Book 2), Heat Lightning (A Virgil Flowers Novel

By John Sandford

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
tamika joy
I like Sanford's style. They're usually quick, smart reads that leave you mostly satisfied. This one wasn't any different story wise. This is the first Sanford book I've bought for my Kindle tho, and I have to say, the formatting was AWFUL!!!! Someone needs to clean this one up in a big way.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jason r
I have always really enjoyed John Sandford books and though this is different than the "Prey" series it is very good and interesting. Virgil is a great character, hope he shows up in Sandford's other books.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
warner robinson
John Sandford has done it again! A very entertaining book, that keeps one on the edge of one's seat to the last page. This is the second Virgil Flowers book that I have read, and I am looking forward to the next in the series.
Bad Blood (A Virgil Flowers Novel, Book 4) :: Shock Wave (A Virgil Flowers Novel, Book 5) :: Dark of the Moon (A Virgil Flowers Novel, Book 1) :: Rough Country (A Virgil Flowers Novel, Book 3) :: (Humorous Contemporary Romance) - A Complete Series Box Set
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
jeffrey rosenberg
It took me longer to read the book than usual and I barely remember the storyline. It was not the authors best work. I like the character Flowers but he seems to just blend into the Davenport charter and gets lost. However because I am a fan I am going back to the Prey series.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
janie shipley
It took me longer to read the book than usual and I barely remember the storyline. It was not the authors best work. I like the character Flowers but he seems to just blend into the Davenport charter and gets lost. However because I am a fan I am going back to the Prey series.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
sherif elshamy
ENJOYED it A LOT!!!! I am a true Virgil Flowers fan. Great plot, lots of suspense and well written. John
Sanford has a way of making his characters come to life. This plot was very involved, found myself having to go back a page or two in order to keep all the characters straight. I highly recommend the book and any John Sanford book that has Virgil Flowers of the BCA as main character.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
amanda mcgough
The book managed to hook me in at the beginning but I found Virgil Flowers and just about every other character in the book uninteresting. I found myself just reading to get to the end, not because I was dying to found out what happens next, but rather because I just wanted to be finished with it. I previously read Eyes of Prey and Rules of Prey ( Lucas Davenport ), and found those to be marginally better. Other authors I prefer from the same genre would be Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Deon Meyer.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I am so enjoying this series. John Sandford really writes a great story and it keeps you in suspense until the end. I enjoyed the Prey series with Lucas Davenport and now am into the Virgil Flowers saga. Great reading! Thank you John Sandford for these great books.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Pretty good but not good as the original Virgil Flowers story. The plot is good, the dialog doesn't seem up to Sandford's normal standards and what seems a bit of advertising for the Lucas Davenport story Wicked Prey. Given the upward price point for the Kindle edition I would have to rate this as a recommended pass for Sanford fans. Wait for the book to go paperback and maybe the Kindle edition will follow, or better yet buy this one as a used paperback at half-price. Not a must read for Sandford fans.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is the second entry in John Sandford's series featuring Virgil Flowers, an investigator with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Virgil is an unconventional detective, who looks more like a surfer than a gifted investigator. He wears his blond hair down to his shoulders, dresses in tee shirts bearing the names of often-obscure rock bands, and rarely carries a gun.

Virgil loves to fish, writes articles for outdoor magazines, and often tows his boat behind his pickup as he roams about the rural Minnesota countryside, chasing killers. He also loves women and is attracted to lots of them, many of whom return his interest. His principal method of investigating crimes involves walking around and talking to lots of people, and out of these conversations a solution usually occurs, often with deadly consequences.

This case begins when a man walking his dog is killed by a sniper who is assisted by a spotter. The body is then left in front of a veterans' memorial in Stillwater, Minnesota, with a lemon stuck in the victim's mouth. Several other men are killed in the same fashion and left at other veterans' monuments around the state. Virgil discovers that the victims had connections back to the war in Vietnam, and that becomes the thread that he will follow through to the end of the chase. (This book was published in 2008, thirty-five years after the events in Vietnam, and the victims are middle-aged men.)

Truth to tell, the plot is pretty far-fetched, but that doesn't really matter here. Most people read these books in order to spend a few hours in the company of "That F***in' Flowers," and it's always a joy to do so. Virgil's boss, Lucas Davenport, makes several cameo appearances here as to Shrake and Jenkins, two other members of Davenport's crew, and it's fun to see them all in action together. A very entertaining novel.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
If you like a well-written, action-packed, crime novel, John Sandford is the author for you.

HEAT LIGHTNING is one of the earliest of the Virgil Flowers series. An investigator with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), Flowers is called one night to a scene where there's a body shot twice in the head found near a Veterans Memorial. The victim has a lemon wedged his mouth. The scene is exactly like one found a week earlier.

As he investigates, Flowers realizes there may be more victims--past, present, or future. He sets out to try to connect the two murders. To do so he works with state and local public safety departments. When he finds the connection, he learns about a decades-old massacre in Vietnam at the end of the war.

In addition to the murders, the Twin Cities are preparing for the Republican National Convention.

With much difficulty, he learns the names of some other potential victims and hopes to reach them to get names of other potential victime and prevent further murders. Unfortunately, the killer seems to be a step ahead of him and some police officers are killed as well.

HEAT LIGHTNING is a page turner. The violence and sex scenes are mentioned but not in much detail. Lots of f-bombs but used only among the men.

Sandford's characters are realistic and he provides a lot of detail about his surroundings. There some humor such as describing a chicken pot pie is having (roughly a billion calories in chicken fat, which added flavor to two pounds of salt included with the pie..." and describing an impromptu “press conference, was held in the rotunda of the Capitol, with an oversized American flag, borrowed from a fast food franchise, hanging in the background."

The book doesn’t explain why Flowers was targeted.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
cynthia kirantzis
Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) agent Virgil Flowers returns for the second time in author John Sandford's, "Heat Lightning". In a small town in northern Minnesota a body is left at the base of a veteran's memorial. The victim also has a lemon slice in his mouth. This is not the first time a body has turned up this way. BCA head Lucas Davenport sends his ace investigator Virgil Flowers to get it solved. Before long Virgil is pulled into a vast and complicated murder investigation that goes back into the early 1970's Vietnam. Someone seems to have a grudge against a group of men that forty years ago pulled off, "The great Caterpillar heist", and are now on the wrong end of "Vietnam's revenge". With tactical precision a "scout" sets up the target and then the "shooter" finishes the job. Then they carry the body to a veteran's memorial in a nearby small town placing a lemon wedge in it's mouth. Luckily Virgil manages to stumble across Mead Sinclair. Sinclair an expert on Vietnam is a professor at the U of Wisconsin as a history expert. But Sinclair's Vietnamese "daughter" Mai seems to delight in being cryptic with Virgil. Virgil decides to use Mai's charms to find out as much as he can about Mead Sinclair. It's maddening for Virgil because he doesn't seem to know why the scout/ shooter know where he's headed before he can even get there. As the bodies pile up Davenport gets on Flowers to break this mess wide open. Virgil will need to use all of his skills as an investigator, and lean on Davenport's resources to make progress on these murders. A fast paced plot that at times does seem to drag is still a very enjoyable read. Coming in at just over 400 pages paperback, this thriller written in 2008 seems a bit dated in parts. Dated- unless places in Minnesota are behind the rest of the country in current events. The whole 1970's Vietnam angle is also not very germane for 2008. (Leave it be !) I didn't think the bad guys were very believable either. But nonetheless is another Sandford gem. Virgil is a very unique character that's able to overcome a lot of plot flaws that may sink other tales. I did enjoy, "Heat Lightning", enough to give it four stars out of a possible five stars. Although It could really be rated at 4.25 stars. Highly recommend this series for all suspense thriller readers. Master story teller John Sandford has two superior series with Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers. Must reads- Check it out.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Second in the Virgil Flowers detective mystery series and revolving around a detective-at-large, the man who only gets the really good cases. Its timeline is a month before the Republican Convention coming to Minneapolis in Wicked Prey , 19, which puts this around 18.5 in the Lucas Davenport series.

