Bloody Genius (Virgil Flowers Series #12)

Bloody Genius (Virgil Flowers Series #12)

by John Sandford

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Virgil Flowers will have to watch his back--and his mouth--as he investigates a college culture war turned deadly in another one of Sandford's "madly entertaining Virgil Flowers mysteries" (New York Times Book Review).

At the local state university, two feuding departments have faced off on the battleground of science and medicine. Each carries their views to extremes that may seem absurd, but highly educated people of sound mind and good intentions can reasonably disagree, right?

Then a renowned and confrontational scholar winds up dead, and Virgil Flowers is brought in to investigate . . . and as he probes the recent ideological unrest, he soon comes to realize he's dealing with people who, on this one particular issue, are functionally crazy. Among this group of wildly impassioned, diametrically opposed zealots lurks a killer, and it will be up to Virgil to sort the murderer from the mere maniacs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525536628
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/01/2019
Series: Virgil Flowers Series , #12
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 46
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

John Sandford is the pseudonym for the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Camp. He is the author of twenty-eight Prey novels, most recently Twisted Prey; four Kidd novels, eleven Virgil Flowers novels, and six other books, including three YA novels coauthored with his wife, Michele Cook.


St. Paul, Minnesota

Date of Birth:

February 23, 1944

Place of Birth:

Cedar Rapids, Iowa


State University of Iowa, Iowa City: B.A., American History; M.A., Journalism

Read an Excerpt





Barthelemy Quill led his companion through the murk and up the library stairs toward his personal study carrel. Though Quill was normally restrained to the point of rigor mortis, she could hear him breathing, quick breaths, excited. They'd been there before, and the woman found the experience both weird and interesting. She was a step behind him, and lower, and she reached out and stroked his thigh.


But at the top of the stairs, Quill put out a hand, pressing it back against her chest, and whispered, "Shh. There's a light."


The library was never entirely dark, not even in the middle of the night, but there'd never before been a moving light. She could see one now, no brighter than an iPhone, dancing like a ghost through the bookshelves.


Not a security guard. It was an iPhone, she thought. Not the flashlight, but the much weaker screen light.


Quill moved away from her and closer to the light-he was wearing gray dress slacks, a gray knit dress shirt, and a black sport coat, so he was basically invisible in the dark. The woman felt a chill crawl up her arms and she stepped sideways into the book stacks. She'd learned well the lesson of trusting her instincts about trouble. She turned a corner on one of the stacks and crouched, listening in the silence.


Then Quill's voice: "Hey! Hey! Where'd you get . . . I'm calling the police! You stay right where you're at."


Then a wet Whack! And, after a second, another. Whack! The sound was heavy and violent, as if delivered with a crowbar. The whacks were followed by a couple of bumps. And not another word from Quill.


The woman crunched herself up, made herself smaller, opened her mouth wide to silence her breathing, a trick she'd learned in another life while taking singing lessons. Like Quill, she'd dressed in dark clothing, as their entry into the library was unauthorized and possibly illegal. Before this moment, that had added another thrill to their clandestine meetings.


Now . . .


Something terrible had happened, she thought. After the whacks and subsequent bumps, there was a deep silence, as though the iPhone user were listening.


That was followed by shuffling noises, more bumps, a door closed and a locked turned, and then the weak iPhone light reappeared. She never saw the person with the phone but kept her arms over her face and her head down: faces shine in the dark, and eyes are attracted to eyes. She heard light footsteps fading away, risked a look up and saw the iPhone light disappearing around the corner toward the stairs.



The killer was just as stunned. Quill had come out of nowhere, as the killer stood by the open carrel door, laptop in hand. QuillÕs face had been twisted with anger. HeÕd shouted, ÒHey! Hey!Ó and something else, then, ÒIÕm calling the police!Ó


Quill'd turned away, and, without thinking, panicking, the killer had lifted the laptop computer and brought it down on Quill's head.


After the first blow, Quill had said, "Ah!" and gone down, and his forehead had hit the edge of the carrel desk and his head had turned. His gray eyes jerked to the assailant, but had already begun to dim, as he sank to his hands and knees. The killer swung the notebook again and this time Quill went flat on the floor.


