Escape Clause

After dealing with dognappings in 2014's Deadline, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Virgil Flowers investigates catnappings in Escape Clause, his ninth outing in John Sandford's Prey spinoff series.

The cats in this case are no household pets; they're a pair of endangered Amur tigers stolen from the Minnesota Zoo. Flowers fears they'll be slaughtered for parts to use in illegal traditional medicines.

But the first body he encounters is human, a small-time crook linked to the stolen tigers. Then another corpse surfaces. And yet another person goes missing. Flowers realizes he's up against someone who intends to kill not only the tigers, but anyone who gets in the way of a deadly get-rich scheme.

Though the crimes in this novel are no joke--a subplot involves the exploitation of illegal Mexicans in the workplace--the appeal lies in the humor Sandford gives his eccentric characters. Sporting long blond hair and cowboy boots, Flowers is sometimes underestimated by others as a law enforcement officer, but readers know he's smart, competent and fair. His sidekicks are two other BCA agents, who resemble "Mafia thugs," but Flowers points out they'd do well in Hollywood with that look. The cool but complex Catrin Mattson, another colleague (Field of Prey), begs for a spinoff series of her own. Flowers's girlfriend, Frankie, has a sister who's dangerously self-centered, but Flowers's relationship with Frankie is still going strong, just like this series. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

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