Monday, July 3, 2017

Silken Prey

Silken Prey
by John Sandford
Recommended Ages: 14+

It's election time in Minnesota, and the incumbent Republican U.S. Senator has been caught with child porn on his campaign office computer. The governor, although a Democrat, believes Porter Smalls when he says he's being framed. But with two weeks to go before the election, this vicious attempt to hijack the election may not be fixable. Nevertheless, the governor asks his friend, state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent and all-purpose fixer Lucas Davenport, to prove whether Smalls is guilty or innocent before election day.

Davenport's job gets tougher when he realizes the planting of the porn is probably connected with the disappearance of a Democratic Party "political" - which here means "master of dirty tricks," among other things - named Tubbs. Tubbs apparently scored a stash of kiddie porn from someone at the Minneapolis Police Department, where the pictures were part of an evidence file from a three-year-old vice case; then he worked through a spy inside the Smalls campaign to set up a smutty booby trap on the senator's computer. The person most likely to benefit from this is Smalls' Democratic challenger, a silken beauty (hence the book's title) named Taryn Grant. Grant has brains; she has money; and she has a couple of ex-military guys on her security detail with experience as stone-cold killers. They could totally get away with killing Tubbs, and later, his campaign-staffer spy, without leaving any evidence pointing back at themselves. But can Davenport prove they did?

His chance comes on election night, when the Grant campaign is moving back and forth between her heavily-guarded house and the hotel where she plans to accept her victory in the election, if she wins. Sometime during that night, Davenport learns, one of Grant's goons is going to kill the other and bury his body near that of Tubbs. Best-case scenario: they stop the murder while it's in progress. Next-best: A hair-raising chase into a November night, trying to follow a killer without letting him realize he's being followed. Meantime, Lucas' long-time friend Kidd, an artist with a sideline in computer hacking, and his cat-burglar wife get mixed up in the deadly scenario, drawn into a hotbed of murder and betrayal by the tempting gleam of jewels in Grant's bedroom safe.

I had read several books beyond this in the series before I came back around to this book, so I had a weird experience while reading it. For one thing, I happen to know Taryn Grant is at least mentioned later in this series, and one of her bodyguards (not implicated in any criminal business) shows up on Governor Henderson's security detail in Extreme Prey. For another thing, this is at least the second case Davenport has worked with BCA colleague Bob Shaffer, whose entirely different approach to crime-solving proves to be his undoing in the book after this. These continuities, along with the ongoing development of several other interesting, recurring characters, are among the reasons this series still works after so many books. Besides the fact that each crime presents a unique problem, the series benefits greatly from a group of well-developed characters and relationships that are a welcome addition to the ruthlessly driven Lucas - himself a fascinatingly imperfect figure, and certainly one you wouldn't want to see when you glance over your shoulder while fleeing a crime.

This is the 23rd 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. Next on deck is Book 24, Field of Prey, which was the first book in the series that I read. So, it's come full circle now -- except for the first 14 books, which I haven't read yet, and Book 19, which I unavoidably skipped. Stay tuned...

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