The DreamBook Power P87 made an excellent weapon, not because of its Intel Xeon i7 processor, or its 64 gigs of RAM, or its high-definition display, but because it weighed more than twelve pounds and had sharp corners.


By comparison, an Irwin Tools fiberglass-handled general purpose claw hammer, an otherwise excellent weapon, weighs only sixteen ounces, a pound.



When the killer sank the computer into the back of QuillÕs head, the professor smacked the desk with his forehead, his head turned, and his eyes twisted toward his assailant, and he dropped to his hands and knees like a poleaxed ox, if oxen have hands and knees.


A blow followed, a downward chop like that of a guillotine blade. The later autopsy suggested the first blow had been sufficient enough to kill, if the assailant had been willing to wait a minute. He hadn't.


The second impact certainly finished the job, and Quill lay sprawled across the floor and partially under the carrel desk, leaking both blood and cerebrospinal fluid. Quill never felt much pain, only an awareness of the blows and his beginning to fall. The lights went out, and he dropped into a darkness deeper than any sleep.


The library carrel had been his own personal cubbyhole, renewed semester by semester over the years. Strictly speaking, that shouldn't have been the case, but Quill was rich and handsome and famous for his research into innovative therapies for spinal nerve injuries. So he got by with it. And it had become a go-to place for his late-night sexual assignations, away from all eyes.



The killer had a thousand thoughts raging through his head. Near the top, however, was: Get out! And: DNA! And: Fingerprints!


The library was nearly silent, broken only by the vague clicks and hums of any building at night with heaters and fans. The killer stood listening, then looked down at the body, licked his lips once, thinking. The laptop came with a soft plastic cover. He used it to wrap one of his hands and then dragged Quill's leg from the doorway into the carrel, where, with the door closed, the body couldn't be easily seen through the narrow translucent window.


His heart was pumping hard, he was breathing like a steam engine. He tried to calm himself, took a moment, stepped on something. The fob to Quill's BMW lay on the floor where he'd dropped it, along with his cell phone. The killer picked up the cell, the keys, and the murder weapon, took another moment to listen. As expected, the library was empty and dead silent: it closed at six o'clock, and he'd murdered Quill at the stroke of midnight.


The killer left the carrel at three minutes after midnight, pulled his black ball cap farther down over his eyes and tilted his head down to defeat any cameras. He locked the carrel door and started toward the stairs. The hair on the back of his neck suddenly bristled, like from the chill you'd get walking past a cemetery. He stopped. Was he alone? He listened, heard nothing. He walked slowly and quietly down the stairs to the first floor, creeping through it on his soft-soled running shoes, and out the door.


The river was right there. He went to the walkway running alongside it, stopped under a light to separate the professor's keys from their fob and threw the fob in the river. The keys went in his pocket; he might find a use for them.


He continued across a bridge to the other side, saw no one. He stopped to put the computer and its soft cover in his backpack. The cell phone went into a "Mission Darkness" Faraday bag with a see-through window, along with his own. Quill had begun making a call to 911 when he was killed, so the killer had access to the phone's operation and could keep it working with the occasional poke.



Back inside the library, QuillÕs companion waited, frozen in place, for what seemed like hours-maybe ten minutes. After the iPhone light disappeared, she had not heard another thing.


Taking a chance, she dug silently in her purse and found the switchblade she'd purchased in Iowa, where they were legal, as personal protection. She wrapped the knife in the tail of her jacket and pushed the button that popped open the razor-sharp four-and-seven-eighths-inch serrated blade, the mechanical unlatching muffled by the cloth.


She listened for another moment, then crawled down the aisle between the book stacks, got to her knees, then to her feet, and slipped over to the carrel. The door had a small, vertical-slit window, but with translucent glass.


She muttered, "Shit," and waited, and waited, listening, tried the door, but it was locked. She turned on her iPhone's flashlight and directed it down through the window but couldn't see anything at all through the cloudy pane. Nothing was moving inside.


Quill, she thought, might be dead. He was probably badly hurt, at the least. She should call the police; but she wasn't the type.


The thought held her for a moment. She didn't owe Quill. He'd brought her into this. If he was still alive, and survived, she could tell him that she ran away and never knew that he'd been hurt.


