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John Sandford's 'Storm Front' is mildly amusing but ultimately not worth reading

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Storm Front by John Sandford


John Sandford's latest Virgil Flowers novel "Storm Front" is a caper heist story involving a wily old preacher, a stone stele smuggled out of Israel, a Hezbollah assassin, a hot blonde lumber thief, a wild Israeli Mossad agent, an Arab informer, an Israel member of an archaeological society and a cast of thousands all looking for the stone. Its very cute and clever in a satiric way, and in part funny, but after a while, its clear that Sandford is having a little too much fun as the story drags on passed the point of credulity. While I like cute and clever heists, even the best of authors and directors can run into problems with knowing when to quit the stage. And so it goes here, as Sandford continues the story passed the point of no return and beyond.

Sandford is one of the best mystery writers around, but seems to have lost his footing here. It is an enjoyable read and Sandford is obviously going for some form of satire here, but other Flower books are much better.

It all starts when a preacher named Jones steals an artifact - a stone stele with a message about Solomon - from an Israeli archaeological dig and smuggles it to America. Its possible that the stele has a message about Solomon that will change history. So both Arabs and Israelis are after the stone.

The Israelis immediately figure out who took the stone and send one of their archaeologists, a woman named Yael, to Minnesota to join up with Virgil Flowers to find Jones and reclaim the stone. It soon becomes clear to Flowers, however, that Yael does not act like an archaeologist and is too quick with a gun. He eventually figures out that she is from Mossad, there to prevent the stone from falling into the wrong hands. And there are plenty of hands after the stone.

Soon some Turk gunmen are in America also after the stone, and Jones has a gun battle with them.

Then two refugees from bad history cable tv shows looking for fame as the discoverers of the stone show up. While one such character would have been enough, two such characters, besides fighting each other and plotting with different people to find the stone, just are not necessary. Throw in a hot blonde lumber thief, who befriends the preacher, but also wants Flowers, the daughter of the preacher, who ends up kidnapped, a Hezbollah assassin and super secret agents of the American government after said assassin, false leads, hidden hideouts, road chases, tracking devises and there is enough searchers in Minnesota to find a needle in a haystack. Somehow, however, Jones, is able to elude capture with remarkable acuity, escaping from a hospital bed, firebombing Flowers house and is still able to outwit Flowers and hold an auction for the stone, all while on a cusp of death with a deadly cancer. Its a little too pat and incredible. Sandford throws in some humor, and satire but its not enough to save this book. You will smile a bit, while you read it, but wonder too when will it all end. Not quick enough.

There is a little mystery at the end, but its all very clear where this book is going and Sandford cannot help dropping hints about the end, that most will have it all figured out before Sandford ties it all together with a big bow.

It all makes for some clever theatrics and some action, but little else.

Find your reading pleasures elsewhere.


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