Cover image of "Escape Clause," a novel about exploited migrant workers

Like a TV series that nobody wants to end, John Sandford’s Prey series spawned a spinoff. Virgil Flowers, who figures as a character in several of the Prey novels, was promoted to the starring role in a series of his own in 2007. Escape Clause, a novel that involves exploited migrant workers and rare stolen tigers, is the ninth book featuring him.

Lots of humor in the Virgil Flowers series

The Prey series now includes 26 novels, but you can count on one thing when reading any one of them: extreme violence. The protagonist, Lucas Davenport, is a very serious man. There’s not a lot of humor in his life. Virgil Flowers is different. Every one of the books in the Virgil Flowers series that I’ve read so far has featured witty dialogue, lots of good-natured leg-pulling, and even a few jokes. It turns out that John Sandford can write humor as well as thrilling detective fiction.

Make no mistake, though: Virgil Flowers is a serious investigator, and his cases typically involve a great deal of violence as well. He’s widely regarded as one of the best, if not the very best, investigators in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). Even the state’s Attorney General and the Governor think so. As a result, when a high-profile case comes along, Flowers is typically called away from whatever he’s doing to take on the assignment.

Escape Clause (Virgil Flowers #9) by John Sandford ★★★★☆

The race to find two rare Asian tigers

Escape Clause opens when three men cut through chain-link and barbed wire fencing to steal a pair of extremely rare Asian tigers from the Minneapolis Zoo. Their species is endangered. The fear is that the tigers will be killed for the traditional Chinese medicine that can be made from their organs. If they’re not recovered quickly and returned to the zoo, the BCA, the city, and the state will all suffer intense embarrassment. And there are few fates worse for bureaucrats than embarrassment.

No sooner has Flowers launched his investigation, than his live-in lover is severely beaten. It’s hard to tell at first, but it soon becomes clear that the beating is unrelated to the case of the missing tiers. Instead, it involves her sister’s research into the exploitation of migrant Mexican workers at a nearby factory farm. Suddenly, Flowers finds himself caught up in two very different cases. Of course, any fan of John Sandford knows that both cases will be solved by the end, and brilliantly, but the fun is in the way events unfold. Escape Clause is another top-flight thriller in the Virgil Flowers series. Hats off to John Sandford!

Be sure to check out my post, John Sandford’s best Virgil Flowers novel? And you’ll find reviews of all of John Sandford’s excellent Virgil Flowers novels by clicking here.

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