The decision made, she turned off the light and slipped through the library, her lips moving in a prayer that wasn't a prayer, because she didn't know any, but simply a Please! Please! Please! addressed to any god who might be tuned in. She made it down the stairs and out into the river air, the Mississippi curling away beneath the bridge with anything but innocence: it had seen more murders than any single man or woman ever would.


A half block from the library, the woman folded the knife but kept it in her hand, her thumb on the spring release. On the far side of the bridge, she was swallowed up by the night.



Because he was murdered on a Friday night and had no firm appointments over the weekend, and missed only one day at the lab, QuillÕs body wasnÕt found until Tuesday, when an untoward odor began leaking under the carrelÕs locked door.


Definitely not coffee.


Inquiries were made, a second key was found, the door was opened, the cops were called.


Quill had lived alone since his third wife moved out. Neither of his first two wives, nor his estranged third, made any secret of the fact that they thoroughly disliked him.


A two-week investigation produced baffled cops. The cops didn't think they were baffled-not yet, anyway-but the Star Tribune and local television stations agreed that they were. And who do you believe, the cops or the mainstream media?


When no suspect had been produced after two weeks, Quill's well-connected sister, co-heir to their father's wildly successful company, Quill Micro-Sprockets, called her old friend and a major political donee, the governor of Minnesota.


The governor called the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety; the commissioner called the director of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension; the BCA director called one of his supervisory agents; the supervisory agent, after a comprehensive course of vulgarity, obscenity, and profanity, made a call of his own.


At the end of the daisy chain was a Flowers.






Virgil Flowers walked out of a cafŽ in Blue Earth, Minnesota, slightly bilious after a dinner of brown slices of beef and brown gravy over brown potatoes and dead green beans, coconut cream pie on the side, with a pointless Diet Coke. He had to quit all that; he knew it, but hadn't yet done it. He burped and the burp tasted . . . brown.


He'd taken three steps out the door before he noticed a motley group of twenty people standing in the parking lot, staring up at the sky to the south. When he turned to look, he saw the UFO.


There was no question about it, really.


The alien craft was obviously far away, but still appeared to be more than half the size of a full moon. It was motionless, hovering over the countryside like a polished dime, brilliantly lit, alternating gold and white light, almost as bright as the setting sun, and hard to look at without squinting.


A man dressed like a farmer, in mud-spattered jeans and muddier gum boots, said wisely, "It only appears to be motionless. It's probably a jumbo jet headed into the Twin Cities, flying low and right toward us. The sun's hitting it at just the right angle, and we're getting a reflection."


A pale woman with orange-blond dreadlocks, and the voice of a high school teacher, said, "No, it's not a jet. It's not moving. Line it up with that phone pole and you see it's not moving."


Virgil and the farmer edged sideways to line the UFO up with the telephone pole, and the woman was right; the UFO wasn't moving. The farmer exhaled heavily, and said, "Okay. I got nothin'."


More people were coming out of the cafŽ, attracted by the crowd in the parking lot.


A man in a plaid sport jacket said, "This could be the start of something big."


"Like an invasion," the dreadlocks lady said. She mimed a shudder. "Like in Cloverfield. You don't know exactly what it is, but it's coming and it's bad."


"Wouldn't they invade Washington or someplace like that?" a thin man asked. "Why would they invade Iowa?"


A jocko-looking guy said, "Not because they're recruiting for a pro football team," and he and a jocko friend, who was wearing a red University of Minnesota jacket, exchanged high fives.


Somebody said, "I left my camera at home. Wouldn't you know it? Probably see Bigfoot on the way back."


A short, fat mail carrier: "I saw a show where the aliens completely wasted LA, but it turned out everything was being controlled from one central bunker, and when the Army hit that, all the aliens' tanks and shit quit working."


"Independence Day," somebody said. "Where they nuked the mother ship, and then the fighters could get through the force fields?"


"No, I saw that one, too, but this was a different movie," the letter carrier said. "Ground troops in LA. Got the aliens with a bazooka or something."


