Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Virgil Flowers Investigates a Miracle in the Tiny Town of Wheatfield, Minnesota

The latest book in the Virgil Flowers series is much like the last, a fairly light and breezy entertainment that is neither as dark nor, frankly, as compelling as the earlier entries in the series. It takes place in the sleepy little town of Wheatfield, Minnesota, which is basically dying on the vine. But then, miraculously (?), the Blessed Virgin Mary appears to the worshippers at the town's Catholic church. All of a sudden, the town is swarming with pilgrims hoping to catch a glimpse of the Virgin. 

Happily, Wheatfield is now back on the road to recovery until a couple of the town's visitors are shot. Enter that F***in' Virgil Flowers of the Minnesota BCA who needs to quickly find the shooter before the pilgrims are driven away and the town is on the skids again. Even though a couple of people will ultimately be killed, there doesn't seem to be a lot of urgency in the task, though. The book is populated by quirky characters and it's fun to watch Virgil interact with them. You never really get the sense that Virgil won't solve the crime and you just sort of coast along with the ride until he does.

It's a fun read, but for me, and I suspect a lot of other readers, it's one you'll forget about practically the moment you're finished; there's nothing particularly memorable or weighty about it. Also, while Flowers has deservedly become one of the most popular figures in modern crime fiction, the character is not quite as interesting as he once was. 

While Virgil's always been an amusing character, in the earlier books he also had something of an edge that seems to have gradually slipped away. Moreover, he was always very attractive to the women who populate these books, and it was always a lot of fun watching him interact with them. However, a couple of books ago, Sandford settled him down into an ongoing relationship, and his girlfriend, Frankie, is now pregnant, which suggests that Virgil is going to remain settled down.

Sandford has argued that he needed to do this (as he also did with Lucas Davenport) because he fears that if his male characters are continually moving from one woman to another, they will appear to be predators. I would, very respectfully, of course, strongly disagree with him on this point, but the decision to do this has taken away one of the most attractive and interesting aspects of the character. It's still a lot of fun to watch Virgil in action, but, to me at any rate, not as much as it once was.

Holy Ghost is still a fun read, but I'm beginning to miss the "old" Virgil, just as I am missing the "old" Lucas Davenport. 3.5 stars, rounded up.


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