It starts with a robbery gone wrong. Jimmy, Becky and Tom are three teenagers with no future. When Jimmy kills Agatha O’Leary, daughter of a wealthy family, the trio go on the run, leaving a swathe of murders in the wake. Virgil Flowers of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is called in to track them down before anyone else is harmed. Soon he discovers there’s more than meets the eye.

Mad River is the 6th book in the Virgil Flowers series however this is the first book by John Sandford that I have read and it worked well as a standalone novel. At first glance this book sounded like an episode of Criminal Minds; there are killers on the loose and we and the authorities know perfectly well who they are. The race against time across Minnesota was gripping and kept good pace. What it was lacking was the more psychological aspect. What really tipped them over the edge other than a crappy life? I did start to feel a little sorry for Becky, and perhaps even Jimmy at the end, enough to care what happens to them.

I didn’t find Virgil a very engaging protagonist. Perhaps reading the series from the start gives him more of a personality and the character development has already been done but, other than his job, I couldn’t tell you much about him. There’s a sort of on/off relationship which seems to just be plonked in and doesn’t have much relevance to the plot.

Despite its flaws, it was still an enjoyable read and whilst I wouldn’t run out to read the whole series, I wouldn’t avoid his other books in future either. I just need a bit more character to my characters.

Mad River is published by Simon & Schuster and is currently available in hardback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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