Virgil Flowers, who started out as a secondary character in author John Sandford’s bestselling Prey series (starring Lucas Davenport), proves once again that he has plenty of star power to carry his own franchise.
The action starts when a pair of rare Amur tigers are stolen from a zoo just outside of St. Paul, Minnesota. Winston Peck VI used to be a doctor, but he lost his license to practice medicine after displaying inappropriate tendencies, something he demonstrated to his patients on a regular basis. Now he’s mixed up in the world of Chinese medicine, a practice that, since it requires killing and harvesting the organs of endangered animals, is illegal in multiple countries.
Hired by a California-based criminal named Zhang Min, Peck’s job was to steal the tigers and harvest their organs as quickly as possible. He was successful getting in and out of the zoo using a couple of dumb, expendable accomplices. But after catching some serious public backlash for stealing the tigers, especially from animal rights activists around the country, Peck realizes this story isn’t about to just go away.
Peck’s instincts eventually prove right, because things are far from over. In fact, the state’s best investigator, Virgil Flowers, has been assigned to the case. And like the perverted doctor will soon learn the hard way, you do not want a man like Virgil Flowers breathing down your neck if you’ve got something to hide.
Virgil Flowers is happy with life, at least for the most part. Even with this case at stake, he’s enjoying a new romantic relationship with a woman named Frankie Nobles. But that, like most other things around him, is about to change for the worst. Sparkle, Frankie’s younger sister, comes to town for a visit and takes an immediate liking to Virgil. Her interest in her sister’s boyfriend leads to some awkward tension, but Sparkle causes far bigger problems than just that.
Personal relationships aside, Virgil’s main objective is to find whoever stole the tigers before they can be killed and harvested. The problem is, Peck starts tying up loose ends in a hurry. Each time Virgil locates someone who might have info on the animal thief, the person is dead. As the body count continues to rise, Virgil realizes his only chance to bring down the bad guy is to get a step ahead of him before everyone helpful to his case stops breathing.
Some of the explicit descriptions of how exactly the animals’ organs are harvested will leave some readers feeling squeamish. Especially if you have a pet that you love or don’t do well with blood. The public backlash Peck deals with is very reminiscent of the real-life opinions and media stories surrounding the dentist from Minnesota who made headlines after killing Cecil the Lion in 2015. The activists do play a key role in a side story, one that personally affects Virgil, but they aren’t the main focus.
As far as bad guys go, Peck is about as unlikeable as someone can get. A pervert and an animal killer? Readers will cheer relentlessly for Virgil to catch up to this guy and deliver the justice he deserves.
John Sandford is one of today’s most consistent thriller authors for a reason–you always know what you’re going to get with him. Like his other books, Escape Clause is pretty straightforward and, instead of twists and turns, relies more on the action, humor, and fan-favorite characters to drive the story along. It all works really well here, and fans even get a brief cameo from Lucas Davenport, who will star in his twenty-seventh novel, Golden Prey, next year.
Escape Clause is the perfect buy-on-Friday-and-read-it-this-weekend novel for thriller fans. While it is the ninth book in the series, it stands completely on its own, allowing anyone to jump in and enjoy the ride.
Author: John Sandford
Series: Virgil Flowers #9
Pages: 392 (Hardcover)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: October 18, 2016 (Order Now!)