Bloody Genius is the latest Virgil Flowers page-turner.

Virgil Flowers is growing up. In times past, you could always depend on Virgil jumping into bed with the prettiest suspect in his current case. You wouldn’t get upset with the man, because that was just . . . well, Virgil being Virgil. Which is to say, a bundle of contradictions. You’ll typically find him wearing jeans, cowboy boots, and a T-shirt from a vintage rock band. And that might mislead you into thinking he’s a trifle on the dim side. Which is reinforced when you hear him sharing confidential details about his current investigation with just about anyone he runs into at a bar. But you’d be wrong, of course.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Virgil has a degree in environmental science from the University of Minnesota and writes articles from time to time for the likes of the New York Times Magazine. And he’s far and away the most successful agent in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, for which he covers the state’s southernmost counties. But Virgil is now, what, about forty years old? And can it be true that he’s . . . settling down? Yes, I do believe it’s true. John Sandford tells me so in the latest Virgil Flowers page-turner, the twelfth novel in the series, Bloody Genius.

Bloody Genius (Virgil Flowers #12) by John Sandford (2019) 380 pages ★★★★☆

Yes, settling down. Virgil now lives with his long-time girlfriend Frankie on her farm, and he rushes home every weekend almost regardless of how his case is progressing. Frankie is very visibly pregnant with their twins, who will soon join her several other children. And he’s secretly working on a novel. These are not the signs of the old shit-kicking Virgil we knew and loved.

In the latest Virgil Flowers page-turner, Virgil takes on the murder of a rich and famous professor

Now, suddenly, a major new high-profile case enters this idyllic scene. With a call from the governor, Virgil is yanked off a minor investigation in southern Minnesota and forced to rush to the Twin Cities. It seems that a wealthy and famous professor at the University has been murdered, and the Minneapolis Police don’t have a clue what happened. So, Virgil’s first assignment is to persuade Margaret Trane, the lead investigator, that he’ll work with her and let her take all the credit. And once those ground rules are established, the two set out to reexamine the facts of the case.

Naturally, Virgil turns up a clue or two in short order. But so does Maggie. And soon the pair is swimming in suspects—enough to populate an Agatha Christie whodunnit. Which makes them, and everyone else involved, even more confused. Soon, the situation grows even more fraught because . . . well, because so many of those people at the University are so frigging smart. They’ve all got alibis, of course, and the murderer’s motive could involve anything from the need to silence a witness in a lawsuit to taking out an academic rival. It’s one bloody mess.

Now, of course, Virgil and Maggie will solve the case. This is fiction, after all. But you’ll have a lot of fun following them along the way. And you’ll find that Sandford does an absolutely brilliant job with dialogue. The only other writer I’ve found to be consistently his equal is Elmore Leonard.

I’ve reviewed all of John Sandford’s excellent Virgil Flowers novels.

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