Friday, October 3, 2014

FIELD OF PREY by John Sandford

John Sandford

            If you have read my previous reviews of John Sandford’s books, you are aware of my dissatisfaction with his recent writing. Because of a character’s contradicting backstory, from one book to the next, less-then-scintillating plots, and some sub-par quality writing, I swore off reading Sandford….well, except for his Virgil Flowers books, as I love Virgil. But, even those books disappointed.

            For some reason, I happened to pick up the latest in Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series, Field of Prey, and began to read. And, am I glad that I did!

            In Field of Prey, teenagers parking at a deserted farm one night notice a horrific smell. When the police investigate, they discover a cistern filled with the remains of victims of a serial killer. And, of one thing Lucas is sure, the killer lives nearby.

            Lucas does not lead this investigation, although he does work the case. He and his team are searching for a white collar criminal who had bilked thousands in a Ponzi scheme and who was either dead or had faked his own death. They are also working on a case involving two elderly couples buying and selling weapons and drugs out of their RV. And, the mentally ill brother of a bank robber who had been killed by police during a bank robbery is threatening Lucas and Jenkins, as they had provided information to the police who had killed his brother. Virgil was on vacation, but upon return, is working on a different mysterious murder case. While his team is working these cases, Lucas assists with what has been dubbed the “Black Hole” case. And, of course, Lucas does eventually solve the case.

            Field of Prey seems to me to be more realistic than Sandford’s other recent work. Although the plot is not a “juicy” terrorist network or other hard to believe course of events like those other works, it is a complex, twisting, and nasty plot. In fact, this book scared the crap out of me – I took extra care to lock the doors and set the alarm while I was reading. Sandford has us following the logic used to resolve the case – unlike those other recent works, this path is not filled with gaping holes. I thought the process followed is coherent and believable. And, having Lucas monitor Shrake and Jenkins, who are off on the one case, Del, who is off on the second, and Virgil, who eventually is off on a third, gives the book a more authentic feel. The book also has decent balance between Lucas’s work and the development of his home life.

            My thought, while reading Field of Prey, is that Sandford really wrote this. I have no evidence to support this – or evidence that he did not write the other recent works (or, that he didn’t write them alone) – but this book feels quintessentially Sandford. For example, at a point when the fifteenth skull had been found in the cistern, Del says “[s]omebody’s been a bad, bad boy.” (p 31). Perhaps more fitting, though, is when Sandford describes Lucas deciding where to park his Porsche at the BCA: “Today, he would park within pistol range.” (p 20). While experiencing Field of Prey, I was excited to encounter the Davenport of old and the Sandford experience of old. I am very surprised, therefore, to read reviewers who wonder if someone else wrote Field of Prey or who complain about the plot.

            In my opinion, Sandford is back. Field of Prey is Sandford at his best.


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