Lackluster. That's the best, and saddest word I can find to describe 'Bloody Genius'.
All the John Sanford prerequisites are there - our favorite characters, a new interesting one, and seemingly unsolvable crime, but they did not add up to a good book. The dialogue is boring, the characters are uncharacteristically flat, one dimensional caricatures of themselves and the normally outrageously charming Virgil Flowers has evidently been neutered with the advent of the birth of his twins. The guy on the bar stool, Harry, a secondary character, has the most energy of the bunch. And he's clearly the most astute.
. . . "But I get three types at my McDonalds. I got kids who want to make money for a whole lot of reasons, and they're serious about it. They want to buy a car or go to college, or whatever. They hang in there, and they're determined and they'll work hard until they get what they want. Or a better job. Good kids. Hate to seem them go, but they always do. Then I got the kids who don't have any choice. Maybe they've got to work to eat, maybe they're bright enough to work at McDonalds but don't have a lot going for themselves. I like those kids because I've had some stay with my for twenty years. But the third type: they're no g*dd*mn(**) good."
"How's that different than it's always been?" Virgil asked?
"It is, believe me. There have always been kids who were no d*mn(**) good, but now it's everywhere. Everywhere. It's kids who know they're not going to be millionaires or billionaires or movie stars or famous singers, or in the NBA and it's all they want. They can't see past that. It's like they're not alive if they're not on TV. They don't want to be doctors or dentists or lawyers or businessmen, they want to be rich and famous right now. They don't want to work. All they want to be is a celebrity. Then at some point they realize it ain't gonna happen. They're not talented enough or smart enough, and they sure as sh*t(**) don't want to work at getting to be famous. When they figure that out, that it ain't gonna happen, they turn mean."
"Mean?" Virgil said.
"That's right, mean," Harry said. "You'll get kids who'll kill you for no reason. To feel important. What's more important than killing somebody? You say, you'll go to prison. They don't care. They don't even care if they die. They'll tell you that. 'Go ahead and kill me, I got no life.'" . . .
Referring to someone's response to the depth of Harry's reaction to a school shooting and what he would publicly do to the shooter,
"No. What she said was, 'If you did that, the guy would be on TV. He'd be happy. He'd be famous. He was on TV.' Being on f**n'(**) TV. Being on the internet. She's right, I know some of those kids."
'Bloody Genius' is a slow read. The clues are inventive red herrings but they lead to an infuriatingly maddening and trite denouement.
If you have never read a John Sanford novel, please, please don't start with this one. It's a mouldering corpse of the lively and fun books that came before it . . .
Bloody Genius is neither bloody nor genius.
** I included the quotes because I found them not only profound but also the most profound thing about 'Bloody Genius'. Granted, I have no expectation that this genre of books would be profound, but I can always hope. I asterisked letters of particular words in the quotes simply because I do not know the KCLS guidlines about their spelling and use in direct quotes from books.