My Take
And I'm still not getting why Virgil is that Flowers, unless it's for that "astonishing clearance rate" he has. As for the mystery, I don't see how his cases are any more difficult than the ones Lucas gets involved in.
"When the going gets tough, try to unload it on that ...' Flowers."
I do love the angle Sandford takes with Virgil's outside interest as a writer as well as the feminine interest in him. It's all a part of the lower-key humor in this series. Yes, it's similar to that in the Lucas Davenport series, but it feels a hint more subtle.
"…I felt a kind of feminine orgasmic wave cross over the metro area. I said to myself, 'Daisy, girl, that ...' Flowers must have come back to town.'"
Sanderson does do a good job of keeping us in suspense, releasing bits and pieces along the way, keeping us wondering who really is behind this series of murders. Those red herrings he throws in, well they aren't really all that "red".

There's some interesting peeks under old CIA operations. Oh, brother. I don't think much of Chester either, giving up his son's name. And Homeland Security will sell you out in a New York minute, although I do think the criminals deserved punishment.

There's a quick rewrap up of characters and "loose threads" at the end. I loved the one about the New York Times. Go Virgil!

The Story
Flowers may have been around the block a few times, but he can still be surprised. Especially when Lucas calls about a body in Stillwater, two shots to the head, found near a veterans' memorial. And the victim has a lemon in his mouth.

Exactly like the body they found last week.

The more Flowers works the murders, the more convinced he is that someone's keeping a list, and that the list could have a lot more names on it. If he could only find out what connects them all . . . and then he does, and he's almost sorry he did. Because if it's true, then this whole thing leads down a lot more trails than he thought and every one of them is booby-trapped.

The Characters
Detective Virgil Flowers is the son of an old-school Lutheran minister whose wife, Virgil's mother, teaches engineering. He's one of Lucas Davenport's men, a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension cop whose true love is writing articles on hunting and fishing with a home base in Mankato.

Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) in Minneapolis
Lucas Davenport is in charge. Weather is Lucas' surgeon wife. Letty is their adopted daughter and Sam is their toddler. Sloan is a friend, a cop who retired, and opened a bar. Elle is a childhood friend of Lucas', a psychologist and a nun. Micky Andreno, a retired patrol lieutenant from Mortal Prey , 13, will enjoy helping out.

Shrake and Jenkins are thugs, er, a couple of Lucas' operatives along with Del Capslock (his wife is pregnant), Dan Shaver, Dan Jackson is good with a camera, and Benson. Carol is Lucas' secretary; Sandy is his ace part-time researcher. Rose Marie Roux is the state commissioner of public safety and Lucas' boss. Neil Mitford is the governor's personal weasel.

The Bemidji office
BCA agent Larry MacDonald works with the Mounties all the time. Charles Whiting is the agent-in-charge. Ron Mapes and Paul Queenen are more agents.

Harold Gomez is an agent with the DEA and figures he owes Virgil after events in Dark of the Moon , 1.

Homeland Security
James K. Wright and Morris Arenson are incredibly arrogant agents who make it quite clear that American citizens no longer have the rights we thought we did.

St. Paul PD
Sergeant Larry Waters knows Virgil. Detective Tim Hayes has been there a long time.

Minneapolis PD
Dave Nelson and Randy wreck the op. Captain Roark took charge of the Warren scene.

Stillwater PD
Tom Mattson is the chief who wants BCA help. Jim Brandt is assistant chief.

Washington County
Darryl Cunningham is a Washington County chief deputy. Deputy Sheriff Roger Polk is up in Lake Elmo.

Grand Rapids PD
Josh Anderson.

Highway Patrol
Highway Patrol Sergeant Dave Marshall is part of the team who found David Ross, Wigge's bodyguard. Jean Prestel is a schoolteacher with plans to marry David. Doug Wayne is a pilot for the highway patrol. Kate is another pilot. Tom Hunt is a state trooper.

Beltrami County
Chief Deputy Harry Smith figures Bunton's fear may be real. Jasmine "Jimmy" Carter is the public defender in Beltrami County.

Red Lake is…
…an independent Minnesota reservation with its own law enforcement system. Louis Jarlait, Rudy Bunch, and Olen Grey are part of the tribal PD. Edna Reese is Ray's mother. Tom Broad was out driving. Cliff Bear saw an Apache.

Don Worth is the director at the vet center. Chuck Grogan is a volunteer coordinator who owns Perfect Garage Doors and Fireplaces.
Sins of omission are coming home to roost for Bobby Sanderson, a building inspector and carpenter — and his German shepherd, Mike — whose girlfriend, Sally Owen, will be hurt. Chuck Utecht whose wife, Marilyn, seems unaffected, pulled it together back then. Chester Utecht was his father who sells heavy equipment. He was the first. Ray Bunton is part Chippewa from Red lake. Carl Bunton is Ray's step-uncle, laid off by Northwest Airlines and working as a convenience store clerk.

John "R-A" Wigge is an ex-St. Paul cop, dirty, who is now vice-president of a high-end private security agency, Paladin, owned by Ralph Warren, a criminal sociopath about whom a lot of questions arise. Richard Homewood is a real estate consultant who testified against Warren.

Carl Knox is organized crime and runs Knox Equipment; his oldest daughter, Shirley, will get involved with Shrake. Another daughter, Patricia Ann Knox-Miller, has a cabin up north. Sal and Sean Raines are part of Knox's security.

Professor Mead Sinclair is doing research on long-term aftereffects of the Vietnam War. Mai is his half-Vietnamese daughter, a dancer in Madison, Wisconsin. Professor Manfred Lutz teaches at Georgetown University with some interesting insight into Sinclair.

Linda Bennett is with KSTP. Daisy Jones is quite seductive.

Janey Small was Virgil's second wife, between first and third. Jimmy Stryker is the Stark County sheriff ( Dark of the Moon ). Don is a young hitchhiker. Dave Root is the alcoholic owner of the RootyToot Resort on Candi Lake. Loren "El" Conrad is married to a big shot at Pillsbury; she and her daughter do a lot of fishing. Todd Barry is with the New York Times. Lark is an opium addict Virgil knows.

Hong Kong
Howard Hawn is with the American embassy. Harold Chen is with the Hong Kong Police Force.

The Liberty Patrol is…
…a group of bikers who provide security for funerals for soldiers killed in Iraq. Darrell Johnson is its president. Bill Schmidt turns out to be the impersonator.

Nguyen Van Tai and Phem are with Bennu Consultants from Canada, working with Larson International. Hao Nguyen is the resident for the intelligence service at the Vietnamese embassy in Ottawa.

It's a tight group of three: the scout with professional skill in reconnaissance and interrogation who wants to improve his photographic skill, the shooter, and the coordinator, Hoa, whose Grandfather wants revenge.

The Cover and Title
The cover is that deep, dark blue of nighttime on a lonely road. A major lightning strike illuminates the landscape, its tip touching on a car at the top of the hill, a naked row of telephone poles lining the right side of the straight. The title is in a three-dimensional and embossed white with yellow while the author's name is large on top in the same 3-D effect in bright yellow with black.

The title is at the end, Heat Lightning that may well hit between Virgil and Sandy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
A number of Minnesota men are being tortured, killed, and left at veteran memorials with lemons in their mouths. No one knows why, and it's up to Virgil Flowers and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to find the killers and why the men are being targeted.

