Virgil Flowers takes on academia

Reviewed by Linda C. Brinson

BLOODY GENIUS. By John Sandford. Penguin Audio. 11 hours; 9 CDs. Read by Eric Conger. $40. Also available in print from G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

First, Margaret Trane, the police officer who is handling the case, doesn’t really want his help and is annoyed that the governor has yielded to pressure from some rich supporters and sent Virgil.

When Virgil Flowers of the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is called in to help the Minneapolis Police Department investigate a murder at the University of Minnesota, he finds a lot more than what he expected.

Then the case goes from almost no leads to a dizzying array of conflicting possibilities. 

The murder victim is Barthelemy Quill, a brilliant and rich nerve scientist at the university. He was killed when making a surreptitious after-hours visit to the carrel he isn’t really supposed to have in one of the university libraries. It looks as though he stumbled upon someone in his carrel and was bashed in the head with his own computer.

The case hasn’t been going anywhere, but Virgil, winning Trane’s reluctant respect, finds an important clue that suggests the thrice-married Quill might have been using the carrel for a late-night trysting spot.

And then more clues and anonymous tips start turning up, turning the case into a greater and more complex puzzle than ever.

Was Quill’s death related to an intense but arcane feud between two academic departments? Did it have to do with an anonymous tape in which three men seem to be discussing a highly unethical medical procedure? Could Quill’s daughter be involved, or his soon-to-be former third wife, who, because of a prenuptial agreement, gets a lot more as his widow than she would have once they were divorced? How about the unscrupulous man who’d been seen lurking around Quill’s lab, and who is known for stealing the ideas of others in hopes of payoffs to avoid patent lawsuits? Or the drug dealer connected to the cocaine found in Quill’s desk in his home office?

Quill was not a popular man, nor is the university’s ivory tower as tranquil as some might think.

Virgil and Trane join forces to sort the murderous person or people from the merely unscrupulous or eccentric, and try to stop a killer before someone else dies.

This is another highly entertaining book in the Virgil Flowers series. Eric Conger, a familiar voice from other John Sandford audiobooks, reads it like the pro he is.

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