Monday, May 22, 2017

Extreme Prey

Extreme Prey
by John Sandford
Recommended Ages: 14+

In this 26th of (to date) 27 "Lucas Davenport" novels, Lucas visits Davenport - the city in Iowa - among other points of interest in the big, corn-and-soybean-growing state south of his usual Minnesota stomping grounds. Although he no longer works for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension - sorry about the spoiler, if you didn't read Book 25, Gathering Prey - Davenport is still at the beck and call of Minnesota Gov. Elmer Henderson1, who is now running for (ahem) vice president. So when Henderson, out on the campaign trail for the Iowa Caucuses, picks up on hints that someone is planning a deadly misadventure for another candidate, Davenport comes to Davenport, etc.

He comes, to start, hoping he will find out there's nothing to it. But first a consultation with a (mostly) retired cybercriminal named Kidd, then another with a shrink named Sister Mary Joseph, convince him the threat is serious. Soon Lucas is working more or less with the cooperation of Iowa's equivalent of the BCA, trying to narrow down a long list of members of fringe political groups in search of a white-haired woman and her gray-eyed son matching Henderson's description of the fanatics who approached him.

The two would-be killers soon escalate to actual killing, yet in spite of their crude methods, remain remarkably elusive. Part of this has to do with another political radical having her own reasons to cover up past shenanigans, including a bombing that wasn't meant to kill three people, but did. Davenport isn't helped by the fact that he is soon chasing two entirely separate killers, or groups of killers, with overlapping agendas and motives; solving one crime won't necessarily lead him to the other killers. But time is running out before the big event - the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines - where the candidate with the most to lose will be most vulnerable to losing it, and where even two well-identified suspects may be hard to pick out of the crowd.

Writing at the top of the form that has made this series, as far as I've followed it, unputdownable, John Sandford (an alias of sometime newspaper writer John Camp) packs a lot of scenic detail, character insight, tight dialogue, and gee-whiz investigative techniques into a steadily accelerating thrill-ride of fun, action, and suspense. I make no promises that if you read this book, you will be experiencing literature for the ages. But I guarantee it will provide an engaging diversion from whatever you want to be diverted from, while exercising all kinds of nerves and brain connections that may not get shaken down often enough. I'm at the end of the series for now (until the next book, Golden Prey, comes out in paperback), but I might go back to the beginning and enjoy it all the way through from Book 1.

1 It's a great name for a fictional politician from a state that has had three governors named Elmer (a Benson, an Anderson, and an Andersen). This is why, when my Dad had a friend named Elmer Anderson and teasingly called him "Governor," the joke worked.

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