Skip to main content

Holy Ghost: A Virgil Flowers Novel

Review

Holy Ghost: A Virgil Flowers Novel

HOLY GHOST continues John Sandford’s unbroken string of outstanding Virgil Flowers novels. Virgil, an agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, exhibits quiet confidence (well, maybe not always quiet) from book to book, but this latest installment is just a bit different, with Virgil in the middle of an investigation of a series of crimes that seemingly have no motive. However, what it does have in common with the 10 volumes that precede it is Sandford’s unbeatable trademark combination of terrific plotting, perfect pacing, strong characterization and immediately memorable dialogue.

As one might guess from the title, HOLY GHOST has a religious element to it. The all-but-dead Minnesota town of Wheatfield, Minnesota --- population 600 and dropping --- is suddenly revitalized when an apparition of the Virgin Mary appears during Mass at a small, almost moribund, Mexican church. The faithful and the curious flock to Wheatfield to pray and hopefully to catch a sighting. As one might expect, though, there are those who are ready to receive financial blessings as a result.

"...a work that is long on suspense and punctuated with the humor --- grim and otherwise --- that has been a welcome hallmark of this exceptional series since its inception."

The entire matter is barely on Virgil’s radar until he receives a panicked call from Wendall Holland, the somewhat unlikely populist mayor of the tiny but suddenly popular town. Someone is randomly sniping the faithful in Wheatfield. There have been two incidents, and while there haven’t been any fatalities yet, Holland’s concern is twofold. One is for the residents of and visitors to Wheatfield, and the other is that a sniper is bad for business. Virgil arrives full of hustle and bustle, certain that he can resolve the matter relatively quickly. He can’t. In fact, he grows extremely frustrated with his inability to get any sort of a handle on the case.

When a longtime and much-loved resident of the city is murdered, it becomes even more imperative. Virgil comes close a time or two, but the doer somehow gets away. Another murder occurs, which indirectly sends him in the right direction thanks to a little elementary forensic accounting. Sandford gives the reader a slight jump on what is going on, and the result is a work that is long on suspense and punctuated with the humor --- grim and otherwise --- that has been a welcome hallmark of this exceptional series since its inception.

Speaking of the humor, I’ve already incorporated a couple of phrases from HOLY GHOST into my own jargon. One concerns a haircut, and another is a euphemism for pregnancy that I had never heard before and I think must be original to Sandford. There are others, as those familiar with this long-running series (spun off from the even longer running Lucas Davenport canon) might imagine, but those two are especially worth noting.

While we’re on the subject, Sandford, to his credit, does not give Lucas Davenport a cameo here. Given his current job, it would take a little doing to shoehorn him into the proceedings. Virgil Flowers is a strong enough character that he can carry the story, and indeed he does in HOLY GHOST, which --- even at this late date in Sandford’s writing career --- is one of his best.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 26, 2018

Holy Ghost: A Virgil Flowers Novel
by John Sandford

  • Publication Date: October 9, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0735217327
  • ISBN-13: 9780735217324