I've said in previous reviews that I think this long-running series has lost a bit of its luster now that Lucas Davenport has left Minnesota and joined the Marshal's Service, and there's nothing about this book that would lead me to alter my opinion. I continue to believe that Davenport's new running buddies, Bob and Rae, are a pale substitute for the rich characters like Sloan, Del, Shrake and others who inhabited the earlier novels. Additionally, Sandford has long been known for creating complex, interesting and scary villains--antagonists who were worthy of a matchup with Lucas Davenport. That, too, is missing here.
The villain in this novel is a guy named Clayton Deese, who works as a leg-breaker for a New Orleans loan shark. But when an attempt to intimidate a late-paying customer goes wrong, Deese winds up in jail. He promptly skips bail and the marshalls are on his trail. They don't really care all that much about Deese; they're trying to build a case against his boss. But all that changes when the marshals raid Deesse's cabin in the woods and find a number of bodies buried behind the house. Even worse, it appears that Deese has been feasting on the more delectable parts of his victims.
Now a full-scale manhunt is underway with Lucas Davenport leading the search. Deese runs to California where he joins up with his brother and a couple of other guys who are doing brutal but profitable home invasions. Davenport, Bob and Rae will track Deese to California but will lose him and spend the rest of the book trying to track him down.
Deese is not a very interesting villain and, even allowing for the cannibalism, he doesn't come off as particularly scary. He doesn't remotely measure up to some of Sandford's earlier villains and hardly seems worthy of Davenport's attention. He also disappears for much of the time while the story focuses instead on the people he's teamed up with.
The book has its amusing and exciting moments, but there's no mystery about it, and very little tension. The whole story amounts to one extended manhunt and every reader knows that Davenport will get his man in the end, which raises the question, So what? Again, it's not a bad book, but it's not nearly in a league with the earlier Prey novels and a reader fresh to the series, if there is such a person among crime fiction fans, would be well advised to start at the beginning of the series rather that with Neon Prey.