I like reading most of Mr. Sandford's books, but the Virgil Flowers ones are my favorite. The plots are involved, and the answers are not clear until the end of the story. And Virgil is a fun character with a sometimes witty dialog. I lived and worked in the Twin Cities area for a few years, and the streets and landmarks bring back fond memories.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tia shamoon
1. I forgot how much I enjoy John Sandford
2. Davenport, Flowers, and Kidd ( my fav ) all have different voices and they're each their own kind of cool.
3. Sandford knows when the story needs a laugh. The action scenes are stellar.
4. Virgil Flowers is a man I could love...he keeps an emergency fishing box in his trunk, he likes the ladies but he's not a pig, he knows his music, great sense of humor, loves his family, is a good friend.
5. This plot that initially began over thirty years ago could have been boring or hard to follow but not in the hands of Sandford.
6. It was great to see characters from the Prey series crossover seamlessly.
7. Darn glad I stepped back into Sandford's world!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
tara copeland
This is the second book John Sandford has written featuring the laid back and womanizing Virgil Flowers. While overall I do not enjoy the Flowers books as much as I enjoy the adventures and exploits of Davenport of the Prey series, I did enjoy this one.

Now make no mistake. This is not what you would call a `deep' book or one that a person could confuse for `high literature." No, it is a simply story; one that is pretty typical of this genre. It is a light read that you can tear through is a couple of evenings and simply enjoy it for what it is...a modern version of a tall tale.

Someone is killing (actually executing) Viet Nam veterans. Were these executions connected with their service during the war or is there an underlying reason. Each victim is found with a whole lemon stuck in his mouth.

I have always felt that one of Sandford's strongest skills as a writer is his dialog. He hits pretty closely the language, vocabulary and rhythm you would find in the environment of which he writes. There is indeed a great amount of profanity involved here but unless you live is a glass bubble you will find that the overall speech is pretty much what you find on the street, in our schools and society in general these days. Now I don't like or talk that way myself but I sure hear enough of it and simply accept it for what it is...folks, times they are a changing.

Now several people have found this book to be extremely political. To be frank it is no more political than setting in any small town coffee shop drinking coffee any morning of the week. I personally did not find Sandfords attitudes to be all that much different than a cross section of any town I have been in over the past several years.

The story is well written, actually funny in places, and as far as Virgil's morals...well, they are really no better or worse that most of the folks you will meet on the street...they are simply articulated by an author and placed in a book in this case.

I enjoyed the book and felt it stood up well with other books by this author.

Don Blankenship
The Ozarks
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
derek sandhaus
I liked the first Virgil Flowers novel, which played with the old idea of having a killer whom we knew (without knowing he's the killer) because of the small-town, limited characters setting -- the old Agatha Christie pattern. Sandford worked it well, but it's good to see that he tries something different here. The setting is broader, we don't know the killer, and the suspense is built up in a different way. What seem to be members of a random group of people are being eliminated, and Twin Cities law enforcement folks (and the FBI) are getting worried because the Republican Convention is coming up in the cities and it would look bad if a talented hit man was still on the loose. Enter Virgil Flowers, who has to find out if there are any links between the victims (there are! -- that's not really a spoiler) and if, on the basis of the connections, he can figure out both the motivation and the identity of the killer. One respect in which this book resembles the previous one is in the fact that the roots of the killings lie far in the past -- not so much in the childhoods of characters in this case but rather in the Vietnam conflict. Flowers finds out about Vietnam long before he has any idea who the killer is, and there are the usual procedural tricks that involve blind alleys and red herrings that are deftly handled here.

In the earlier novel, "Dark of the Moon," the local, state, and Federal law enforcement folks work together effectively. In this one, there's more of a conflict, with the Feds wanting to dictate the terms on which the case is closed, and local law enforcement here includes Native American police. What with Vietnamese characters and Native Americans (not to mention Minnesotans and east coast types), the cultural stew is richer. How the Feds are thwarted, right at the end of the book, is ingeniously worked out and very satisfying.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
abby wynne
I read - and very much admired - the first half-dozen of John Sandford's 'PREY' novels, featuring Minneapolis detective Lucas Davenport. HEAT LIGHTNING is the second in a new series starring Virgil Flowers, one of the homicide detectives working for Davenport. It's a grim and harrowing case.

Two bodies have been found on veterans' memorials in two towns in Minnesota, both shot with the same gun and each with a lemon in his mouth. Then there's a third killing, and a fourth. What links the victims is an atrocity they were involved in during a 'scavenging' exercise as the US forces were pulling out of Vietnam. Virgil meets up with a beautiful Vietnamese woman and finds himself thinking, 'If Jesus Christ had a girlfriend, that's what she'd be like.' Naughty Virgil.

The investigation has many twists and turns and moves from a Native American reservation to an isolated cabin in woods across the river from Canada. There are a couple of Rambo-esque shoot-outs. This is a pacy story, told in Sandford's familiar crisp economical style.

Except that, in the introduction, the author acknowledges the help of - he calls him a 'cooperator'. Mr Sandford has gone down the path trodden by James Patterson and Clive Cussler and many others. Would Dickens be doing this if he was alive today - or Anthony Trollope? (Actually Joanna Trollope has just done a new version of SENSE & SENSIBILITY, so apparently no doors remain closed.) Picasso and Warhohl had factories churning out 'product', so I suppose it's okay for writers to do it too. But, much as I enjoyed HEAT LIGHTNING, I feel somehow 'short-changed'. Or perhaps I'm just jealous that my own books aren't sufficiently in demand to call for back-up!

[Reviewer is the author of SHAIKH-DOWN]
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
robert wright
Someone is killing Vietnam War Veterans. Each time, the deceased man is left at a veteran's memorial with a lemon in his mouth. After two of these murders, it is clear to Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator, Lucas Davenport, that there is a connection. Unable to devote his own skills, (Davenport is featured in Sandford's "Prey" series), he calls in the only man who can clean up the mess. It is time to call in the man he hired to solve "the hard stuff".

Enter Virgil Flowers, the thirty something detective, whose quirky, off the cuff reputation is as well known as his ability to solve the cases that no one else can. To say Flowers doesn't fit the standard law enforcement mode would be an understatement. He keeps is blond hair at shoulder length, wears rock band t-shirts and cowboy boots, occasionally writes for national outdoors magazines, and keeps in contact with various women and ex-wives, all of whom he has fallen in love with. Despite all of this apparent baggage, Flowers gets the job done, and he does it well. As he begins investigating the deaths of the veterans, he realizes that they are being killed professionally, as if they are each being checked off of a list. When he discovers the connections, he is immersed in a global conspiracy dating back to the time of the war.

There is no denying Sandford's ability to create riveting mysteries with relatable characters. He writes with an urgency that keeps the plot moving, never allowing the suspense to ease. As I read, I continued to be sucked deeper into the mystery as each twist and turn was unveiled. Virgil Flowers has a charismatic everyman charm that forced me to root for him. It has been almost a year since I read the first Virgil Flowers novel, and I forgot how much I enjoyed the world that Sandford has provided. There is a kind of timelessness to the story that will surely appeal to any mystery fans. With two solid novels, this series is quickly becoming my new favorite!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Virgil Flowers character, a cop - indeed top cop in the area - who wears long blond hair, cowboy boots, t-shirts from rock bands, and frequently drives to crime scenes towing a boat so that he can find time to fish, who is a magnet for women, makes reading this series of John Sandford books a delight. The stories move forward realistically with Virgil trying - and usually succeeding - to discover what is going on.
In this novel, men are being killed and their bodies are placed beside veteran statues with a lemon placed in their mouths. Virgil needs to find the killers, why they are doing what they are doing, and why the strange lemon.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
lori merritt
I'll admit it: This was my first John Sandford. I'll tell you why I've avoided him for so long. I can't stand book series whose titles are so similar that you can't tell them apart. I have that problem with J.D. Robb's books - almost everything has "In Death." With Sandford, the "Prey" thing turned me off. When books have such similar titles, my immediate impression is: This author has a formula, and every book is the same. Call me crazy, but when I think about a book I've read, I want to be able to remember the title, and not confuse it with a dozen others.

