room to Virgil. She’s an amazing hairdresser who also runs the town’s blog. They’re the oddest nice couple… Glen Andorra is a farmer who started up a gun range. Pat is his dog. One of the members and his friend Bill go elk hunting in Colorado every year. Doug Cooper is one of Glen’s neighbors. Bob Martin does some gunsmithing. Bud Dexter, who works at the Spam Museum, likes to shoot at the range. Mark Ermand has a machine shop over in Fairmont. Kathy Meijer and Carol Cook both get their hair cut at Danny’s. Trudy runs Trudy’s Hi-Life Consignment shop and is a friend of Ann’s.

Clay Ford is a gun nut preparing for the apocalypse. He owns his own business doing computer maintenance, WiFi installations, and solar panel sales. George and Elizabeth Creighton are putting up a new house and want all the fixings. He, uh, wouldn’t mind if, ah, Rose would like to move in.

Sara MacDonald works at the bank and “she wants [his] body. Real bad.” Louise Remington is one of Larry’s neighbors. Daria (she used to be “Darrell”) McCain thinks she’s a woman in a man’s body and is on the fire commission. Don and Donna White own a farm near the dropoff. The Boks used to be and Lou Simpson, Marvel Jackson, Casey Young, and Davy Apel still are Barry’s neighbors. Ann Apel is Davy’s wife, and they run a heavy machinery business. Clayton Hargrove needed a ditch dug.

The Nazis include Jim Button and Raleigh Good, an asshole of major dimension, and Button’s cousin, Woody Garrett, a nasty man who beat up his nine-year-old daughter, Anna. Sandy is his wife. There are a couple of women with them. Rose is a spinning instructor at Bob’s Spinners and Bells who won a turkey shoot. Marie York has swastikas tattooed on her ears. She’s getting them tattooed in squares so she doesn’t miss this career opportunity…

“‘The whole idea of prison scares them. The “Don’t drop the soap in the shower” thing.’

‘Glad to hear it. Too many guys look on it as free health care,’ Virgil said.”

Dick Howell is the local postman. Marlin Brown loves to garden. Will Courtland knows a bit about friends. Skinner’s hippie mom, Caroline, has no idea who his father is. Curt Lane owns one of the shops that are being rehabbed. Goran Bilbija works at the the Fraternal Order of the Eagles. The too-quick-with-a-gun Bram and his wife Laura Smit are apologetic. Wardell’s mother runs Mom’s Cafe where the food is to die for, literally. Make sure you got your hepatitis shots and bring a barf bucket. Skinner says they call the cooks over there Hepatitis A, B, and C. The Mad Hatter Brew Pub was an idea that didn’t float. Don Lee Jacoby owns Jacoby and Sons, the funeral parlor.

John Ryan is a local lawyer. Bob Morgan is at Lost Coast State Bank.

The Cover and Title

The cover is gorgeous with its royal blues tinting an overview of the quaint-looking town of Wheatfield nestled in among the trees. The author’s name is in an embossed white taking up the top half with an info blurb in black while the title takes up the bottom half in an embossed faint yellow with the series info tucked in on the right at the very bottom in orange. I do like how the shifting blue clouds overlap the larger text.

The title is more of an imprecation than a reference to the Virgin Mary, as Holy Ghost, who the heck is shootin’ all these people!

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6 responses to “Book Review: Holy Ghost by John Sandford

    • I wasn’t too sure about this Virgil Flowers series when I first started reading it, Laura. It was so laidback compared to Lucas Davenport. But by the third book, I was really into Virgil.

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