Monday, February 5, 2024

The Investigator

The Investigator
by John Sandford
Recommended Ages: 14+

Letty Davenport, for those of us who are doing a middling job of following John Sandford's "Prey" series, is the adopted daughter of a sometime Minneapolis cop, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension detective and U.S. Marshal, who encouraged her enthusiasm for guns, and with good reasons. One reason is that, before she joined his family, she hunted for survival and winged the guy who killed her birth mother. Another reason is that she also killed two killers who came after Lucas's family. Now she's out of college with a master's degree in economics from a major left-coast university, and she's working for a senator in Washington, D.C. Her idea of a fun assignment is breaking into her boss's campaign headquarters to dig up evidence on the staffers who are stealing from him. She's ready to quit and move on to something more exciting when the senator offers her a different job: working alongside a Department of Homeland Security investigator named John Kaiser to figure out why oil is disappearing in Texas.

Yes, obviously, somebody is stealing it. But why? Who are they selling it to, and what do they want the money for? The crime is so nearly undetectable that Letty wonders why anyone cares. But clearly, it's more important than it seems at first look, since at least two people, and counting, have died over it. First it's an oil company employee and his wife, ruthlessly slain in their own home. Then this crime somehow seems connected with the disapearance of an ex-con who testified against his former cellmate. Said cellmate is a right-wing kook who, along with a woman mysteriously code-named Jael, is assembling a mob of anti-immigration yahoos at the Tex-Mex border, and the closer Letty and Kaiser get to understanding what they plan to do, the more the timetable accelerates toward a brutal endgame.

This book's release is recent enough that it acknowledges a certain kinship between what Letty and Kaiser are up against and what the U.S. Capitol Police dealt with on Jan. 6, 2021. I don't want to get into an ideological hairball about that, so I'll just point out that if you have a problem understanding why 1-6-21 was a matter of serious concern, this book's fictitious scenario may set you straight. Or you could just experience the thrill of seeing Letty move around behind the lines held by a group of insurrectionists who have cold murder on their C.V. and more death and mayhem on their to-do list. It's that exquisite cocktail of being afraid for her, being afraid of her, dreading what the bad guys may do and gleefully anticipating what will happen to them. And it leaves a door open for even more hair-raising adventures to come.

This is the first of, as of this writing, two Letty Davenport novels by John Sandford, a pseudonym of sometime journalist John Camp. He is also the author (or at least co-author) of now 34 "Prey" novels, featuring Letty's adoptive father, Lucas Davenport; 12 books in the spinoff "Virgil Flowers" series, four "Kidd" novels (from early in his career); and multiple other titles, branching out into young adult fiction and sci fi.

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