Skip to main content

Bloody Genius: A Virgil Flowers Novel


Bloody Genius: A Virgil Flowers Novel

I am able to remember a time when there were no Virgil Flowers novels. So I was caught just a bit off-guard when I realized that this newly published book is the 12th in the series featuring a character developed in the even longer running Lucas Davenport canon (and yes, I can remember a time when those books did not exist either). We are richer intellectually for both series, particularly for BLOODY GENIUS, which is one of John Sandford’s better works.

Yes, I am aware that I just made quite a statement, but I would not lie to you. Sandford switches up each of his police procedurals so that in some, the identity of the villain is revealed immediately to readers, and it is left to Virgil or Lucas to identify and apprehend. His second practice is to start Virgil or Lucas on a chase after a known target from the beginning of the book while giving readers just enough information to know who is the cat and who is the mouse at any given point. His third method, which BLOODY GENIUS employs, is to put readers as much in the dark as his protagonist. They do get to witness the murder, as well as events leading up to it, but little else.

"BLOODY GENIUS is a well-concocted mix of memorable characterization and sharp, twisted plotting. It is also filled to the brim with unforgettable dialogue..."

The victim here is a highly respected but thoroughly disliked medical research physician named Barthelemy Quill. The murder takes place in his reserved study carrel in a university library well after hours. Quill, who intends to use the cubicle for a frolic of his own, discovers an interloper who violently dispatches him. His companion du jour, who was expecting a climax of a decidedly different sort, flees the scene at the first hint of conflict and without seeing either the murder or the doer.

Given that Quill was politically connected, Virgil is brought in to the investigation when the Minneapolis police are left with a paucity of clues. His presence is initially resented by Margaret Trane, a prickly investigator who soon warms to his lack of interest in receiving credit for solving the case --- even as his unconventional mode of dress, which includes faded t-shirts of obscure rock bands, causes some to wonder if he is truly a law enforcement officer.

Virgil has a personal interest in wrapping up the case correctly and quickly, as he is about to become the father of twins, but it’s difficult from the start. While there may be a lack of evidence, there is no shortage of suspects, including Quill’s two ex-wives, his estranged third wife and his trustafarian daughter. There is also a researcher in another scientific discipline with whom he had been feuding, occasionally violently. That’s just the shortlist. There are plenty of twists and turns as Virgil and Trane slowly but steadily eliminate suspects and zero in on a final one, which puts an innocent party --- not to mention this unlikely duo --- in terrible danger. Not everyone reaches the end of the book unscathed. You’ll race to the end to see who does and who doesn’t.

BLOODY GENIUS is a well-concocted mix of memorable characterization and sharp, twisted plotting. It is also filled to the brim with unforgettable dialogue --- some of it joyfully politically incorrect --- with turns of phrase that you will nuzzle to your bosom and call your own. Be sure to give proper credit.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 4, 2019

Bloody Genius: A Virgil Flowers Novel
by John Sandford

  • Publication Date: June 2, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0593085744
  • ISBN-13: 9780593085745