Bloody Genius by John Sandford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a free advance copy of this from NetGalley for review.
If a dead body was found in a library I’d assume that he must have had some serious overdue fees. Those librarians don’t play around.
A professor who does high end medical research is found murdered in a college library so Minnesota state investigator Virgil Flower is assigned to help out when the local Minneapolis cops hit a dead end. As Virgil digs into the case his problem isn’t that there aren’t any clues, it’s that there are far too many. Sex, drugs, blackmail, lawsuits, ex-wives, an estranged daughter, and a bitter academic rivalry are all angles that come up. Sifting through the noise and finding the killer’s motive is the key to cracking the case, but the more Virgil digs into it, the less sense the entire thing makes.
This is a crackerjack of a whodunit. Sandford’s usual MO is to let the reader know the villain is from the jump, or at least give us their point of view. His books are generally a cat-and-mouse game between the cop and the bad guy so his stuff is often more thriller than traditional mystery although detective work always plays a major role. He has done a few where the reader is completely in the dark as to the killer and their motives, and this is one of his best pure head scratchers.
We’ve got an intriguing scenario with plenty of viable red herrings so that I was as stumped as Virgil for the entire time. When the killer’s identity is revealed it’s a very satisfying answer because Sandford plays fair, and the clues were all there the entire time.
There's also a good tense situation built up at the end that plays into Sandford’s strength of building momentum in action scenes that keep you on the edge of your seat. Virgil continues to be a strong lead character with his laid back persona making for a nice change of pace from your typical thriller heroes. There’s a little less humor in this one than the last couple of Flowers books, but still some good chuckles that make this a touch lighter than the Prey series.
Overall, it’s a very nice piece of crime writing with a solid mystery and a great ending.
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