Monday, June 26, 2017

Phantom Prey

Phantom Prey
by John Sandford
Recommended Ages: 14+

When Lucas Davenport, a highly successful agent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is on the case, the bad guys - be they living or be they dead - had better look out. This fact is put to the test in this crime thriller, in which the sleuth takes time off surveillance of an escaped gangster's gorgeous, exhibitionist wife, to help one of his wife's friends figure out who killed her daughter.

The crime is very mysterious: no body has been found, only a splash of blood on the wallpaper, and a few fragments of bloody paper towel stuck between the tiles on the kitchen floor. At first, it isn't even a sure thing a murder has taken place; but Alyssa Austin is both a tough businesswoman, good at getting her way, and a somewhat goofy new-ager who claims to have received reliable advice from the spirit world. Bottom line, Weather (that's Davenport's wife) wants him on the case. So, on the case he goes.

Naturally, bodies immediately start dropping. Someone in the Twin Cities' goth scene (you know, those folks who dress all in black and wear black-on-white makeup) is killing other goths, and in a crazy way, it's connected with the Austin girl's disappearance. If I told you how crazy, or what this has to do with villains from beyond the veil of death, I would be spoiling the whole creepy, edgy, death-and-gore-drenched plot for you. And you wouldn't want to miss all the psychological and paranormal twistedness. The shivers and goosebumps alone are worth the ride, but added to them are the thrills of a vanilla shoot-'em-up with hardened criminals.

This is the 18th of currently 27 "Lucas Davenport" mysteries by John Sandford, a pen-name of Pulitzer-winning journalist John Camp. Click here for a mansplanation of why I'm reading this series so atrociously out of canon order; sorry, I'm just tired of repeating it.

This is the type of mystery in which the reader finds out whodunit long before the detectives do; then you writhe in agonizing suspense while they pick up the trail of clues and bumble after it, trying (but never quite succeeding) in catching the bad guy before more dastardly deeds are done. And of course, while Davenport slowly but steadily closes in on his quarry, he/she/it (whatever) looks back, sees the danger, and inevitably, thinks about striking at him. If you're the type of mystery reader who, observing this is only book 18 of 27, reasons the danger the hero is in may be taken lightly, consider: he gets shot and seriously injured while working this case. But it doesn't stop him; which is good, because that means there will be more tough, smart, funny, sexy, and unusually scary (even for this series) crime-solving fun.

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