Invisible Prey by John Sandford

I never know which of John Sandford’s “prey” series I’ve read, because the titles are all too similar, and I don’t remember much about the last book a year later, when the next comes out. I have read three or four of them so far, so although I don’t know much about the characters’ back-stories, I know enough to “place” them each time.

Reading Invisible Prey, the latest Minnesota outing for serious dandy (if that isn’t an oxymoron) Lucas Davenport, one is immediately struck by the way the main characters “belong”. The tale is told with an easy confidence. If you like police procedurals, and I do, this book is an almost perfect example of the genre.

At the outset, an elderly woman and her maid are killed in the woman’s house, but the items that were stolen seem to indicate a puzzling set of inconsistencies. Lucas Davenport, of the state police, is called in to assist the local detectives, but he is more preoccupied with heading off a political scandal in which a mother is accusing the president of the state’s senate of molesting her underage daughter — are they serious or are they in it for the money?

The best part of the book describes the details of both investigations: the painstaking collection of evidence in the murder-robbery, and the tactics needed by Lucas and his team to avoid getting caught by the cynical political machine. In the case of the murders, the reader knows more than the detectives, and it is fascinating to see from a position of some (but incomplete) knowledge how the investigators put the pieces slowly together. I particularly liked the way in which the perpetrators find themselves above suspicion and thus manage to stay one step ahead of the game, and how a chance event allows them to take advantage of the fact that Lucas is having to juggle the two cases.

I highly recommend this book: it is a mature, assured and straight-down-the-line crime story with no need for any "special effects"; it is cleverly plotted in the way the two cases are juxtaposed; it has heart – both in Lucas’s domestic life and in the sympathy we feel for several of the characters; although it concerns violence there is no unnecessary ghoulishness; and it is very well written.

I wish that each book in a series such as this one would carry a character biography (like the "PS" feature in Harper Perennials), so that regular readers can update themselves with what has gone before. One doesn’t need to know these details to enjoy the book, but it would be an enhancement to be reminded, say, of why Lucas has a teenage ward and whether she is his daughter by a TV editor, or if that is someone else. This is a minor quibble: the book is readable, well-plotted and generally excellent: I think the “prey” series is under-rated –- in my estimation, John Sandford is up there with Crais and Connelly.

Thanks to Karen of Euro Crime for enabling me to read this excellent book.

First posted at Petrona, October 2007.

This entry was posted in Books, Crime fiction, North America, Police procedural, Private investigator, Series, Translated, USA and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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