Book Review: Extreme Prey

John Sandford’s starring police detective, Lucas Davenport, returns in Extreme Prey for a “hair-raising” tale of political intrigue and assassination.

About the time the 12th novel appeared in John Sandford’s splendid Prey series featuring police detective Lucas Davenport, I began worrying he would run out of steam.

He has published another 12 superb Davenport novels since then and, incredibly, during the past nine years, has combined this with eight novels in a second wonderful series featuring one of Davenport’s subordinates. (Virgil Flowers is a ‘country mouse’ roaming rural Minnesota investigating complex crimes.)

Last year’s Gathering Prey seemed weaker in plot than its predecessors and even somewhat elegiac because Sandford appeared to ‘kill off’ Davenport. Unable to tolerate his new boss, Davenport resigns and retires. End of saga? Not quite. My sorrow proved premature. Davenport is back in Extreme Prey, working for his old friend, Minnesota Governor Henderson, who is contesting the Iowa presidential primary against popular Democrat Michaela Bowden.

Everybody knows Michaela has only to be nominated to win the presidency. What Henderson covertly aspires to is the vice–presidency. This would give him a basis for running for president eight years later.

Unhappily, a very disgruntled farmer, Marlys Purdy, has decided that it would be better for rural America if Henderson becomes president now and, with her psychopath son, Cole, is determined to get rid of what she idiotically believes is Henderson’s only obstacle: Michaela Bowden.

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Momentarily buttonholed by this agreeable seeming but barking–mad middle–aged lady, Henderson picks up a terrifying hint. Just in case the governor’s fears are well–founded, Davenport must track down this unknown woman knowing only she is medium height, plump with short curly grey hair.

Davenport recognises this describes 80 percent of women in Minnesota over the age of 50! Nevertheless, he cannot refuse the job. If the governor’s fears are right, the conspirators will assassinate the best Democrat candidate for president to appear for many years.

Davenport assumes Bowden will die by sniper. Mother and son unhesitatingly shoot two people they cannot trust to keep silent but the reader knows something Davenport does not. Cole has robbed a local armoury of a quantity of high explosives and fuses. As is usual in Sandford’s novels, we are taken into the minds of the criminals as well those who hunt them.

This tends to jack up the tension, particularly when the reader realises that the State Fair, which the candidates insist on attending, is likely to turn into a bloodbath. It provides one of the most hair-raising sequences Sandford has written. Brace yourselves! Footnote: Davenport is to have a new crime-fighting role. Watch this space.

Author: John Sandford Publisher: Putnam

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