Holy Ghost by John Sandford

‘Honest to God, what is the world coming to?’

Wheatfield, Minnesota, is one of those small towns teetering on the edge of oblivion.  A small town with a declining population, probably down to around 650, located off the main highway.  Why would anyone need or want to visit?   But then a vision of the Virgin Mary appeared at St Mary’s Catholic Church in front of the congregation of worshippers, some of whom take photographs.  And when the Virgin appeared a second time, well Wheatfield was on the map.  Religious tourists descended on the town.  Accommodation was at a premium, business was booming.

What could possibly go wrong?  How about a series of shootings followed by several murders? Wardell Holland, the Mayor, whose successful campaign slogans included ‘I’ll Do What I Can’, calls in Virgil Flowers from the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.  Shootings and murders were not part of his plan for putting Wheatfield back on the map.

So, who is behind the shootings and murders, and why?  It seems like plenty of people have both the equipment and the opportunity, but motive?   And where are the clues that usually help an investigator solve such crimes? In his search for answers, Virgil Flowers has some humorous conversations with some very interesting characters.

Virgil Flowers is an unorthodox crime investigator, he’s quite happy to speculate about what might be happening as part of his information gathering.  He’s also happy to involve the locals if this might help him flush out the criminals.  Unconventional, but ultimately effective.  There’s some great dialogue, some interesting characters (meet John Jacob Skinner), and more than I need to know about the awfulness of diner food and chicken pot pies.

This novel held my attention from beginning to end. This is the eleventh novel in John Sanford’s Virgil Flowers series.  It is the first I’ve read (and it reads fine as a standalone novel), but I’ll be looking out for some of the earlier ones.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster (Australia) for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith