Now, 25 novels into John Sandford’s excellent Lucas Davenport series, I’m beginning to wonder whether the population of Minnesota includes a wildly disproportionate number of psychotic serial killers. Of course, that’s the case only in the author’s fevered imagination — which might lead me to suspect his own mental stability were it not for the skill and good humor with which he writes these novels. Also because they invariably feature not just wildly imaginative violence and improbable miscreants but also attractive characters (not the killers), a generous dose of humor, and grip-the-edge-of-your-chair suspense.
Gathering Prey is the 25th installment in the venerable “Prey” series, and it shows Sandford at the top of his form. As any reader of these intriguing police procedurals is well aware, the protagonist, Lucas Davenport, detective extraordinaire, is the independently wealthy senior officer in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (“We apprehend criminals, not just investigate them.”). He’s married to a beautiful pediatric surgeon named Weather, and the couple has adopted a daughter named Letty, whom Davenport rescued as a child from a shootout in a much earlier tale. Letty, now an undergraduate student at Stanford, aspires to a career in law enforcement and sometimes meddles in her father’s investigations.
Gathering Prey (Lucas Davenport #25) by John Sandford @@@@ (4 out of 5)
This time around, Davenport and his trusty crew of sidekicks — Flowers, Jenkins, and Shrake — are scattered around the state on separate cases when word of (yes) a gang of psychotic serial killers with a troubling resemblance to the Manson Family surfaces close to home. (They’re from California, of course. Los Angeles, even, where psychotic serial killers may not be so unusual.) While the members of Davenport’s team continue their work elsewhere, Davenport picks up the scent of the spree killers through a chance encounter that Letty has with one member of the gang. His pursuit of the killers takes him far off the track of his assignments, exacerbating his already tenuous relationship with the director of the Bureau, who tries mightily (and unsuccessfully, of course) to steer Davenport back to officially sanctioned business.
You can find reviews here for other John Sandford novels: Mad River, Stolen Prey, Shock Wave, Deadline, Field of Prey, Silken Prey, Storm Prey, and Phantom Prey. (Titles that don’t include the word “prey” feature investigator Virgil Flowers.)
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