So, I had no desire to read any PREY books. Then a friend whom I respect chastised me, telling me my obstinacy was causing me to miss out on a good thriller writer. So, I caved and decided to try a non-Prey Sandford, and HEAT LIGHTNING was it.

My verdict: I liked it. Didn't love it enough to get it into the four-star range, but I found the writing good (a little more hard-boiled than I expected), and the pages flew by. I think the plot is a little thin at the beginning - you know, one of those "one body after another falls until the cops figure out what's going on" - but it still held my interest. Reading some of the reviews here, I see that some found the resolution to push the bounds of credibility. I didn't feel that way; it actually seemed somewhat realistic to me, though the final showdown of a governor against Homeland Security seemed a bit histrionic. I'm not sure if it was a political statement or not; maybe it was, maybe it wasn't.

As for Virgil Flowers - I liked him, and if he was real and I met him, I would probably be attracted to him. I put him in that category of guy who thinks he's all that, with a level of cockiness that is bound to charm some and turn off others. Virgil himself would probably object to this categorization, but he's a lot like the metrosexual guys in urban centers, in that he cares a lot about his appearance, his wardrobe, and so forth, all while putting forth the macho image of fisherman, boat aficionado, and overall outdoorsy-type guy. He likes to think he's quite an individual, but I've never seen a fictional character work so hard at crafting an image (though I've known plenty of real people, both male and female, who work just as hard as Flowers). This keeps me from REALLY warming up to him, but he's enough of a wise-ass, and smart enough, that I had a good time with him. The kind of guy you date, and take somewhere because you want someone good-looking on your arm, but not someone you spend a lot of time with or marry.

Reading some of the other reviews here, I see that the more or less constant hooking-up of the male characters with various bimbos was an issue for some. Hmmm. Normally I am very sensitive to the portrayals of women, but I didn't find anything objectionable here, and I'll tell you why: If you line 10 women up, I'll be able to look at all of them and point out the ones who are attracted to bartenders, policemen, firemen, and guys who ride motorcycles. There's just a certain type of woman who likes guys like that, and this book is populated with them, which makes sense - because don't all (straight) men want to go places where available women will be willing to hop into bed with them? So, while in some ways the book is the male fantasy of Alpha Male with a harem of lovelies who live to sleep with him, it's also not a totally unrealistic portrait of that segment of society where this kind of stuff happens.

I'm not sure this review is all that helpful, but it did help me work out some of the feelings I had about the book!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Another John Sandford gripping novel!! The author has yet to disappoint. Although books in the series are numbered as to their chronological order, I find they really can be read in any order. Each one stands on its own. This one features Virgil Flowers, an investigator working for Lucas Davenport who is the main character in the "Prey" series. Lucas comes into this book only as a minor supporting role, but lets the reader know he's still around, and lets him get comfortable with the entire array of repeating characters. As other books by this author. sub chapters are of variable lengths keeping the reading exciting and very difficult to put down. If you like a fast paced detective./ crime novel with twists and turns and a logical well thought out plot line, this book will fit the bill.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jennifer beyers
Few authors are capable of creating an enduring, human-like character that continues to grow in one novel after another. John Sanford did it with Lucas Davenport, the generally cynical investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), a real agency by the way.

Readers have been privileged to sort of pal around with Davenport as he investigated crimes, many of them quite grisly, around the State of Minnesota, from the very cosmopolitan Twin Cities to the very backwoodsy Iron Range to the flat southern part of the state. We've been shot at with Davenport, avoided knife wounds (most of the time), come uncomfortably close to violent death all too often and had our throat sliced open in a life saving maneuver by the crime victim who became Davenport' wife.

Over the last few novels, we've been growing old with Davenport as well. It's been harder to keep up with young criminals. Can't run as far or as fast as we once did. Can't keep going for days on no sleep and only a candy bar to eat.

So the torch has been increasingly more often to a younger generation of crimestoppers, guys like Virgil Flowers. Flowers is definitely offbeat and eccentric, about two steps further round the corner than Davenport. Maybe three.

First introduced in one of Sanford's twenty "Prey" novels featuring Davenport, Virgil Flowers has grown from a bit part player to a full fledged character. His first solo trip into the world was in "Dark of the Moon", which was good. It was also rumored to be written in large part by someone else.

In "Heat Lightening", Virgil Flowers comes entirely into his own as a character. Flowers is now capable of standing on his own - and stand he does. Stands tall as a matter of fact.

Flowers lives in Mankato, a kind of nifty college / agribusiness / manufacturing town in southern Minnesota. No matter though since Davenport has Flowers skittering hither and thither all about the state, causing him to place head upon the pillow in lots of no-star motels. Flowers has a penchant for wearing T-shirts, jeans and no gun. An attractive man to the ladies, he has been married three times and, occasionally, shares a bed with one of his more colorful ex-wives.

That is, in fact, where we find the perennially sleep deprived Flowers when Davenport calls to set him on the road of solving another murder, the corpse being rasther ceremoniously dumped at a veterans memorial. (Almost every Minnesota town has a memorial to the brave Minnesotans who gave their lives to preserve and protect the freedoms John Sanford and the rest of us Americans enjoy. Occasionally Sanford weaves a remark into his narrative makes one question his politics - and the need for them in his otherwise superb novels.)

The murder victim is, uh, dead - and quickly connected with other recently murdered dead across the state. The lemon wedged into their mouths is a clue.

In addition to creating brilliantly wrought fictional characters, Sanford is also an artiste at creating highly intricate plots that have many a twist and turn and this is no exception. (In an acknowledgement, Sanford thanks his "old friend and hunting partner" Chuck Logan for his cooperation in writing "Heat Lightening". What "written in cooperation" means is not spelled out. Frankly, I don't care because "Heat Lightening" is a fine book.)

All the dead seem to be Vietnam war veterans, but maybe not. We are introduced to the killers early on, a Sanford trademark, but Flowers, of course, must find them on his on. The dots soon begin to connect. The theft of heavy construction equipment from Vietnam in 1975. A left-wing radical from the era, a college professor, who suddenly relocates from Madison, Wisconsin to St. Paul, Minnesota. His beautiful half-Vietnamese daughter. A biker who doesn't want to be found. And a couple of more guys showing up dead at veterans memorials.

Sanford, as always, gets off to a fast start and never slows down. Davenport recedes almost entirely into the background in "Heat Lightning", making only rare appearances as the boss. For the most part, Flowers is on his own.

As is often the case in a Sanford novel, the action flows across the State of Minnesota. Primary and secondary characters are crisply drawn and so very human, you want to sit down and have coffee with them. At least the nice guys among them. The villains are nice people to, sort of, always morally ambiguous in Sanford's way. Nice to those they like or favor in some way - and deadly to those they don't. Sometimes a person can go from favored to dead in an instant.

There's a real richness to Virgil Flowers in this book. He is literally out there in full bloom.

The plot is marvelous and has several untelegraphed, unexpected twists. "Heat Lightning" is that most delightful phenomena, as real page turner. It is fast reading, but expect it to keep you up late for a couple of nights.

Sadly, Sanford feels compelled to show us that he is a member of the left-wing "America is bad" brigade on a couple of occasions. Mercifully, they are brief and have little impact on the story.

Excellent reading for the police procedural and thriller fan.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Heat Lightning is the second adventure of Virgil Flowers. Virgil is a law enforcement officer working for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, (BCA) - a special and elite group of cops. For those of you familiar with Sandford's work, this should ring a bell, the author's most "famous" character - Lucas Davenport of the "Prey" series - runs the BCA, and in fact Virgil works for him. (Davenport slips in and out of these spin-off books.)

I enjoy the Lucas Davenport books - they're quick entertaining reads with Lucas usually on the trail of some psycho-killer. Virgil is a recycled or updated Davenport. There are some differences, Virgil is blonde - Lucas dark; Virgil falls head over heels in love on a regular basis and he's fisherman; Davenport is tad bit more subdued and likes computer games - but Virgil's attitude, dialogue and mind-set are the same as Davenport's. So if you like Lucas Davenport, you'll like Virgil Flowers.

