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ROUGH COUNTRY – “Find That Skunk Among the Chickens”

August 17, 2011

Rough Country by John Sandford

Berkley Books

417 pages, 2009

After only this book by John Standford, I am a huge Virgil Flowers fan. He is this kind of hip, young, rock-band-t-shirt wearing Minnesota cop (Minnesota/hip?) investigating a murder at a Minnesota lesbian resort (Minnesota/lesbian?) that keeps us up all night turning each of the 417 pages. The complexity of character relationships, the novel’s action-packed plot resolution and the rapid fire anti-climaxes that follow are masterful.

But why? For one, everything is outside the envelope. Nothing is predictable. For another, the author knows police procedure, the music business and even what you’d grab to eat in a local diner. And none of this is done in a prepossessing way:

Virgil went back to his lonely motel room thought about Signy, lying unfulfilled in a lonesome bedstead in her rural cracker box, and himself, lying unfulfilled in his concrete-block motel, and about God, and how God was probably laughing his ass off.

The language is direct, yet hauntingly beautiful as a “lonely spark of fire in the middle of a swamp, twisted but believing itself safely wrapped in nature, with no idea of what was coming in the morning.” The real puzzle is not just about who the murder is but how he could be convicted if someone else is hauled in for the crime first—“If you’re sure X is guilty, why’d you arrest Y two days before?”

There are a lot of dark country roads out there and reading this novel I feel I’ve just been down one and come out safely on the other side.

Purchase this directly from amazon for only $9.99. Click: Rough Country (Virgil Flowers)

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