Following the events of the twenty-fifth book in this series, Gathering Prey, Lucas Davenport decided to hang up his spurs and leave his job at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. For the first time in years, and for the first time in this long-running series, Lucas is no longer a lawman of any kind. He's very contentedly spending the summer adding an addition to his cabin in Wisconsin, with the assistance of a carpenter named Jimi. Lucas's former subordinate, that F***in' Virgil Flowers, observes that Jimi "has the best ass north of Highway 8." Lucas insists that he never even noticed.
The job is nearing completion when Lucas gets a call from his former boss, Minnesota Governor Elmer Henderson. Elmer is running for the presidency and is out in Iowa, campaigning for the state's upcoming Democratic party caucus. The leading contender for the Democratic nomination is a woman named Michaela Bowden, and truth to tell, Henderson doesn't expect that he can win the nomination. He's actually hoping that Bowden will pick him as her vice-presidential running mate.
Out on the trail, though, Henderson hears some disturbing news, suggesting that there may be an attempt on Bowden's life. Both campaigns, naturally, are knee-deep in security, but Davenport has always been Henderson's go-to guy when facing a difficult problem like this. Henderson convinces Davenport to come to Iowa and investigate. Lucas will have the assistance of various law enforcement agencies, but when push comes to shove, he's only a private citizen and the lack of a badge will cause him all kinds of complications that he never experienced before.
Lucas discovers an aging band of Iowa political radicals that have been protesting since the Sixties, and he comes to believe that some members of the group may actually have plans to assassinate Bowden. There are a couple of murders early on which muddy the waters, but which also convince Lucas that the assassination scheme is probably real.
Through the course of the book, Davenport races around the state of Iowa attempting to foil the scheme before it's too late. Sadly, though, he doesn't have the assistance of his old teammates like Del, Jenkins and Shrake. Much of the action centers around Iowa City, Des Moines and Davenport's namesake city on the Mississippi. As always, there's a great deal of witty humor in and around a very serious series of crimes, and the tension ratchets up to a great and bloody climax.
I especially enjoyed this particular entry in the series because I lived for many years in Illinois, right across the river from Davenport, Iowa and graduated from the University in Iowa City. I've driven about a million miles along these same Iowa roads, and it was great fun watching Lucas moving through such familiar territory.
Living in western Illinois, I was also subjected every four years to the circus that revolves around the Iowa caucuses. For well over a year, presidential candidates inhabit the state and the local news media devote tons of newsprint and hour after hour of radio and television coverage to their appearances and exploits. For months on end, the citizens of Iowa and western Illinois are barraged with ads for the various candidates, and so the story seemed very familiar in that regard as well. I can only wish that Lucas Davenport had been racing around during the real caucus season to provide some badly needed levity and intelligence to the scene.
Naturally, the media in Iowa and western Illinois love this setup; they make millions of dollars every four years selling ads to the various candidates. But the end result, of course, is that one very small state, which is not remotely representative of the nation as a whole, has a hugely outsized effect on the selection of a president. If only Davenport could have found a solution to that problem while he was on the job out in the Hawkeye State...