A Book Spy Review: ‘Holy Ghost’ by John Sandford

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HOly Ghost 1Fresh off his last case (Deep Freeze, 2017), the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension sends Virgil Flowers to Pinion, Minnesota, to investigate a series of shootings. 

It all started when former Iraqi war vet turned mayor of Pinion, Wardell Holland, listened to John Jacob Skinner, his seventeen-year-old sidekick, pitch him a daring idea to line the city’s coffers with tourism dollars. Sitting in his mother’s trailer and armed with a pellet gun, Holland takes momentary breaks from blowing the wings off annoying flies to hear Skinner’s harmful idea of having his friend (with benefits), Janet Fischer, pretend to be the ghost of the Virgin Mary. At best, the ploy will increase tourism and put Pinion on the map. At worst, theorizes the near-alcoholic teenager, the sham doesn’t work and nobody is hurt in the process. 

But what first seemed like a nothing-to-lose idea quickly turns violent and deadly when strangers from across the country visit the tiny Minnesota town to witness the staged miracle. First, one visitor escapes sniper fire without serious injury. Sadly, the next victim isn’t as lucky, sustaining a major injury that prompts Virgil Flowers to leave his pregnant girlfriend and head south to investigate. 

Upon reaching Pinion, Flowers finds the tiny town underwhelming. After agreeing to pay far more than the dingy room that Mayor Holland secures for him is worth, Virgil goes out searching for clues. Instead, he finds a whole lot of nothing, including no motives, suspects, or bread crumbs to follow. The case is a bust until another body turns up, and Flowers realizes the new corpse is that of Glen Andorra, who runs a makeshift shooting range when he’s not farming his land. Using Glen as a new starting point, he’s able to compile a list of suspects, and when the killer strikes again, Flowers finally has a trail to follow. . . one that leads to the last place readers might expect. 

Sandford is so good at mixing humor into his mysteries, and that ability pays off greatly here. Whenever things take a dark turn, Flowers still manages to keep the plot light with his wit and humor. The story moves relatively fast, on par with his other novels, and the intriguing opening premise kicks things off with a bang. Those fearing this title might venture into Dan Brown-like waters need not worry, the initial setup involving the Virgin Mary doesn’t delve deep into religious text or beliefs. Instead, it serves as a tantalizing way to ramp things up, but the story does move away from that as Flowers chases a killer on the loose. Bottom line, it’s another very strong showing from Sandford. 

When a heavenly figure pops up, all hell breaks loose in Holy Ghost, another rip-roaring thriller from John Sandford, who continues to masterfully develop Virgil Flowers . . . who has been on another level since last year’s Deep Freeze

Book Details

Author: John Sandford
Series: Virgil Flowers #11
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0735217327
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.5/10

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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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