Where the books differ somewhat are in the plots. The Flowers' books are more complicated. Davenport is usually tracking a murderer; Virgil gets involved in conspiracies. For instance in this book Virgil's sleuthing takes him all the way back to the Vietnam War. There's a little too much of Virgil traveling - be it by car, truck, boat or plane - which gets tiresome, but otherwise, just like the Davenport "Prey" series, Heat Lightning is a quick, entertaining read - perfect for the beach or airport.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
scott brook
I've mentioned on prior John Sandford novel reviews that I was getting somewhat burned out on the whole Davenport character. It seemed like the character wasn't going anywhere, and the plots were somewhat slow. When Heat Lightning showed up at the library, I picked it up more out of habit than anticipation. I was moderately surprised to find that this novel featured Virgil Flowers instead of Davenport, while still having bits of Davenport show up in the story. Surprised turned to happiness as I got immersed into the storyline. This is the reason I keep Sandford on my "Authors to Read" list...

Flowers is tagged on a murder that has some rather bizarre features. The body is left at a war memorial, and along with the trauma associated with murder, the victim has a wedge of lemon stuffed in his mouth. Of course, that's a real problem when *other* bodies have turned up with the same MO. All the victims appear to have known each other, possibly as part of the military, but Flowers doesn't immediately know what common thread ties them all together. And until that thread is discovered, there's no telling whether the killings have stopped or will continue. And with all high-profile and gruesome killings, the public is outraged, and politicians want answers yesterday. Davenport is pinning his hopes on Flowers to solve the crime quickly before the feds take over, but sometimes the answers just aren't out there...

The Flowers character is what makes this story click. Virgil lives for fishing and women, not necessarily in that order. He's pretty unorthodox in his investigative methods, but he's not afraid to go head-to-head with authority to get things done. The story starts by flipping back and forth between Flowers trying to solve the crime, and the killers going after their intended targets. It's not until late in the read that you find out who the killers actually are, so you're kept guessing throughout the book as to who might be the killers. Fortunately the thread between the killings appears relatively quickly, so you know the "why" behind the deaths. The combination of characters, plot, and pacing made this a hard book to put down, and restored my faith that Sandford can still tell an entertaining story...
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
heather truett
I only can give five stars to what I consider great books, but this one is very, very well done. Had it had only one more "very" it would be five stars. :-)

It is the second book by Sanford's Virgil character I have read, and it is even better than the first one. An complex plot, but he keeps it all together throughout. hiding the identity of the killers until near the end.

Flowers is a very amusing character, and there were many funny cracks all through. Loads of tension combined with the humor makes it a very enjoyable read. All the many other characters, both good and bad,were also interesting

I might lose my nit-picking license if I did not question one part of the story. Near the end, the bad guys escape to Canada across the river from the U.S. Virgil and another cop grab a boat and paddle across in just a few minutes. I don't think there is any place in the river between the two countries that is so narrow, or where a shooter could fire from Canada to the U.S. to kill somebody.

Be that as it may, I can definitely recommend this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sarah pierce
The first Virgil Flowers book was ok, but seemed a little forced, a bit tentative. This one has the magic. Virgil is a fully realized, well rounded and quirky character. He's smart and he's unpredictable.

In this book, a series of Vietnam vets have been murdered. Lemons have been left in their mouths, supposedly something the Vietnamese did to prisoners who were about to be executed. It turns out that one of the American vets had gone on a rampage near the end of the war, killing an innocent family and raping a young woman. Now, the young woman's father, a high government official in Vietnam, has dispatched a hit team, seeking revenge.

Virgil, who made his first appearance in the Prey series, seemed in the last book to be a pale echo of Lucas Davenport. Sandford has evidently (and wisely) decided that the best way to lend Virgil his mentor's gravitas is to have the two spend a lot of time together. Davenport is a major character in this book, guiding and controlling the younger man's investigation, a little like M to Virgil's James Bond. Three times in the book, it is stated that Virgil is "just like Davenport," the last by Virgil himself, who adds, "when you were younger." Davenport smiles and says, "Not much younger."

The book ends with a ferocious bang, skewering the pomposity and pretensions of the Feds and setting us up for many more volumes of what has turned into a terrific series.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I have to admit that my enthusiasm for John Sandford has waned a little in recent years. While never delivering a really bad novel, I've found most of Sandford's recent work has been pretty unremarkable. In particular, I was underwhelmed by both the last Virgil Flowers novel (Dark of the Moon) and the last Lucas Davenport novel (Phantom Prey). I wasn't going to bother with Heat Lightning, but in the end I decided I might as well give it a read.

It turns out its pretty good. Not great, but a solid Sandford novel.

Sandford forges into new territory (for the author) by incorporating a little international intrigue into the novel. While hardly a spy novel, Heat Lightning does include a CIA component, foreign assassins, and Homeland Security. The plot is sufficiently complex (although the twists were fairly predictable) and the author capably builds the suspense.

Flowers is more engaging in this novel than his first solo outing. `Heat Lightning' is a reasonable page-turner, but even if it weren't for the suspense, I might be inclined to keep reading just to find out what Virgil's next T-Shirt is going to be. I suspect Sandford searches the internet for indie bands with strange names, and probably isn't all that familiar with the artists on Virgil's shirts, but it's still nice to see `Death Cab for Cutie' get some shirt exposure; and while I'm not a huge fan, it's great to see Canadian artists like `Bif Naked' get recognition as well.

(In the unlikely event that the author happens to read this - I'd like to see Virgil don a `Sleater-Kinney' T-shirt next time around.)

I think most Sandford fans will enjoy this novel. I suspect a few people will be put off by Sandford's left leaning politics (I'm Canadian so this isn't an issue for me) and fans that prefer their fictional violence to be domestic in nature may find the international elements of the novel off-putting. In my opinion though, Heat Lightning may not measure up to Eyes of Prey and Rules of Prey, but it's the best Sandford novel in a long time. 3 ½ stars.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
emma heycock
It has been years since I listened to a John Sanford audiobook on college trips and audio is my only experience with him. The books have always been excellent company while driving. Heat Lightning was not the least bit disappointing, especially since we have an adult child who moved to Minneapolis. A book that has familiar geography adds to the enjoyment of a story. Gruesome murders and sharp detective work combine with societal issues of Native Americans and borders to make a suspenseful read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
katherine howe
Heat Lightning was a great Virgil Flowers story, full of the usual twists, turns and “Huh’s.”
The writing was great, as usual, with solid third-person and minimal head-hopping, if any at all. I found it as enjoyable as the rest of the series and it was great to finally fill in this blank in the series.
The usual trademarks are there with Davenport asking if Virgil is towing his boat, the thing everyone calls him, which I can’t repeat here, and the droll humor throughout. I also like the way it ended, justice being served yet plenty of ambiguity.
Highly entertaining and recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
chris moore
I started out with Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers seems to be a good stand in for the Davenport that has lost his charisma . He's an average guy that's had his share of bad choices. He does a good job of investigating with his personal life being the little extra glue to hold your interest. Much the way Lucas used to be, before settling down with boring Weather.
Enjoyed this man hunt in finding a killer or killers of a group of Minnesota men that were once connected by the war in Vietnam. It's a quick read that attempts to keep you guessing without much success. It won't stress you out or put you on the edge of your seat, but rather a good crime story to sit down and relax with.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
HEAT LIGHTNING is the second book by John Sandford to feature Virgil Flowers. Flowers works with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and his boss is Lucas Davenport. In this novel, men are being killed and then left at veteran's memorials. The victims all have a lemon in their mouth. Virgil gets called in after the second killing. He ties the victims to a veteran's center and discovers both victims had been talking to a 1960s radical named Mead Sinclair. Sinclair has ties to Viet Nam and so might the case. Virgil discovers the killers might have more targets, so he tries to protect them while the killers try to find them. It's a big cat and mouse game with plenty of twists.

