Saturday, January 22, 2011

This is, to my mind, probably the least successful of John Sandford's Prey series. That's not to say that I didn't like it, but inevitably in any long-running series, I suppose, one book has to be the best and another has to be the worst, even if they are all quite good.

At the end of the book that preceded this one, Sandford's protagonist, Lucas Davenport, was forced to leave the Minneapolis police force. As this book opens, Davenport is at loose ends and his other activities are not filling the empty spaces or giving him the rush that he got out of being a cop. Then Dr. Michael Bekker, a particularly sadistic killer that Davenport had previously arrested, escapes from custody and begins a new killing spree in New York.

The NYPD brings Davenport in as a consultant to help catch the guy and give the PD some media cover. But the New York cops have a deeper agenda as well. A group of vigilantes has been taking bad guys off the street and may have claimed as many as forty victims. Thus far, only a handful of top cops have realized that the deaths may be the work of a single killer or group of killers. Almost certainly, the vigilantes have inroads deep into police intelligence and may be cops themselves. Under the cover of consulting on the Bekker case, the NY brass want Davenport to track down the vigilantes who have been given the name the Robin Hoods. Davenport is eager for the challenge which brings him back into the orbit of an old lover, Lily Rothenberg, and a potential new one in the female detective with whom he is paired.

Davenport is as tough and as witty as usual, but he's also something of a fish out of water in the big city, especially since this book is missing the usual cast of characters that surrounds Lucas. As a result, this book has a much different feel than most of the others in the series and doesn't feel quite "right."

Compounding matters is the fact that Sandford had already written one book with Bekker as the creepy villain, and unfortunately, Bekker is not one of Sandford's better bad guys. One book with him was more than enough; two was at least one too many. Later in the series, Sandford would carry another villain over from one book to another very successfully, but it doesn't really work here.

Still, this is a good read--several notches above a lot of the other books in this genre. As always, it's fun to watch Lucas in action, even if in New York. But it's even nicer to see him get back to the Twin Cities where he belongs in the next book.

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