A young man with black-rimmed glasses and slicked-back dark hair said, with the voice of authority, "Battle: Los Angeles. Thirty-five percent on the Tomatometer. The ground squad lit them up with a laser indicator so American fighters could target the alien HQ. Or maybe they called in the artillery, I don't precisely recall."


A young woman in a jewel-blue nylon letter jacket that matched her eyes said, "I hope they don't get us pregnant with those monster things like in Aliens. You know, that ate their way out of your womb when they hatched."


"I don't think that was Aliens," the authoritative young man said. "But just in case, maybe you oughta get a lotta good lovin' before they arrive."


Jewel Blue, the voice of scorn: "Dream on, Poindexter."



Virgil scratched his chin, momentarily at a loss. He was a tall, thin, blue-eyed man, with blond hair curling well down over his ears. He was wearing a canvas sport coat over a ÒMoon TaxiÓ T-shirt and jeans, with cowboy boots and a blue ball cap. As an official law enforcement officer of the state of Minnesota-LÕƒtoile du Nord-he thought he should do something about an alien invasion but didnÕt know exactly what. Call it in maybe?

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Bloody Genius 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
Anonymous 3 months ago
It took too long to get exciting. I enjoy the f-in flowers stories where your heart drops and you think to yourself, oh no! Here we go. And you get to go on a pulse pounding ride from mid book to the end.
Anonymous 3 months ago
slow moving plot, unlikable characters. repetition of dialogue. same phrases appear in numerous chapters.
Bhub 14 days ago
This was the first Virgil Flowers book that I did not thoroughly enjoy. I found this book almost totally devoid of the humor usually found in this series. I thought the characters were poorly developed, and the story quite tedious. I always look forward to release of the Virgil Flowers books, so this was quite disappointing. Hopefully, the next one will be a better effort.
ABookAWeekES 18 days ago
Its that time of year again. No, I'm not talking about fall this time. Time for the latest Virgil Flowers novel, of course! For over a decade now, I've read and enjoyed every Virgil Flowers novel written by John Sandford. Each fall, a new installment is released, and I spend the next few days glued to the book. For the past couple of years, I've been fortunate to receive a copy of the latest Flowers novel from Sandford's publisher, and this year I was happy to accept Bloody Genius to review. Once again, Sandford proves why Virgil Flowers is one of the most endearing heroes in modern crime fiction. A prominent doctor/professor at the University of Minnesota is bludgeoned to death in the school library. There are immediately more questions than answers. He wasn't in the library when it closed the night before, so how did he get in and why was he in there? The professor wasn't well-liked by his colleagues, professional rivals, or even his family, so there's no shortage of potential suspects. A man with three ex-wives who is a complete jerk to everyone he encounters isn't exactly getting the key to the city anytime soon. Still, a brazen murder on a busy college campus can't be ignored. Enter Virgil Flowers, the quirky but effective investigator for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Flowers's rough edges have started to smooth out since he began dating Frankie, a former suspect turned lover. The couple is expecting twins soon, and Flowers is struggling to balance his personal and professional responsibilities. He reluctantly begins investigating the murder, much to the chagrin of the local authorities and a female detective who has no trouble matching Virgil's dry wit. When all the potential suspects begin presenting solid alibis, Virgil is forced to dig deep and use his trademark unorthodox approach to bring justice and peace to the community. At this point, Virgil Flowers may have actually eclipsed James Patterson's Alex Cross as my favorite detective in a crime series. With Bloody Genius, John Sandford continues to evolve his character in a way that is both natural and fun to read. Sandford bucks formula by placing his familiar character into new mysteries with different narrative paths in each book. Sometimes, the killer is known by the reader from the start, and the fun is in seeing Virgil discover what we already know. This time, we are in the dark with our hero, only discovering the murder when Virgil does. I truly did not see the ending coming! This is the twelfth novel in the series. While you don't have to read the previous books to understand this one, you'd be doing yourself a disservice by skipping ahead. Go ahead and start with the first book. If you're anything like me, you'll race through the series and be eagerly waiting for the next one.