No need to go into the plot anymore. Sandford is one of the best at taking the reader on a thrill ride and including them in the thrill of the chase that the characters feel. Flowers also has time to hook up with Mai Sinclair, Mead's daughter. Flowers is an interesting character who can't help but falling in love with beautiful woman. Flowers also continues to hook up with his ex-wives. Sandford also does a great job of recreating the feel of Minnesota.

Flowers and Davenport spend a lot of time together in this novel. It's hard to tell Flowers apart from the younger Davenport. Also present are many Davenport regulars like Sloan, Shrake, Jenkins, Carol and the flirtations but innocent Sandy. I love that I get to read a Sandford novel every sixth month. Longtime Sandford fans will really enjoy this novel. You'll get the great plot, the violence, the foul language, and the sense of pure fun that Sandford puts into his novels.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tammy nickerson
One of the things that young lawyers learn quickly is that the quest for justice is necessarily imprecise. One person's justice is another one's tragedy. John Sandford opens Heat Lightening with s scout, a shooter, and a dead Vitnam veteran. Soon another veteran falls and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is drawn into the case.

Virgil Flowers, a hipper version of his boss Lucas Davenport, searches for something that connects these victims, besides the obvious anger in the public display of the victims on veterans memorials throughout the state. Aided and entranced by the Asian-American daughter of a 60's radical turned professor (think Bill Ayres only cooler), Flowers suspects long forgotten war crimes lie at the heart of the continuing string of murders.

The result is a quest for justice conflicting with a different kind of quest for justice. John Sandford serves revenge cold.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
laura goat
This is a no nonsense detective story that stays on track and on point. Virgil Flowers is looking for a murderer who leaves lemons in the mouth of his dead victims. He connects the victims to a group of x Vietnam soldiers - the people in this group are the ones getting killed. He has to find out why and who is doing it. In the process, he gets closer than he anticipated to a killer.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review Heat Lightning

I've read many of the Prey series and was very impressed with John Sandfords excellent characters and mystery plots. When I saw he also had a series with a new character (cop) called Virgil Flowers I was excited to read it.

The story was interesting with real life characters but no-one that was either unique or that wasn't a stereotype. The flow was smooth and easy to read but offered nothing that wasn't predictable or made it hard to put down. Heat Lightning offered nothing in it that would qualify it as a thriller or wow you with a few chapters of non stop action. It read more like a Michael Connelly novel without the twists and sub plots.

If your looking for a straight depiction of just what a typical cop goes through to solve a crime you will like this series, but if your looking for hard to solve mystery or exciting plots there is a lot better out there.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
logan lo
I am a fan of Virgil Flowers, maybe even more than I am a fan of Lucas Davenport. Davenport can come off as a bit uptight and serious, while Flowers has more of a laissez-faire style, and a good deal of recklessness. When we join him in this story, he is investigating a series of murders where the victims are left at Veterans' memorials with lemons in their mouths. Soon, a connection to the Vietnam War emerges, and Flowers travels the state of Minnesota chasing down leads. Along the way, we see his trademark affinity for troubled women, and he finds himself fooled on more than one occasion. And that's why we love Virgil... He's not perfect. The state of Minnesota is also the perfect backdrop for this outdoorsman, and I feel like I know the state after seeing it through his eyes.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Men are being tortured and murdered by what appears to be a serial killer who leaves a trademark lemon stuck in their mouths. There seems to be a connection to the Vietnam War, except all of the men did not serve in Vietnam. Virgil Flowers is assigned the case, and all is not as it seems. It's necessary to find what the connection was between the men who have dissimilar backgrounds, and exactly what happened in Vietnam back in 1975. There were evil deeds, and people are hiding things in their pasts.

This is an interesting tale of intrigue and murder, and you get a bit of background on Minnesota in the bargain. It sounds like a nice vacation spot until you read about the mosquitos.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
maryam abedini
Virgil Flowers is not exactly an anti-hero but fairly close to it. Far from being a superman he is a thoughtful investigator who thinks things through and slowly but surely manages to unravel the plot. Just when you think you have figured it out, there is another twist and then even Flowers is surprised. I enjoy mysteries and this is one of the better series. Sanford seems to write books for the sheer enjoyment of his readers. I highly recommend him.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
megan bierwirth
Having enjoyed all the Lucas Daveport "prey" novels I had wondered if I could except a new hero. Well, It wasn't hard. Mr. Flowers had all the regular guy traits anyone could want. Fisherman, beer drinker, womenizer (a little) and a good detectives mind. The story line takes you back to the end of VietNam and the debacle that took place there. Then back to today with some killings that replicated the type of Viet Cong murders that were carried out.To add to a lot of the plot it seems a Asian women seems to enter his life at this strange time as he works this case of murders. I am sure you will enjoy it he is not Lucas Davenport but he is a good old boy with a good strong mind.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
evan folkman
I am trying to figure out if I would like these books more if I hadn't read the Davenport series first. It just feels to me that Virgil is Lucas light. There isn't a substantive difference between the two, and Virgil, frankly, isn't as smart as Davenport. I saw the 'twist' at the end, coming a mile off, and it annoyed me that Virgil didn't. The person with the most detectiing capacity in this book was Lucas's old friend the Nun.

The plot centers around 2 men who are killed and displayed conspicuously at war memorial sites with a lemon in their mouth. Virgil is told of a Vietnam connection and the rest of the book is spent figuring out a) who is going to be killed next and b) why are they being killed. I didn't mind them being killed but the collatoral damage seemed rather high.

So, Sandford is always readable but this is definitely a second tier outing for me. A library loan, not a keeper...
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
christine teal
I like most of what John Sandford writes; I like the Virgil Flowers character; however, this story was about as predictable as you could get.....and it appears that every female that has contact with Virgil is interested in him...ahhh, John - it just ain't so in real life!! But then maybe that is why it is called "Fiction"!

Will be reading STOLEN PREY next, really do hope that it is better??!!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Sandford's series regular, Minnesota state investigator Lucas Davenport, again takes a backseat to his subordinate, Virgil Flowers ("Dark of the Moon"), whose terrific clearance rate seems "to derive from a combination of hanging out on the corner, [gossip], rumor, skepticism, luck and possibly prayer."

In this second star turn Davenport rouses Flowers from his second ex-wife's bed to call him to a murder scene. It's an execution-style killing, patterned on one he's already working. In each case the men have been tortured, shot, and left with a lemon stuffed in their mouths at veterans' monuments. Flowers suspects a list, a vendetta perhaps, and soon a third body shores up his suspicions.

Point of view switches to the killers from time to time, a professional pair with dispassionate intensity. Trying to get a step ahead of them Virgil ferrets out a Vietnam connection and begins tracing it back through alcoholism, money, opportunism and viciousness. There's a woman, of course, and a lot of friendly schmoozing, a bit of thoughtful fishing and a few flashes of brilliance before the action-packed climax.

