cover image Escape Clause

Escape Clause

John Sandford, read by Eric Conger. Penguin Audio, unabridged, 8 CDs, 10 hrs., $40 ISBN 978-0-7352-8832-4

The ninth book in Sandford’s Virgil Flowers series has Virgil, an agent for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and his crew hunting a pair of rare Amur tigers catnapped from the Minnesota Zoo. The ’napper is an opiate-snarfing sociopath named Winston Peck VI, whose partners in crime—a pair of brutish, guttural-voiced brothers—quickly become disposable to him. Reader Conger’s semiamused, easygoing delivery sets the perfect mood for this offbeat, at times darkly humorous investigation. As blasé as his Virgil may seem in general, he’s serious about earning his pay. And even more serious when, in a separate subplot, canning-factory thugs brutalize his girlfriend, Frankie, mistaking her for her sister who’s been interviewing migrant workers for a dissertation. Conger’s Peck sounds ever more manic as his scheme to kill the big cats and process their parts for high-end Chinese medical use unspools and his pill use increases. Both author and reader arrive at their suspenseful peak at the novel’s slam-bang moment of truth—involving a weaponless Virgil, an armed, drugged-to-the-max Winston, and a ferociously hungry tiger. A Putnam hardcover. (Oct.)