Friday, September 12, 2008

"Dark of the Moon", by John Sandford (Pocket Books)

Sex, Money, Murder & Small-Town America... Fantastic!

Taking a break from his Lucas Davenport series, John Sandford has started a new spin-off following the investigations of Virgil Flowers. Or, "That f**king Flowers!", as almost everyone refers to him eventually.

Beginning with a grisly, ritualistic murder of an elderly couple, and a devastating arson attack on a local billionaire, Virgil Flowers is sent by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to check it all out. Making great use of the small-town gossip-mill (portrayed in a nice, amusing way), Flowers starts closing in the killer with the help of local town Sherriff, Stryker (who is in a "bromantic" relationship with Flowers, constantly trading quips, dicussing women, and ribbing each other).

Dark Of The Moon has a different feel than the Lucas Davenport series, illustrating that despite writing for over 18 years, Sandford's skill with words and characterisation has only grown. Flowers' internal monologue is completely different to Davenport's, which makes the series fresher (more introspective, impulsive, a touch of religion, and perhaps suffering a little with ADHD). His methods are also different - Flowers sketches out his thoughts in fictionalised fashion, which allows the author to sprinkle some gentle humour throughout the story. The writing is tight and controlled, not overly descriptive. There's no "fat" here, it's a lean story with taut plotting and great characters; from the protagonist, the sherriff, and Joanie (the love interest). Even the lesser characters are wholly believable.

A new series, a new character, but retaining the qualities that have made Sandford's novels so successful (bloody realism, great locales, humour, and an amazing sense for thrilling narrative), Dark Of The Moon is a great addition to Sandford's ever-growing bibliography. Showing no signs of slowing down, he really is the American master of crime fiction! Bring on the second volume, out next year: Heat Lightning!

For fans of: Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, James Patterson, John Hart, Greg Iles

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