Born and raised as John Camp in Iowa, novelist John Sandford actually began his writing career working as a journalist for the "The Miami Herald" and later "The St. Paul Pioneer-Press," where he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for a series of articles he wrote related to the farm crisis of that time. However, since 1990 he has earned his living writing bestselling thriller novels. His mystery thriller "Dark of the Moon," published in 2007, introduces Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Virgil Flowers as he attempts to solve a puzzling string of murders in a small town.
Minnesota BCA agent Virgil Flowers shows up in the small town of Bluestem to investigate the murder of an elderly couple, but before he begins, another older resident, Bill Judd, is murdered by arson. Virgil is working closely with his friend and the town's sheriff, Jim Stryker, whose re-election is looming. Some romantic tension, as well as some possible plot twists, are introduced when Virgil begins dating Stryker's sister and Stryker begins dating the long-lost daughter of the third murder victim. Before Virgil can come up with a decent suspect, two more murders take place -- another elderly couple turns up dead.
Bill Judd was a rich and pretty much hated man in Bluestem, thanks to a scam he was behind in the 1970s involving Jerusalem artichokes, which bilked a lot of local farmers out of their money. Initial suspicion falls on Judd's son, Judd's recently discovered long-lost illegitimate daughter and a white supremacist preacher and ex-con named George Feur. However, as the investigation proceeds, Virgil finds himself wondering about a few more suspects, including Sheriff Stryker, Stryker's mother and Todd Williamson, the editor of the town's local paper, who also turns out to be a long-lost illegitmate child of Bill Judd. Not only that, but it looks as if Williamson's mother may have been murdered by Judd back in the 1960s, a murder that the other recent murder victims may have helped to cover up.
The investigation takes a sudden turn when Virgil learns that Bill Judd was involved in an ethanol operation that bears some resemblance to his earlier Jerusalem artichoke scam. This time, though, Stryker and Virgil discover that the ethanol plant may actually be a front for a methamphetamine operation. They team up with the DEA and are led back to George Feur's compound, where a shootout leads to one dead DEA agent and several wounded, as well as the death of Feur and all of his associates. Stryker is convinced that Feur is behind the town murders, but Virgil isn't so sure, especially when Judd's son is found dead.
As Virgil makes some discoveries about planted evidence at the different crime scenes, he finds himself further doubting the sheriff and his deputies, but more and more evidence seems to be pointing him in the direction of Todd Williamson. He works with the sheriff and the deputies to set up an elaborate sting operation to try to catch Williamson, all the while watching his back, as he isn't sure who he can trust. Virgil's suspicions are proven correct when Williamson shoots a dummy in Virgil's truck, but the murderer gets away and an armed pursuit with all the local deputies follows, leading eventually to Virgil shooting Williamson in a dark field. Virgil learns later that it was Stryker's sister, Virgil's girlfriend, who initially called Williamson and told him who his real father was, unwittingly setting in motion the grisly events that followed.
- JohnSandford.org: About the Author
- "Dark of the Moon"; John Sandford; 2007
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