Book Review: Rough Country by John Sandford

Posted December 9, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: Rough Country 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.

Rough Country by John Sandford
Series: Virgil Flowers #3, Lucas Davenport
Published by Putnam Adult on September 29, 2009
Pages: 388
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, 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, Bloody Genius, Masked Prey

Third in the Virgil Flowers subseries and revolving around a roving detective with a penchant for band T-shirts and writing fishing and hunting articles. (This series is an off-shoot from Sandford’s Lucas Davenport and doesn’t rely upon it.)

My Take

It’s an intriguing start as McDill thinks of her scientist dad’s explanation on the difference between full moons on the horizon and overhead. It’s true enough that you can sell the image easier than you can sell the truth.

I’m thinking that the epithet everyone assigns to Virgil refers to is his clearance rate. Then again…

“‘I’ve been working downtown for ten years and I’ve never been hit on by a college girl,’ Sedlacek said, looking after her. ‘What have you got that I don’t?’

‘Good looks, personality…cowboy boots.’

“Fuck me,’ Sedlacek said. ‘I’ve been trying to get by on intelligence.'”

Wendy is such a drama queen. She likes stirring everyone up, screwing anybody, and fighting. At least she comes by it naturally, *eye roll*. To be fair, everyone does seem to roll with it.

Wow, I did not like the Sextons, and then to hear what everyone else has to say about them…well, now I know why I didn’t like ’em. I did have to laugh at Susan Boehm gettin’ all uppity on Virgil. Then her kid deflates the heck out of her, and Virgil stomps out any last bits of hot air, lol.

Virgil sees himself as the “genial observer” — a role which is shot to hell with his two stories being in The New York Times Magazine — and I see him as a stirrer-upper, whispering in one ear after another, stirring the pot to see what bubbles up next. I did miss having Virgil writing this case up the way he did in Dark of the Moon, 1, and Heat Lightning, 2.

Windrow is right. No artist thinks or wants to think they’re in a business. All they want to do is create. And make enough money to create some more.

I’m still trying to get a handle on Sandford’s Virgil even as I am enjoying these more as I read them. The cases are as unfathomable as Lucas Davenport’s, only…Virgil is so much more laidback. And I’m still not getting where all that success with the ladies comes from.

The Story

Eagle’s Nest is not likely to fulfill Virgil’s usual active social life, as it’s mostly become known as a resort for those with Sapphic inclinations.

Which makes things all the more complicated for Virgil, because as he begins investigating, he finds a web of connections between the people at the resort, the victim, and some local women, notably a talented country singer, and the more he digs, the move he discovers the arrows of suspicion that point in many directions, encompassing a multitude of motivations: jealousy, blackmail, greed, anger, fear. Nor is this the first murder., that there was a second, seemingly unrelated one, the year before. And that there’s about to be a third, definitely related one, any time now. And as for the fourth… well, Virgil better hope he can catch the killer before that happens.

The Characters

The surfer-lookin’ Detective Virgil Flowers with a preference for indie bands gets assigned the tough ones and in between he fishes and writes articles. After events in Heat Lightning, 2, Virgil is moving into the big time with that two-story article in The New York Times Magazine. Johnson Johnson is his fishin’ buddy who runs a sawmill.

Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is…
…the state cops. Lucas Davenport runs one department within it and is Virgil’s boss. Ron Mapes leads the initial crime scene crew along with Lane; Herb Huntington is Mapes’ assistant. Stacey Lowe leads the crew in the Cities. Jenkins and Shrake are the resident thugs. Sandy is a part-time researcher at BCA. Doug Wayne is the highway patrol pilot. Sebriski is a highway patrolman delivering a rifle.

Stone Lake in Itasca County is…
…where the Eagle Nest Lodge is located. Margery Stanhope owns the lodge. Iris Garner is Margery’s daughter; Earl is Iris’ husband. George Rainy is a guide. Dorothy Killian is the guest who’s leaving. Jared Boehm is a dock assistant, and one of the many “pretty boys” supplementing his income. Susan Boehm is his attorney mother about to find out why parents don’t represent their kids. Rusty Jones was the campus guide in Duluth.

