John Sandford’s millionaire investigator takes on the alt-right

Lucas Davenport is one of the most engaging protagonists in all of crime fiction, and he has proven as popular as he is commanding. Davenport’s creator, John Sandford, has just published Masked Prey, the thirtieth bestseller in the Prey series that features the millionaire investigator. Here, in the latest entry in the Lucas Davenport series, he takes on the alt-right.

In this newest story, Davenport has long since left behind his career in the number two position in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. For several years now, he has worked as a United States Marshall, indulging Sandford’s taste for cases that involve nationwide implications which are often political.


Masked Prey (Prey #30) by John Sandford (2020) 416 pages @@@@@ (5 out of 5)


Politics is at the heart of this case

Politics—in this case, the politics of the United States Senate—is central to this novel. Two teenagers who attend a toney private school in suburban Washington DC stumble upon a website that features photos of six children. They’re all the children of Senators, and almost all Democrats.

One of the two teenagers is the daughter of a Democratic Senator who faces a tough reelection, and her photo is included there along with a compendium of articles from alt-right sources. It appears as though whoever posted the site is hoping that some Right-Wing nut will kidnap or murder one of the children, enabling the creators of the site to put pressure on Senators who fear their own children may be killed. At least, that’s the assumption that everyone in this novel jumps to without a second thought.

Sandford’s millionaire investigator to the rescue

When the FBI discovers the site, the two US Senators from Minnesota get wind of it. They resolve to take charge of the case. The two insist on calling in Davenport, whom they know from the Twin Cities, to track down the group that posted the site. Quietly, since they want no publicity about the case.

After meeting with the two Senators, Davenport goes to work with the senior agent assigned to the case by the FBI and two colleagues in the Marshall’s Service. They set out to investigate the neo-Nazi and other Right-Wing extremist groups in the Washington, DC region whom they think might be responsible for putting up the site.

You’ll learn a lot about guns

It turns out that a lot of Right-Wing groups in the region advocate violence, and they all carry guns. Many, many guns. If you learn nothing else from this book, you’ll come to understand something about the range of views on the violent alt-right and the current state of firearms technology in the United States. (Spoiler alert: it’s scary.) Sandford, who was a Pulitzer-winning journalist before he turned to writing thrillers, is adept at research. In every one of his novels you can depend on learning something about several topics that prove to be crucial to the case at hand. In Masked Prey, the most prominent of those topics is guns.

If you wonder how so many lunatics can get their hands on weapons designed for war, consider this: the best estimates suggest that there are nearly 400 million firearms in the hands of private citizens in America, far more in fact than there are people.

A worthy addition to the Lucas Davenport series

Don’t expect this story to travel in straight lines. John Sandford doesn’t do simple. The case in Masked Prey is complex as always, full of twists and turns in the plot and plenty of danger for Davenport. It’s a deeply satisfying read and a worthy addition to the Lucas Davenport series.

For additional reading

I’ve reviewed a great many other Lucas Davenport novels, most recently #19, Wicked Prey (The clever detectives of Lucas Davenport’s BCA meet three challenges). You can find all the others by typing his name in the search box at the top of the Home Page. I’ve also reviewed all the books about Davenport’s most enterprising agent at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension at John Sandford’s excellent Virgil Flowers novels.

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