HEAT LIGHTNING by John Sandford


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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.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-399-15527-7
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2008

Kirkus Interview
John Sandford
author of SATURN RUN
October 6, 2015

Saturn Run, John Sandford’s new novel, is quite a departure for the bestselling thriller writer, who sets aside his Lucas Davenport crime franchise (Gathering Prey, 2015, etc.) and partners with photographer and sci-fi buff Ctein to leave Earth’s gravitational field for the rings of Saturn. The year is 2066. A Caltech intern inadvertently notices an anomaly from a space telescope—something is approaching Saturn, and decelerating. Space objects don’t decelerate; spaceships do. A flurry of top-level government meetings produces the inescapable conclusion: whatever built that ship is at least 100 years ahead in hard and soft technology, and whoever can get their hands on it exclusively and bring it back will have an advantage so large, no other nation can compete. A conclusion the Chinese definitely agree with when they find out. The race is on. “James Bond meets Tom Swift, with the last word reserved not for extraterrestrial encounters but for international piracy, state secrets, and a spot of satisfyingly underhanded political pressure,” our reviewer writes. View video >


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