Anonymous 3 months ago
John Sanford has crafted another "I couldn't put it down." novel. I think I'm fairly good at navigating the terrain in a Sanford story and coming up with a reasonable conclusion to the inherent mystery, but "Bloody Genius" had me stumped. My suspicions all turned into wispy smoke and merged in outright confusion. There were so many clues that I was as lost as Virgil was. I thought I was better than that. I really enjoy the repartee and wit Sanford uses in his dialogue. It never fails to bring a smile or a chuckle as I read. Though John has written a plethora of Davenport and Flowers books, I'd like to see him take another shot at Joe Kidd. He's an immensely complicated character and I've missed him. Mr. Sanford you keep on writing them and I'll keep on reading them.
diane92345 3 months ago
Virgil Flowers is back! His girlfriend Frankie is very pregnant with twins. He doesn’t appreciate having to bring in the hay on her farm. And, oh, he’s investigating a murder of a venerated Professor who likes to argue. The Professor is a genius who has been hit in the head—a Bloody Genius, get it? The change of setting allows Virgil to be a fish out of water at the University of Minnesota. The reader shares his surprise about how seriously academics take small issues. Could one of the scuff-ups have led to the Professor’s murder? Or could it be his three former wives, his girlfriends, his estranged daughter, his drug dealing, his blackmailing, or something else? Truly, this guy is a winner! I love that F*cking Flowers. His story is the best part of Bloody Genius. I also liked the pairing of Virgil with a police officer who actually appreciates his help. The mystery was good too. I totally missed the “hidden-in-plain-sight” clue that unravels the case. I like that in a book so I get to be as surprised as the author intended but can clearly see the hints in hindsight. If you like humorous police procedurals that use as little actual procedure as possible, you too will love that effing Flowers. 5 stars! Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous 6 days ago
Worth your time if u like murder mysteries.
Anonymous 8 days ago
I enjoyed this novel. Nice plots twists and a good pace to keep you engaged. I will read more of the Virgil Flowers novels because this was so good.
Anonymous 8 days ago
One can never get enough of Virgil Flowers. If you have ever worked in law enforcement or with officers every one knows a Virgil and everyone loves a Virgil because he is always one of the smartest people in the room but doesn't let anyone else know it. He also will make you laugh right out loud with his dry sense of humor and deep down inside he is not one of the good guys but one of the great guys.
Anonymous 8 days ago
Love these books! fast, clever, smart.
Anonymous 9 days ago
the story line was varied enoughto keep me interested but not as engrossed as I usually am with Sadford book but I would still recommend it.
Anonymous 9 days ago
Anonymous 10 days ago
slow & a little clumsy.
Anonymous 10 days ago
I've read the entire Virgil Flowers series and IMHO this one was the BEST! I've enjoyed all of them, but this one captured my imagination and interest the most. Great job!
Anonymous 13 days ago
A real page turner with a strong female local cop partner. A rich and politically-well-connected doctor-researcher's violent, unsolved death compels the governor to call on Virgil to work with a local detective who inherits the case without evidence or suspects. Great whodunnit!
SuseNJ 14 days ago
Totally boring, due mainly to uninteresting writing style. I read over half but felt I was wasting my time, so I skipped to the last 40pp to see the ending, no joy there either. What happened to the exciting Sandford???
Anonymous 15 days ago
Vulgar and sacrilegious language did not save this ho humm novel.
Anonymous 15 days ago
Kept me guessing almost to the end. Great plot, could hardly stop readingto eat or sleep
Anonymous 16 days ago
The first half was a hard to follow as a game of clue. Too many characters. Then it all came together in the last couple of chapters. Not sure I liked this one.
Anonymous 18 days ago
I had no idea how this was going to end. Love Virgil Flowers, love Sanford's writing! Bought the book yesterday and read it today. So glad I did. It's a great read! I highly recommend this book if you like Minnesota and action-packed, murder mysteries.
Anonymous 20 days ago
This was the best. surprise ending. love the characters.was up all night reading.
Anonymous 22 days ago
John Sanford is one of my favorites. I know I've read 10,000 books and is in the top at least
Anonymous 23 days ago
Anonymous 23 days ago
I love the Virgil Flowers series. This book was captivating, couldn't put it down. Can't wait for the next in the series.
Anonymous 26 days ago
A who done it with a great mix of characters, twisting plot sprinkled with humor