John Sandford is getting there, but unlike Ed McBain, he doesn’t have 50 years of good will built up.
The there is pissing me off with the ragging on Republicans and conservatives. It took him only until page 12 to identify that the hardened criminal in charge of the enterprise was a self-identified conservative; if this book were published in 2010 instead of 2009, he’d probably identify with the Teabaggers. Twelve pages later, George W. Bush is mentioned by name in a less than flattering light. On page 35, someone is told he looks like a Republican as an insult. Seriously, Sandford, knock it off.
The stories in the book (and now that he’s a serious hardback author, they must weigh in at 400 pages. Remember when only Stephen King did that?) revolve around a group of crackerjack criminals in town to rob people and hotels at the Republican National Convention and about a criminal getting out of prison, paraplegic, and blaming Davenport, so of course he’s going to get revenge. The two stores touch at points, made to do so to validate the decision to pad out the book with the second, but really, it’s two shorter novels in one. Cut aways to the other story pass for building suspense, I guess.
Finally, one comes to a head and then Davenport solves the other with a little help from a dream or a hint from the semiconscious mind. Sandford must have realized he’d achieved the proper weight to cost $30 in hardback. Then it ends with some dangling ends that Sandford can bring back another time, a la the hitwoman Rinker.
I’m being a little harsher on the book than it deserves, perhaps, but Sandford did his best to put me in an ill and opposing mood at the beginning of the book. By about page 50, the book drops off with the political “Rightwing nuts!” stuff and gets down to the plot. Which makes me wonder why he bothered to put it in at all and risk alienating 47% or more of the population. To establish his Minnesota Democrat bona fides? Brother, Al Franken is your senator. It’s worse than when my state elected a dead man, for crying out loud.
He’s really down to my last nerve on the political stuff and the gratuitous swearing. All the characters drop f-bombs in random spots and use it as people’s middle name throughout this book and the series. Come on, I gave up the mad swearing when I had kids, and I didn’t do it professionally for any part of my life. Grow up, Sandford. Grow up.