Sandford, who seems determined to keep Lucas Davenport’s latest cases secret, allows him to be upstaged once more by his junior colleague Virgil Flowers, though this time there’s no great honor in star billing.
The Stillwater police call Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to the veterans’ memorial where the body of building inspector Bobby Sanderson has been deposited. He was shot twice with a .22 and found with a section of lemon in his mouth—all details that echo the recent death of title searcher Chuck Utecht in New Ulm. The two murders are clearly the work of the same killer, but who is he, and why has he taken such ritualistic care to incriminate himself by emphasizing the similarities between two crimes that ordinarily wouldn’t have been connected? More to the point, are these two crimes only the beginning? For readers new to this sort of fiction, Sandford helpfully provides brief conversations indicating that Chippewa Indian Ray Bunton and ex-cop John Wigge, a VP at a private security agency, had better watch their backs as well. Prompted by Lucas and driven night after sleepless night to assemble the facts, Virgil (Dark of the Moon, 2007, etc.) learns at length that all the targets on the kill list served together in Vietnam, where they shared a secret worth killing for nearly 40 years later. The suspects include Ralph Warren, Wigge’s sinister boss at that security firm; Professor Mead Sinclair, a lefty researcher on the Vietnam War who just might be in bed with the CIA; his half-Vietnamese daughter Mai, who makes her extracurricular interest in Virgil plain from the get-go.
Although the prose sounds like Sandford, the plotting is a letdown: The trail to the last act is rich in incident, but not original, urgent or compelling. On the other hand, the very last surprise, climaxing a turf war between the BCA and the Department of Homeland Security, is a honey.