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Deadline by John Sandford

If you've read this blog for a while now, you know that John Sandford's Virgil Flowers series is one of the series that I read.  Deadline is the eighth installment in this series.  I've read and reviewed all the previous installments on this blog.  You can click here to read the review for the previous installment in the series.  I've been doing some thinking about some of these story lines and the crimes that Virgil Flowers' has investigated over the course of the series, and some have been a little absurd and ridiculous (and in some cases, Virgil has even agreed with me!  See the review for Storm Front, the book right before Deadline).  I'm thinking about the one in which he goes up against some Vietnamese spies/assassins that come to Minnesota to rain down some vengeance stemming from a forty or fifty year old massacre that happened half a world away and the last one in which a Da Vinci Code-esque Biblical archaeological artifact heist is at the center of the story.  And then there's this one in which the blurb states that a local school board votes to put out a hit on a local investigative journalist, but it opens with a dognapping.  That's not a word according to my spell check, but for the sake of this review, I'm making it one: dognapping= like kidnapping only it's a dog that's been abducted.

Virgil's ill advised fling with the woman he was investigating for fraud or something from the last book has blossomed into a full fledged romance.  While it seems they're a better match than all his previous marriages, I can't help but worry that this is going to bite Virgil in the ass at some point or burst into flames and take out everything in its path.  You know how these things go.

So the book opens with a dognapping in Buchanan county, Minnesota.  Virgil's friend Johnson calls in a favor with Virgil, which is how Virgil ends up in Buchanan County unofficially investigating the alleged dognappers who hail from an insular, hillbilly enclave on the edge of town.  Through his investigation, Virgil stumbles upon a decent sized methamphetamine cooking operation that happens to be based in the aforementioned hillbilly.  Drugs are the feds' problem, so Virgil calls in his buddy, Gomez the DEA agent, to come roll up the drug operation.  Unfortunately for Virgil, dognapping and meth cooking are the least of Buchanan county's problems.  While Virgil's in Buchanan county, a local journalist is seemingly randomly murdered while out for a night time jog.  And so Virgil's dognapping (though unrelated to the meth and the murder) just snowballed big time.

The local school board has been bilking the school district out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and the dead journalist, Conley, stumbled upon the conspiracy and was threatening to write an expose on the whole sordid business.  However, the conspiracy extends slightly beyond the board of directors, and Conley trusted some people that he maybe shouldn't have and that's how he gets three bullets in his back for his troubles.  You see the school board, wishing to protect their greedy little asses, votes to have Conley killed.

The school board had a really (really) bad stroke of luck with Virgil being in residence thanks to the dognapping because we all know that Virgil has a high clearance rate and that he will break this conspiracy wide open.  The question is how long will it take and how many more bodies will drop before he can take down the school board.  By the time the school board realizes this, they are desperate and desperate people are very dangerous.  As Virgil closes in, accumulating evidence, talking to witnesses, and generally stirring stuff up, an innocent civilian aiding in the investigation gets dropped by the school board's strongman, and Virgil decides it's time to start rounding up the bad guys.  But before Virgil can start making arrests, the whole investigation nearly unravels before ending in a slow speed chase in jon boats followed by a foot chase that ends when the killer tries to make a break for it with a golf cart.  (Don't worry, Virgil's golf cart is faster.)

Really, the school board's luck ran out as soon as Virgil rolled into town.  And they know it, but they just keep going and digging themselves an even deeper hole. And that is unfortunate for them and for the people who end up dead because they're covering their sorry asses.  Despite the darkness of the crimes, there are comical moments in this book--see the aforementioned jon boat/golf cart chase.  The description of the chase is such that the reader can easily picture it in their minds.  This is a quick read and the book is hard to put down.  If you're a fan of the Virgil Flowers' series, you won't want to miss this one.  Further, if you're looking for a new mystery/crime/thriller series, I'd recommend this--just start at the beginning--you won't regret it.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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