Cover image of "Righteous Prey," a novel about a murder conspiracy

Murder is serious enough, of course. Many deem the taking of another’s life the greatest of all crimes an individual may commit. But when a group of people get together to plot a series of murders—a murder conspiracy—surely that’s even worse. And that is exactly why Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers have been dragged into the case.

Lucas has been a US Federal Marshal for many years since he left the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). He got a call from one of the state’s US Senators, insisting he insert himself into the FBI investigation. And Lucas in turn drags in Virgil, a close friend and former colleague. Lucas is a legend in the Marshal Service. And Virgil has the best clearance rate in the BCA. But what can they possibly do that the FBI’s thousands of agents and massive forensic resources can’t do? Naturally, we’re going to find out in John Sandford’s thirty-second novel in the Lucas Davenport series, Righteous Prey.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Bitcoin billionaires in a nationwide murder conspiracy

Here’s what’s happening. A man who lived on the streets has turned up dead behind a dumpster in a downtown alley in San Francisco. He has the number “1” scrawled on his forehead with a marking pen. But he was only discovered because hours earlier someone sent out a press release announcing the killing on behalf of “The Five.” Apparently, The Five are a group of Bitcoin billionaires who have resolved to rid the world of “people who need to be murdered.” By killing them, one at a time. And leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Bitcoins to charities that help the sort of people the “assholes” preyed upon.

The street person in San Francisco is a case in point. He was, according to the press release, “a disgusting piece of human trash. He stole, he raped, he precipitated fights, he attacked elderly Asians,” and he probably killed other street people. There will be more like him. Murdered. Many more. And soon enough number 2 appears in the Twin Cities. Which is precisely why Lucas and Virgil now find themselves stuck in the case. In the middle of the most brutal winter in years.

Righteous Prey (Prey #32) by John Sandford (2022) 412 pages ★★★★★

Photo of some of the many books in John Sandford's "Prey" series of detective novels like the one in this review, a novel about a murder conspiracy
Sandford has written thirty-two books in the Prey series starring Lucas Davenport and fourteen in the spinoff series featuring Virgil Flowers. Image: eBay

An unlikely story but supremely entertaining

It turns out that there are not five people in this murder conspiracy, but six. The Five are, indeed, Bitcoin billionaires. Four men and one woman. And the sixth, a younger Asian woman, organized the group. She sends out the press releases. We know all this because we meet them, one at a time, in the course of the investigation. Although The Five insist that they’re killing “assholes,” it’s hard not to conclude that all six of these people aptly fit the bill themselves. Lucas and Virgil will, of course, be instrumental in discovering their identities and in ending the killings. The FBI plays only a supportive role, mostly at the FBI Lab. Which is unlikely, of course. But John Sandford makes it supremely entertaining, with nonstop action and lots of humor in the banter between his two heroes. Righteous Prey is as good as they come in this long-running series.

About the author

Photo of John Sandford, author of this novel about a murder conspiracy
John Roswell Camp, aka John Sandford. Image: Penguin Random House

On his website, the author writes that “John Sandford is the pseudonym of John Roswell Camp, an American author and journalist. Camp won the Pulitzer Prize in journalism in 1986 and was one of four finalists for the prize in 1980. He also was the winner of the Distinguished Writing Award of the American Society of Newspaper Editors for 1985.

“Camp is the author of fifty-four published novels, as of the summer of 2022, all of which have appeared, in one format or another, on the New York Times best-seller lists, many debuting at #1. In addition to the Prey, Virgil Flowers, and Letty Davenport novels, all part of the Prey universe, he is also the co-author of three young-adult books in the Singular Menace series, written with Michele Cook, and co-author of the science-fiction thriller Saturn Run with Ctein.

“He is the author of two non-fiction books, one on art and one on plastic surgery. His books have been translated into most European and Middle Eastern languages, as well as Japanese and Korean.”

For more reading

I’ve reviewed all of John Sandford’s excellent Virgil Flowers novels published to date as well as many of the Prey books and the excellent science fiction novel he coauthored, Saturn Run.

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