Find Virgil: A Novel of Revenge by Frank Freudberg

Published: 15th October 2013
Goodreads badgePublisher: Inside Job Media
Pages: 358
Format: ebook
Genre: Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Get inside the mind of a serial killer as you never have before. 

 Is Martin Muntor a villain or a victim? Can you picture yourself rooting for a madman to succeed in an ingenious plot to kill hundreds of people?
It’s 1995, and the tobacco industry thinks it’s invincible. But is it? Second-hand smoke gave Muntor lung cancer, and he’s mad. Very mad…and he’s not going to go quietly.

Muntor devises a lethal plan to put the cigarette companies out of business, and he doesn’t care how many people have to die in order to make that happen.
Hapless private investigator Tommy Rhoads has to find Muntor, and fast. But that’s not going to be so easy. Muntor’s smart and has nothing to lose, and the FBI doesn’t want Rhoads’s help.
Rhoads has a lot at stake – personally and professionally – and he’s desperate to stop the killer.
Who will prevail? Big Tobacco or the dying madman?
Read Find Virgil now, and go along for the wild ride.
   You’ll never forget it.

Note: I was provided a copy of this book for review

I have to admit I wavered between three and four stars with this one; I thought about it and decided four was the way to go. For the parts I really liked made it more five than four, and easily outweighed the few parts that made it a three.

 Find Virgil follows Martin Muntor, a victim of second hand smoke that has resulted in lung cancer who now wants justice and revenge against the tobacco companies he believes to be at fault. We follow Muntor as he plans and executes his moment of triumph in his dying days; we also follow the FBI agents who hunt him, and the tobacco giant who is the focus of Muntor’s attention. Acting under the name Virgil, Muntor starts his plan to educate the world about the harm cigarettes will do, hoping to bring down the tobacco companies in the process.

I liked the concept of Find Virgil. I liked the idea of this guy, who had done everything right in his life to suddenly be struck down with cancer and wanting to take it out on those he feel wronged him. While I’ll admit it probably wasn’t the best way to go about it, and Muntor isn’t the greatest person personality-wise even before the cancer, it was extremely clever and well planned revenge. You can’t help but admire “Virgil” as he taunts the FBI. He is smart and his jovial nature and committed attitude make you like him even more, and watching as he manages to stay a step ahead and seeing the care and thought Muntor has put into his scheme is excellent.

While ‘Virgil’ takes the FBI’s attention, we get to see Martin Muntor behind the scenes, we see inside his head and how he is gradually moving towards his next stage in his scheme. There are a few secrets hidden from the reader, but not many, we stay a step behind Muntor, just as the FBI but we also have the benefit of Muntor’s point of view, providing us with partial plans and hints at what his next move will be.

There are moments where the story has the ability to pull you along quickly and you want to find out what will happen next. This is balanced by other times where you are quite content with the slower pace, intrigued by the FBI investigation and Muntor’s plans and simply watching it unfold; there always seems to be something happening to keep you reading.

The narrative covers a short period of time really well. The events in the novel occur in a period of about a month, with a lot happening in that time and Freudberg manages to capture a real time feel for the events that happen. This grounds the novel well, highlighting the realistic nature of Muntor’s acts and the FBI investigation and an overall natural feel to the entire storyline.

Set in the mid 1990s it is a great reminder of all the joys the 90s technology brought us like car phones, video tapes, and fax machines in cars. There is also the benefit of being less technologically advanced, meaning there is a greater focus on investigative and theoretic police work without a lot of reliability of technology, there is also greater room for Muntor to do his work with less restrictions and high tech security. That is not to say there isn’t some technology, being the FBI they have a few tools at their disposal, but there are also a lot of expert consultations with people who are leaders in their field that are a nice change from simply forensically analysing everything and relying on video footage at every possible chance. Trying to get inside the mind of ‘Virgil’ is the goal, and figuring out what he is going to do next.

Everyone has an agenda through this book; each character is looking for something, working towards something, and trying to get something from someone else. We not only follow Muntor and the FBI, but also Rhoads, the retired cop turned PI who has been mysteriously connected to the case, as well as Nicholas Pratt, the CEO of a tobacco company that is the focus of Muntor’s revenge. There are a range of additional characters and points of view that Freudberg uses in the story, all connected and intertwined with one another making a complicated array of characters. Because of this there are many things happening at once that overlap and interact with one another; highlighting each character’s personal motives and intentions.

I found that I really enjoyed Muntor’s story as well as the FBI’s search for him, but what I was not that fussed about was Pratt’s. I understand that they were all connected and one couldn’t happen without the other, but I felt that Muntor’s story was more engaging, while I never got into Pratt’s side as much. Granted they had very different storylines but I found myself not really caring about the people mixed up in Pratt’s line, whereas with Muntor’s and even Rhoads’ story I became easily caught up in what was happening. Because of this there was a steady rise and fall in my engagement as we switched focus. Not that Pratt’s side wasn’t interesting or clever, it just didn’t seem to hold my attention like Muntor’s did.

I’m sure it’s a bit wrong to enjoy the pleasure and total disregard ‘Virgil’ has, but I had to admire him. Muntor doesn’t care about the people he is hurting, as the FBI profilers determine, he thinks he is better than everyone else and he believes what he is doing is the right thing. As it says in the synopsis, you do actually find yourself rooting for the madman, which sounds terrible when you realise he plans to kill hundreds of innocent people but in a clever way Muntor doesn’t come across as a madman either. This is Freudberg ‘s great skill, we get inside Muntor’s head, his reasoning and justifications and you actually understand what he is doing. Freudberg  also focuses the plot around the characters a lot so you also don’t have time to contemplate just how evil Muntor’s plan is which manages to continually keep you on Muntor’s side. I did find myself rooting for both Muntor and the FBI. It’s like watching a nature documentary, you love the little baby impala and want it to be ok, but then you suddenly switch and start cheering on the lion that wants to eat it.

Freudberg’s story is driven with unique and curious characters and a well developed and complex narrative, that provides you with a good case of intrigue and wondering if, how, and when ‘Virgil’ will be caught, and who and how many will suffer in the meantime.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. F. Freudberg
    Aug 24, 2014 @ 23:58:18

    Thank you for such a positive and detailed review of my novel. I genuinely appreciate the time you spent reading it and writing your review — I know you have many, many books to choose from, so your selection of “Find Virgil” means a lot. Good luck with your terrific blog.



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