Sunday, April 27, 2014

Way Down In The Hole

Field of Prey
by John Sandford

4 out of 5 bodies in a well liked this book.

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A serial killer has been using an old well in a remote field to dump the bodies of women he has abducted over the years and when it’s discovered the police find over 20 corpses that have turned into what one cop describes as ‘bean soup’. The media hysteria is instant and rabid over what they dub The Black Hole Murders so the political pressure being put on the police and politicians is enormous. As usual when Minnesota cops have a crime that will get people fired they put in a call to their head rat catcher, Lucas Davenport. With most of his usual crew off on various assignments of their own, Lucas works a lot with a smart but abrasive female deputy from the county where the bodies were found.

The Prey series has done its fair share of serial killer plots, but my favorites tend to be the ones where the villains had more interesting motives than just being psychotic. The recent books had gotten away from that concept so I was a little concerned at the start of this when it seemed like Sandford was just doing an old familiar plot but turning the dial up to 11 by throwing an overwhelming amount of bodies at the reader. 

However, I should have had more faith because the story takes several unexpected turns and ends up being one of the ones where Lucas is at his most emotionally engaged. While I’ve always liked the way that Davenport has mostly been portrayed as a guy doing a job he loves rather than the stereotypical burned out cop, with his stable home life and realistic perspective about the limits of what he can do there can be an impression that he’s just gliding over the carnage without it really impacting him. Events here take a turn that has him fully engaged in a way we haven’t seen in a while other than threats to his family, and that’s what just kept this from feeling like another rematch of Lucas Vs. The Serial Killer.

As with most of the Davenport books, the killer is introduced early and the tension comes from watching the cat-and-mouse game between him and Lucas from both perspectives although Sandford holds back a few items to keep the reader guessing. Sandford also remains one of the best I’ve ever read at creating a sense of momentum at times that makes me want to pace as I read because I can barely stay in my chair.

It also seems like change is on the horizon for Lucas. There are several references that when the Minnesota governor leaves that Lucas will be out too, and a few other things that could be hints that Lucas’s time with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension may be coming to an end. Sandford has talked about ending the series in the near future although his web site also states that he may keep doing Davenport but end the Prey naming format. He may be 70 years old, but with the quality remaining this high I’d like to see him keep going for another 10 or 20 years.

Also posted on Goodreads.

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