Laid-back, witty, and likable, Flowers is a pleasure to spend time with.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
janey yoo
How could Mai not know that's a line from the song 'Doll Parts' by Hole? Courtney Love.
Hmmm. On page 111 i just didn't put it together till the end. Well written well done.
That Virgil sure is a playboy.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
az books
Maybe I just don't "get" the appeal of this book, but I got so bored that I was unable to finish it. Why? 1) Besides Virgil Flowers, there are no characters in the book, only cardboard cutouts representing character types. 2) There is nothing inspired or particularly original about the story. The lemons in the mouths of the victims is an interesting detail, but it's just a detail. 3) The pacing plods along, despite occasional shifts into overdrive, after which it's back to the plodding. 4) Virgil is no Harry Bosch, or Dave Robicheaux, or Jack Taylor, or Charlie Parker, or... you get the idea. Virgil is likable enough, but without his long hair and indie band t-shirts, there wouldn't be a whole lot unique about him, much less compelling. He has idiosyncracies, not flaws. He has characteristics more so than character. In my humble opinion, this is better than the true hacks of the genre (see airport booksellers' shelves), but nowhere near the masters of the crime/cop/mystery genre. If you're not familiar with Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, Ken Bruen, John Connolly, et. al, do yourself a favor and check out a book that will grab you by the throat, not just help you pass the time (slowly).
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jennifer meador
Hard to put down. Stayed up much later than I meant to in order to finish. Sandford always comes up with interesting villains and Virgil Flowers works a case like a hound-dog scratching and sniffing until he can dig up the dirt. He is someone I would like to hang with. My only complaint (and not in this Virgil Flowers novel) is once and awhile Sandford has to take a cheap shot at Republicans/conservatives when it has nothing to do with the plot. Save your politics for letters to the editor.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Huge Lucas Davenpiort fan...saying it again in yet another review, so already a fan of John Sandford. Virgil Flowers is quickly becoming a great character too. HEAT LIGHTNING is a very very good Sandford read. Flowers is so believeable and always in character, just a great cop, and fun. Of course working for Davenport makes it that much better. This story evolves into killers sent from Viet Nam to seek revenge and it is fast moving and entertaining. HIGHLY RECOMMEND, book and series.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Another will written mystery in the Virgil Flowers series. This has the usual well developed characters will some new good and bad ones added. It is a great series for those of us who enjoy mystery series. I would recommend this series to anyone who is a John Sanford fan and enjoys will written mysteries. Enjoy reading
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
This book is not the best of John Sanford. While the story line is pretty unique, I feel that the bad guys could have been developed in a bit more interesting way. Perhaps the exception in Mai, who played a pretty colorful role, but somewhat unrealistic when you consider that the lead agent, Virgil, can't wait to get her in the sack. Although their were murders and a lot of running around, I thought the book could have moved faster in the first three hundred pages. I must say that the final confrontation with the bunch was well written and really kept my interest. The book also highlighted the big bad "feds" vs the State boys from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Kind of an interesting way that the Governor handled the guys from Washington.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Shooter killed Charles Utrecht, who put up no resistance because he felt strongly that though he did one bad thing in life three decades ago and paid for it since, he deserved to die. His body was found with a lemon in his mouth. Bobby Sanderson walks his dog on the same path every night; the Shooter forces him to give up the names of his associates from an incident many years ago before they kill him. Like Utrecht he is found with a lemon in his mouth and posed by the Veteran's Memorial.

Lucas Davenport, back with the BCA, assigns the case to Virgil Flowers. Sanderson's girlfriend tells Virgil that Bobby was in a heated argument twp people after he went to a Viet Nam meeting. Slowly, Virgil begins to put together who is involved in this Minnesota killing spree and why as more men are murdered execution style. He must find which men on this veteran's lost are the killers before they can kill them.

With homage to the classic Christie tale and to a degree the movie the List of Adrian Messenger, John Sandford has created a terrific lead character in thirty something Virgil, a free spirited, dedicated and loyal person (see DARK OF THE MOON). His boss Lucas mentors Virgil, whom he sees as himself when he was a hot shot with all the answers early in his police career (see the "Prey" series). The story line is loaded with red herrings, nice twists, and the list in which six need killing but which six remains just out of reach. HEAT LIGHTNING is an engaging and enthralling Minnesota police procedural.

Harriet Klausner
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jay gabler
This is a very decent Sanford. But there are at least two glaring continuity errors.

One - the wrong person is attributed to a statement. Since it made no sense, it caused a complete stop to figure out.

Another one - a meeting is set up for one o'clock. The next paragraph , they show up at 4:50. Then next paragraph , it is back to one.

Please guys, pay attention. The details DO count and this makes the whole thing look sloppier than it deserves.

Still recommended however!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Heat Lightning (Virgil Flowers)
A good mystery with a lot of different angles but the main character, Virgil Flowers, just lacks something. He just seems like such a loser. Certainly not as polished and finesse as his boss.

A Vietnam era connection for the murders and going back to examine those times was interesting. It does move at a good pace. A couple of surprises along the way.

I read a lot of books because I get in to the characters, like some people do with TV, but all of Sandford's books are good murder mysteries. They are worth reading for that alone.

I do hope we get Lucas Davenport back though.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
melisende d upheaul
Minnesota of Crime Bureau Apprehension investigator, Virgil Flowers, is summoned to the scene of a second murder victim. Two shots to the head, a lemon wedge in the victim's mouth posed in front of a Vietnam War memorial; a far different feeling than that of the warm bed he had just shared with his second ex-wife. We know the killer is after a list of others. Targeted Assassinations, probable but why? Left-winged anti-war radical Activist and academic Mead Sinclair explains "When the Vietnamese execute a prisoner--a political prisoner, or even a murderer--they'll gag him by stuffing a lemon in his mouth. Hold it there with tape. Duct tape." Vigilantly or revenge killings? By whom and why? Flowers must find out before any more bodies are found.

Sanford's great plot idea becomes laborious, and somewhat torturous with his overuse of time breaks that even confounded him and the publisher's proof readers. Glaring mistakes causes the reader to stop and regroup just as Flowers in his investigation. While the answer to the why Virgil is always seeming a step behind the shooter is finally answered, not so with the author's proof reading oversights. Nor is the question why Flowers cannot hold conversations in which double entendres are interjected or the blatant fact that he much rather be out on boat fishing.

Even Prey's Lucas Davenport's appearance can't save this novel. (Character is flat. For those whom never had read any of the Prey series, the reader would assume he is just another so-so bureaucrat.) Philosophical questions of God, the eco-system, politics Sanford raises are out of place to the story he is telling and its ending ventures into the realm of absurdity.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dorothy thompson
This is a no-nonsense fast paced, plausible novel that does not dawdle & waste time with rhetoric.
Lucas Davenport assigns a series of mysterious "Lemon" murders to Virgil Flowers.
The murders, we find, are revenge for atrocities committed in Vietnam in 1975. The murders target certain GI's that took part in the original crime. The plot makes for a very plausible story which just keeps moving right along. No wasted dialogue in this book
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Overall, this book feels like a storyline that fell out of a 1980s cop show on tv that was dusted off and crammed into a more modern setting. If it weren't for the fact that I like Virgil, I probably wouldn't have finished this book. He's a character that is engaging enough to save an otherwise floundering storyline. The writing is much in line with other books I've read by this author.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kendra soule
A great action-packed adventure - sprinkles of bad language, violence and sex create the scene and a sense of reality without being overdone or offensive. This is the first book I have read from this author and although this is Book Two in a series, it stands alone as a story and does not require you to have read Book One. Looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I would have given it 5 stars except the Profanity and "F" word was so excessive that it was a constant distraction.
Sexual thoughts and encounters seem over done. Would prefer more morals and in-depth relationships. I won't be reading any more. :(
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
symon hill
There isn't really much to say about this book except.....that 'f------ Flowers'. Sanford has his formula, and if you like it, you will love this book. His Virgil Flowers books always seem amusing to me, even though the plots are grim, and even though the body counts are high (as in all of the Sanford books), but for some reason his style is appealing to me and I enjoy his approach.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
fredrik borchsenius
This series is no where near as good as his Prey series. Heat Lightning is a fairly good read and I pretty much enjoyed it, although it is not a book in which I could hardly wait to read it and would stay up all night because I couldn't put it down. My biggest complaint is the truly tiresome way this author included his thoughts on the environment, religion and politics. Unless it is an integral part of the story, authors should leave this crap out.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
John Sandford NEVER fails to please and his invention of Virgil Flowers is certainly no exception. The trick of keeping Davenport in the background works beautifully too. John, if you read these things, thanks so very much. You are a formidable writer fully worthy of your success.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Once you start, you can't stop... reading. Sanford is a master. The lean and mean style breezes by. Virgil is the horny detective, never a woman he doesn't like. The story flies at you, tho you can pick out the bad guys, the book does not disappoint. A winner.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
This series is no where near as good as his Prey series. Heat Lightning is a fairly good read and I pretty much enjoyed it, although it is not a book in which I could hardly wait to read it and would stay up all night because I couldn't put it down. My biggest complaint is the truly tiresome way this author included his thoughts on the environment, religion and politics. Unless it is an integral part of the story, authors should leave this crap out.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
vicky macdonald
John Sandford NEVER fails to please and his invention of Virgil Flowers is certainly no exception. The trick of keeping Davenport in the background works beautifully too. John, if you read these things, thanks so very much. You are a formidable writer fully worthy of your success.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
james inman
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kate globig
Once you start, you can't stop... reading. Sanford is a master. The lean and mean style breezes by. Virgil is the horny detective, never a woman he doesn't like. The story flies at you, tho you can pick out the bad guys, the book does not disappoint. A winner.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I thought this was a good book with an interesting plot. But when it comes to Virgil Flowers as a main character, I have to say that I don't get it. He bores me to death and I don't understand why Sandford chose him to front a series. There have been numerous criticisms that the modern Lucas Davenport has lost his "mojo." I agree. He is not as strong as he used to be but he is still far more interesting and compelling than Virgil Flowers. Being an alt rock t-shirt wearing para-hippy who loves the great outdoors is not enough to carry a series in my estimation. Virgil is just not that compelling. Fortunately the book is heavily plot driven and the story is strong enough to make this a worth while thriller.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I read this book on unabridged audio. The narrarator did a good job.

