Rough Country (John Sandford) – Review

roughcountryVirgil’s always been known for having a somewhat active, er, social life, but he’s probably not going to be getting too many opportunities for that during his new case. While competing in a fishing tournament in a remote area of northern Minnesota, he gets a call from Lucas Davenport to investigate a murder at a nearby resort, where a woman has been shot while kayaking. The resort is for women only, a place to relax, get fit, recover from plastic surgery, commune with nature, and while it didn’t start out to be a place mostly for those with Sapphic inclinations, that’s pretty much what it is today.

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. The more he digs, the more he discovers the arrows of suspicion that point in many directions, encompassing a multitude of motivations: jealousy, blackmail, greed, anger, fear. Then he finds that this is not 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. Because it could be his own.

synopsis from G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Rough Country is actually the third is a series by John Sandford written around Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator Virgil Flowers. I have not read the first two books but I was able to glisten from this one that Virgil is somewhat of a ladies man and has been successful in using this to his advantage in previous murder investigations. Well, this is not going to work in this case.

The discovery of Erica McDill’s body in a cove at the Eagle Nest Lodge opens up the proverbial can of worms when it comes to suspects. Love triangles (and squares), money, prejudice, and every other motive are all exposed when Virgil starts taking at closer look at Erica’s associates – personal and business – as well as the locals surrounding the Lodge.  Is the killer a local who has something against lesbians, the primary guests at the lodge? Or is it an act of jealousy since Erica has had her share of affairs and was planning on leaving her live-in partner? Virgil’s sexual prowess will not provide him with any secret information with this band of suspects and the fact that information is hidden, lies are told and secrets are kept does not make his job any easier.

I enjoyed the fast pace of this book. And I especially like Virgil Flowers as a lead character. He is a authority bucking, lady loving, rock and roll t-shirt wearing man’s man who happens to pray every night before bed and he is just plain fun to follow.   The mystery aspect of the story was decent and there were some great moments of humor. Most of the minor players added a nice local flavor of being in the rough country of Minnesota. There were a few moment of displeasure though. Quite a bit of the actions and dialogue of many of the female (and mostly lesbian) characters were somewhat stereotypical in nature and there were some derogatory remarks, of course made by men, concerning the ladies in the story. Perhaps these remarks were made to relay that feeling of being in the back woods and to provide a reason for the killing but I found them a tad disconcerting and distracting. These minor faults did not take away from a quick and entertaining read though and have made me curious about the two other Virgil Flower’s books.

Visit John Sandford’s website where you will find information about Rough Country as well as his other books, articles, tour schedules, and interviews.

I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this title to read and review.

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  • Stacy November 10, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    I reviewed this one recently and felt similar to the way you did. Love Virgil and the pace of the story, but I really didn’t like the negativity toward women and lesbians specifically. I’m still on board with Virgil, but am hoping those around him stear clear of stereotyping women in the future.

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