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In Israel, a man clutching a backpack searches desperately for a boat. In Minnesota, Virgil Flowers gets a message from Lucas Davenport: You’re about to get a visitor. It’s an Israeli cop, and she’s tailing a man who’s smuggled out an extraordinary relic—a copper scroll revealing startling details about the man known as King Solomon.
Wait a minute, laughs Virgil. Is this one of those Da Vinci Code deals? The secret scroll, the blockbuster revelation, the teams of murderous bad guys? Should I be boning up on my Bible verses?
He looks at the cop. She’s not laughing. As it turns out, there are very bad men chasing the relic, and they don’t care who’s in the way or what they have to do to get it. Maybe Virgil should start praying.
Review by Reynold Starnes
Storm Front is the seventh, and newest, entry in John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers series. Sandford, the pseudonym for John Camp, who won a Pulitzer as a journalist, has penned three series: Kidd, Prey and Flowers. The characters inhabit the same fictional universe and are interrelated; Flowers works for Lucas Davenport, the protagonist of the Prey books. I like them all, but Flowers is a current favorite.
Sandford writes terrific thrillers, which are often very dark. Virgil Flowers is not a dark character, but he has confronted massive child abuse cases, organized attacked squads and vicious criminals. Storm Front is different. It is lighter and more humorous; and a good read.
There are bad guys and good guys in the book, as well as bad good guys and good bad guys. In this story, Flowers is trying to track down a stolen engraved stone from an archaeological site in Israel that is purportedly from the time of Solomon and threatens currently accepted history. The thief is an elderly minister who is dying of cancer and who seems to be smarter than anyone else in the book. In the action with Flowers are Israeli agents, Hezbollah terrorists, Turkish assassins, media hucksters, and beautiful and brilliant con women.
The pacing is good, a Sandford strength. The involved plot is complicated, but not tortuous. Virgil Flowers is the most likeable of Sandford’s heroes and, for this book to work, his character has to make decisions that drive the story as well as react to inevitable misfortunes any thriller hero faces. He makes ethical decisions, even if they might not be the smartest; he is aware of this we he makes them. The dialog is good and very funny in places. Sandford does not go as far as Hiaasen in the humor department – his hero is smarter than most of Hiaasen’s – but is does have a farcical tone.
I am not certain that I want all of Flowers future adventures to be like this, but this one is good.