Class reunions are supposed to be a time for catching up, talking about what life was like as teenagers, celebrating where you are now, and reconnecting with old friends. For Gina Hemming, her twenty-fifth high school reunion started off fine, but took a sudden, deadly turn.
Sandford opens his tenth Virgil Flowers novel with the accidental killing of Hemming, who’d left Minnesota and worked her way up the corporate ladder. Recently divorced, Hemming reconnects with David Burkmann, who still goes by his high school nickname, “Bug Boy.”
A down-on-his luck, accident-prone loner, David is also recently divorced. Having inherited his father’s insect and pest removal company, David stayed in Minnesota, living in the same town he grew up in, often thinking about his first love, Gina Hemming.
Their personal reunion doesn’t go as planned, though, and Gina quickly becomes angry with David for making an advance towards her. In the blink of an eye, David absorbs a blow from Gina, then–without thinking–swings his arm towards her, forgetting that he was holding a big bottle of champagne. The bottle lands solidly, and Gina falls to the floor, dying instantly.
As the opening chapter comes to a close, David is seen staging things to look like Gina fell down the stairs before leaving her body and heading to a karaoke joint to establish his alibi. Then he heads home, where he waits for news to break that Gina’s body has been found inside the local bar at the bottom of the stairs where he left her.
Virgil Flowers, meanwhile, who works for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is spending his vacation time tucked inside a camo blind, braving the frigid winter weather while parked behind his Nikon D810 digital camera. Hoping to capture a thousand dollar photo for Wing & Talon magazine, Flowers tracks an owl, waiting for the perfect shot. Sadly, his vacation is cut short when his boss, Joe Duncan, calls and asks for him to help with a murder investigation.
According to Duncan, the body of Gina Hemming was pulled from the river, frozen in a slab of ice…not at the bottom of a flight of stairs where readers last saw her. The surprising twist lands within the first twenty pages, immediately sucking readers into the story.
Typically, authors write crime novels in one of two ways. Either the reader knows who the bad guy is before the protagonist, or they’re in the dark along with the lead character, trying to solve things and connect the dots as the story unfolds. Sandford shakes things up here by mixing both formulas, which pays off in the end.
Readers might know more than Virgil Flowers, but they don’t know everything. Sandford uses that intrigue, and the reader’s quest to discover the whole truth will propel them forward, where he has plenty of twists (and more than a few laughs) planted along the way.
Deep Freeze is easily one of Sandford’s best Virgil Flowers novels yet, and a terrific follow-up to last year’s Escape Clause.
Author: John Sandford
Series: Virgil Flowers #10
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: October 17, 2017
Book Spy Rating: 7.5/10