Zoe Tull is Margery’s gay accountant and a potential buyer; Mary may become a partner. Mabel Knox works for Zoe. Signy is Zoe’s sister and owns a quilt store in Grand Rapids; Joe is Sig’s runaway husband.

Janelle Washington works in a candy store (Dan owns it) and rides a bicycle to work; her husband, James, is a greenskeeper. Tom Morris is a friend of theirs, and Janelle’s luckiest chance; Patsy is his wife. Barbara Carson is an elderly widow with an interest in heirloom roses. Jim Young is the local newspaper guy. Earl is a river rat.

Erica McDill runs an advertising agency, Ruff-Harcourt-McDill, in Minneapolis and has plans for the future. Ruth Davies is her significant other who’s on the way out. Oren McDill is Erica’s dad. State Senator Marsha Williams is a friend of Oren’s. Barney Mann is the much-loved creative director. Lawrence Harcourt has retired and was planning to sell out to McDill. Abby Sexton had an affair with McDill; she and her husband, Mark (works at RHM), have an open and easy relationship. Sandra Oduchenko is the Sextons’ babysitter. Ronald Owen and John Yao are ad agency employees with the potential to lose their jobs. Jean Owen is Ron’s wife and really hated Erica.

The Wild Goose is the bar where the ladies like to hang and where the band plays. Tom Mortensen is the owner; Chuck and Kara Larsen are the bartenders.

Slibe Ashbach is Wendy’s dad, and he raises English Crème Golden Retrievers on the side when he’s not doing grading or septic. Slibe II, a.k.a., Deuce or Junior, is Wendy’s brother. Maria Osterhus is the wife who ran away with Hector Avila, a civil engineer.

Wendy Ashbach is the band’s country singer; Berni “Raven” Kelly is the not-so-great drummer and Wendy’s girlfriend; the belligerent Cathy “Cat” Mathis is on keyboards; Bertha “Bert” Carr is the violinist; Cynthia “Sin” Sawyer is lead guitar; and, Gerry O’Meara plays bass. The Schoolhouse is a recording studio. Corky Saarinen is the manager who had been looking forward to working with McDill. Mark is a sound engineer.

Itasca County Law
Bob Sanders is the sheriff; his father, Ken, was the sheriff before him. Don, Roy Service, Ben and Dan (big beefy boys), Frank Harris, and Carl are deputies. John Phillips is the county attorney. District Court Judge Don Hope thinks “Wendy is a buxom lass”. Hank Underwood is the Cessna pilot in Itasca. Dick Raab is a defense attorney.

Little Linda Pelli is a lost fifteen-year-old who has all of Bemidji looking for her. Ruffe Ignace is a reporter with the recently bankrupt Minneapolis Star Tribune. Debbie is a witness really annoyed with the very noisy couple next door.

Iowa City is…
…where Constance Lifry, another regular gay guest at the Eagle Nest owned a restaurant, Honey’s. She was good friends with Jud Windrow who owns the Spodee-Odee in Iowa City. O’Hara is a freelance drummer. Irma Windrow is the bookkeeper and Jud’s ex-wife. Prudence Bauer is Connie’s sister.

Will Sedlacek is the chief deputy for Johnson County while Larry Rudolph is another deputy. The sheriff, Jerry, was good friends with Constance.

Roy is the tournament chairman at Vermilion Lake.

The Cover and Title

The cover is dark with a hazy suggestion of a man, quiet and alone in the woods. The author’s name is large and in yellow at the top of the cover while the title is about half that size and dim compared to the author’s flash.

Yep, it’s Rough Country for Virgil on several counts. He’s used to getting easy with the ladies, but this case involves gay ladies, and I don’t mean happy.

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