I enjoyed the book and the twists and turns to the plot. Sanford has done it again.

I, unlike one reviewer, like Virgil Flowers. He gets the woman and gets the job done.......hard to beat that combination!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Anyone who's read the Lucas Davenport Series will understand the title. I love John Sandford's books. He keeps you guessing right to the end and you can't put them down. Can't wait for the next one. Definitely recommend this book.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
somaia elkilany
This is the first Virgil Flowers story worth reading but get it in paperback unless you have cash to burn. Actually written this time by John Sandford, Flowers is in charge of solving a string of unusual murders relating back to the Vietnam war. It is a different direction for Sandford and slightly left of center politically but not so that it is excessively annoying. Flowers is a three dimensional character for the first time so the reader may actually begin to care about him for a change. There are some humorous moments in the story and it even prompted me to buy a 'WWTDD' T Shirt... don't ask.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
christy crosby
We have been following John Sandford for a long time and like his style. Lucas Davenport is one of our favorites but like Virgil Flowers also and especially likes how John combines characters in the different books.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
As a past loyal John Sanford fan, this book was a disappointment. The plot seemed to go on and on as though Mr. Sanford was adding and making it up as he went. Light on plot, he was heavy on obscenities and sexist views of woman. Does Vigil Flowers (or any man in this book) have a conversation with a woman without sexual overtones? After a while it was tiring and insulting. If this is the direction of Mr. Sanford's work, I will think long and hard before I pick up his next book.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
marian beall
What should have been an exciting plot somehow rambles along in a tedious fashion. Gratuitous politics and sexual innuendo are thrown in. The fleshing out of irrelevent characters adds confusion. Midway thru a woman and child are seen boating on a lake, their names, residence, husband/father info, clothing, choice of snack and womans desirablity are covered extensively. The book then moves along and these two never reappear. I will be throwing this book out rather than passing it along to a friend.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
stephanie o hanlon
Good storyline that was a quick read. Charcters were interesting / although I had a good idea of who might be the bad one about 3/4 of the way into the read. Would certainly try another book by this author.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
darlene comeaux
Sanford developed a great character with Virgil Flowers. Very interesting read on many levels: fast moving action, interesting continued revelation of Virgil's history and developed character and good mystery excitement.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
nikki cayanong
This book seems like a long-time coming for Camp since his college campus days, or maybe he just needed to vent a little gratuitous political bile. The reader plods along trying to follow a convoluted plot that's really just an excuse for bashing "American imperialism;" the Vietnam War; crazy Vietnam veterans; the Department of Homeland Security and Republicans in general. A political soapbox disguised as a detective story that leaves no right-wing stereotype unturned, it concludes with the escape of the politically correct villain after this person plans and executes the murder (and in some cases, torture) of 7 people (one of whom is a Police Officer) and causing two other police officers to be wounded as well.

But it's OK - they all had it coming. Really. Virgil and the villain even share a nice, heartwarming phone conversation at the end in which all is explained and we realize how right (left?) it was for the book to turn out the way it did.

Probably would have been better serialized in "High Times" or "Mother Jones." Definitely a waste of money as a novel.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
I have read a few of Sandford's books and have overlooked some issues, but the grammatical errors here were more than I could take. Incorrect punctuation, numerous run-on sentences (so many I had to stop and re-read several times), incorrect references to characters and pages 21 - 53 were duplicated! I was aggravated as I was reading it that an author and publishing company would put their names on something this sloppy.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
dina wilson
Midway through this book I realized it was a flop and that I was probably going to regret reading it. Sure enough, I did. Which is unfortunate, I typically enjoy this author. Language is highly unnecessary as well.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
neil white
This book has awful language and an unexciting plot. The profanity screams at you as if John Sandford was at a loss to care enough to write well and flush out the characters. Too many chapters spent building up to the reason why so many are being killed. This book could be half the size and still tell the story. You won't miss a thing if you skip this one.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
I own and have read all of John Sandford's novels. My wife and I particularly have liked the Prey series. This book, however, has hit bottom. The plot was hideous and the language embarassing. If you would remove the profanity and innuendos, the book would have been less than 100 pages. (Which wwould have been a blessing.)
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
tara finnigan
I haven't read 'Heat Lightning' yet, but I hope it's better than the previous Virgil Flowers novel, 'Dark of the Moon' which I really didn't like. Sandford's Lucas Davenport novels are incredible, but Virgil just doesn't measure up. Perhaps this one will be better...
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Virgil Flowers Series by John Sandford
I’d read all Sandford’s “Prey” novels then decided to order the most recently released Virgil Flowers one. That lead to my ordering all the rest of this series. After they’d all arrived, I put them in publication order. Beginning with the first of the series,
I began a John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers series reading marathon. If you’re a mystery/thriller fan you’ve probably read Sandford
and know what to expect. Excellent character development, good descriptions of people and places, interesting story lines, plots with twists and turns, real life, although not for the sensitive to vulgarity, conversations and page-turning, have to see what happens next stories. Rather than get into the storyline of each book in the series, since so many other reviews have already done that, I think that pretty much says it all. The one thought I had after completing each one was…”How does he come up with all these different story lines?” If you like reading mystery/thriller books, I highly recommend John Sandford.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kevin selzer
Great characters, especially Virgil, of course. Great dialogue. Those of us who lived during the Vietnam era can certainly find the genesis of story believable. Title throws me a bit. Sander's style is always pleasing and entertaining.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
birgit coleman
I just can't decide. Which Sandford protagonist do I like better, Lucas Davenport or Virgil Flowers?
They are both great characters and they both do the same thing. They just have slightly different routes to the same destination.
This book is another success in a long line of successful books.
If you've liked other Sandford books, read it. You wont be disappointed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I love any thing that Sandford writes. Virgil Flowers is one of my favorite characters. Sandford tells wonderful stories and has brought to life some of my favorite people. I'd really like to meet him and his fellow cops.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sigrid van de ven
I enjoy John Sandford as an author and have read most of his books. I am just getting started on this series and enjoy the books he has written for this series as well. I would recommend any and all books by this author.
Please Rate Book 2), Heat Lightning (A Virgil Flowers Novel
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