I’ve been in a terrible reading slump the past couple of weeks. After the brilliant The Bluest Eye, no book seems to satisfy. I started The Invention of Wings, zipped through about 100 pages, put down the book, and just didn’t feel like picking it up again. I instead started on Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures (part of the Discworld series and a reread), but surprisingly even this did not work for me.
I then started getting really desperate, I needed to read something, anything damnit! and get to the finish line. I always read before bedtime as a kind of unwinding ritual, and if the book I am reading does not grip I get really antsy and restless, and then go online and view numerous YouTube videos (my latest addiction), and then sleep poorly as a result.
So you can imagine how pleased I was when I stumbled on Field of Prey in my library couple of days back.
This book is the 24th book in John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport crime series. This series has been one of my hard-core favorites, and I have talked about my love for this series before on this blog here.
So, I’m not going to go over the brilliance of this series all over again. Suffice that if you like thrillers, John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series is something you should keep on top of your TBR list.
Field of Prey begins with a corker of a scene set years ago when a woman is abducted by a motley pair from a diner parking lot in a crossroads town. She manages to effectively turn the tables on one of her abductors, a local oddball named Jack Horn. Horn, though terribly wounded, escapes thanks to the assistance of his partner in crime, Roger Axel, a local businessman. It becomes clear all too quickly that Horn and Axel have been a part of this business for a while.
Flash forward to the present, one hot summer night, a teenage boy and his girlfriend smell something terrible in a field. The next day the police arrive to investigate the source of the smell, which turns out to a number of dead bodies stuffed down a cistern. These murders have been going on for a number of years, and the gruesomeness of the find gives Davenport’s chief Rose Marie a lot of PR headache.
Things turn critical when one of Davenport’s colleagues is shot down, and another goes missing. Soon Davenport is on the hunt, and there is a deadly cat and mouse game between the killer and Davenport.
I”ll be honest. This is one of the more clichéd books in this series. You have the standard tropes of serial killer going berserk, investigators fighting and politicking among themselves, and media creating an uproar. Basically, plot-wise, there is nothing spectacular or new about this book.
But in spite of the predictability, I loved reading it. It was such a pleasure to revisit old favorite characters such as “that f***ing Flowers”, Del, Shrake, Jenkins, Sister Mary Joseph, Rose-Marie, and so on. I did think that some were introduced to the book just because they are fan favorites. I mean I love Virgil Flowers, but there was absolutely no need to include him in this book. He was just filler material and a distraction from the main story.
Talking about distractions, it did feel like there were one too many. I think the reason for that is, it’s pretty easy to find the killer, and frankly Davenport should have caught the killer almost midway into the book, but twice just as he is on the verge of cracking the case, he gets a phone call or something like that, and his attention is diverted.
I was quite disappointed that Sandford used this technique of prolonging the suspense, and I felt the lack of a genuine suspense in the story to be one of the weak points of the book.
Another distraction is the character of Letty – Sandford’s adopted daughter. She is a great character but introducing her into the crime investigation, and having her advice senior cops on crime detection was a bit much. She’s not even 18 for Christ’s sake. She just didn’t fit into the book, although I guess this is Sandford’s way of indicating that she will be playing a bigger role in future books. I do hope that he writes her more age appropriately in the next book though.
But apart from these issues, and frankly they are very minor issues, the book was aces. It moves rapidly, and has all the trademark Davenport tough guy attitude and quips. I spent two sleepless nights reading this book, which goes to say how much I enjoyed it.
I was a bit surprised to see that there were some reviews on Amazon panning this book, even speculating that it hadn’t been written by Sandford, but I didn’t see anything radically different from his usual writing style. If there are any differences, it’s in the character of Davenport who has aged and mellowed, which is of course expected. We can’t expect him to be the same tough womanizing detective that he was at the beginning of the series, and while I agree that I prefer Davenport when he was young and bad, I don’t necessarily think that the change in his character indicates anything more than that Davenport is maturing. I also have enough faith in Sandford as a writer that he will not do anything so underhanded. Hope my belief is right!
Anyway that was my thought on the whole Sandford ghost-writer issue that is swirling around this book.
Overall, my thoughts were very positive, and liked it very much in spite of some of the plot issues that I mentioned in the review. A must read for Davenport lovers!
You can also purchase a copy of this book from Amazon