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Review: Mad River

November 25, 2012

When Marsha O’Leary, the wife of the town’s wealthy doctor, flashes her diamonds at her class reunion, down-and-out Jimmy Sharp decides he’s going to steal them for his beautiful girlfriend, Becky Welsh, so the two of them, along with their friend Tom McCall, break into the O’Leary home.  Things go wrong, though, and they end up murdering Agatha O’Leary Murphy, the O’Leary’s oldest child.  That killing sparks something in the three young people and they go on a killing spree the likes of which has never been seen in rural Minnesota.

Virgil Flowers, from Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, is brought in to work on the case and he figures out who’s doing the killing pretty early on but he’s struggling to catch them before they murder more people.  Virgil has a feeling about the whole thing and, as he tries to anticipate the killers’ next move, he also tries to figure out what precipitated the events to begin with.

Mad River, by John Sandford, is the latest book in the Virgil Flowers series.  I’ve read, and enjoyed, a few books in this series, but it’s not a series I’ve kept up with, so I was a little worried going into the book.  I worried for naught, though, because I had no trouble keeping up – it’s not necessary to know Virgil’s background to enjoy this book.

Since the point of view alternates between the killers and Virgil, readers know from the beginning who’s committing the crimes but they don’t always know why.   The story is full of tension and suspense as the police investigate and try to predict the killers’ next move.  This book grabbed my attention from the very start and I hung on every word as the story progressed.  There is a lot of killing and some of it is graphic so it did leave me feeling unsettled at times.

Along with the suspense, Sandford manages to weave a little social commentary in this book since the trio of killers were desperate because of a lack of opportunities in their dead end town.   I didn’t make me empathize with them, but it did make me think about where they’d come from.

I listened to the audio version of Mad River and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s narrated by Eric Conger – his narration wasn’t the most expressive but it worked very well for a book like this.  I listened to it on a road trip and the fast pace of this great audio made the time fly by.

Review copy provided by Penguin Books.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
15 Comments leave one →
  1. talesofwhimsy permalink
    November 25, 2012 8:33 am

    Sounds interesting but I’m not sure about the social commentary. GReat review though.

  2. November 25, 2012 9:07 am

    I like John Sanford….this book sounds very good.



  3. November 25, 2012 9:50 am

    I can’t remember reading anything by John Sandford, but this one sounds like one I’d enjoy. Thanks for your review!

  4. November 25, 2012 9:58 am

    Nothing excuses murder especially not a dead end town.

  5. November 25, 2012 4:08 pm

    This sounds like a good audio Kathy; still waiting my turn at the library.

  6. Patty permalink
    November 25, 2012 4:22 pm

    This sounds intense…I might have crashed if I was driving…or missed a turn!

  7. November 25, 2012 4:41 pm

    I didn’t know this author has more than one series. Must be pretty prolific!

  8. November 25, 2012 7:13 pm

    I’ve never read John Sandford but he is on my list of tbr…I may try to pick this one up in audio – great idea!

  9. November 25, 2012 8:00 pm

    I need to make time for Virgil. I’ve been away from this series for a very long time.

  10. sandynawrot permalink
    November 25, 2012 9:22 pm

    I am a DIE HARD fan of Lucas Davenport, but I’ve never read the Flowers spin-offs. Although I like the guy…he is…interesting to say the least. I have this audio, and I know I need to listen to it. One of the things that I like about Sandford is that he does change up the way he presents his bad guys. Sometimes you know who it is from the beginning and sometimes not. Sometimes he throws important people under the bus. Sometimes he goes back in time. I love him for all these things.

  11. November 25, 2012 10:30 pm

    I’ve never read Sandford. This book sounds so suspenseful, but the premise doesn’t grab me at all.

  12. November 26, 2012 2:20 am

    I’m glad this gets a good review. I enjoy Sanford but I haven’t read any of the Virgil Flowers books yet. I have this in audio and it’s nice to know I can jump right in with this one.

  13. zibilee permalink
    November 26, 2012 11:01 am

    Though I am not normally a fan of this genre, I find what you have to say about this book really unusual and refreshing, since the audience knows who the killers are, but not why they are killing. Not your typical thriller, this one. I might have to see if I can grab it sometime. Excellent review today!

  14. November 26, 2012 9:11 pm

    I haven’t kept up with Virgil although I do like him. Actually I think the ones I’ve listened to have been on road trips!

  15. bookingmama permalink
    November 26, 2012 9:40 pm

    This one sounds good for my morning runs. I like that you don’t have to be familiar with the entire series.

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