A Book Spy Review: ‘Bloody Genius’ by John Sandford

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Bloody GeniusWhen a murder goes down at the local college, Virgil Cole is sent to find the killer . . . but as always, things aren’t as straightforward as they first seem in the latest offering from bestseller John Sandford. 

Professor Barthelemy Quill is by all accounts a brilliant man. He’s also a grade-A D-bag, with three ex-wives and no shortage of people who can’t stand him or his self-serving ways. That list includes fellow professors too, so when Quill turns up dead in the university’s library—after someone beat him to death with a high-end laptop—it seems plausible that the murderer may also be linked to the school. 

However, two weeks after the crime, Minneapolis PD Detective Margaret Trane is still short on tangible evidence, prompting Quill’s rich sister to pull some strings within the governor’s office and have Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Virgil Flowers assigned to the case.

Almost immediately, Flowers turns up new evidence, but as he follows the DNA of a mysterious hair recovered at the murder scene, Virgil can’t help but take note of just how many potential suspects there are to consider. Quill, a nerve expert who specializes in spinal cord injuries, had made enemies both within and outside of the university. In-house, there’s Katherine Green, an academic rival who has on more than one occasion attempted to disprove Quill’s theories. Outside, there’s the wife of a man who died after a risky procedure featuring Quill’s research, a pompous patent-pirate who steals other people’s work, and, of course, several ex-wives to consider.  

Complicating matters more is the fact that Detective Trane is none too happy about Virgil invading her turf, even if his being there is the result of a wealthy campaign donor calling in favors, as opposed to him wanting to take over. Eventually, the two cops figure out how to work together, and when they uncover a potentially damning new piece of evidence, both are forced to reconsider everything they thought they knew about Quill, his death, and why someone may have wanted to kill him . . . 

Sandford has had an extraordinary career, and even after fifty books, he appears to have no shortage of story ideas. More impressively, he continues to execute them brilliantly. That’s certainly the case here, as Sandford reverts back to a true murder mystery after straying slightly from that formula his last few times out. Flowers, who’s expecting twins with his live-in girlfriend, Frankie, is as sharp as ever, and while there are some familiar faces, the bulk of the cast is made up of new characters whom Sandford develops as the story unfolds. The plot itself is pretty linear for the first half, but deeper in, Sandford presents several new threads and characters who help bring the final picture into focus. And even without a slam-dunk twist (there is a solid one, but it won’t shock everyone), there’s enough misdirection to keep readers intrigued from the first page to the last. 

John Sandford dials up another dazzling whodunit with Bloody Genius, and even if you’re able to crack the case before the final twist is revealed, it’s still a lot of fun to follow “that f—ing Flowers” around while he does his thing.

Book Details

Author: John Sandford 
Series: Virgil Flowers #12
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0525536612
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10

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Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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