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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Phantom Prey. John Sandford. Pocket Books (2009)

A fast paced and very enjoyable thriller, and an excellent entry in the "Prey" series of novels by John Sandford. A woman arrives home and finds blood splatters and her daughter is missing. She involves Lucas Davenport, a Minnesota law enforcement agent in the case. Davenport is reluctant to become involved as there is no body, as other murders take place that strongly seem to be linked to the disappearance of the woman's daughter the case develops into serious affair. There is a secondary narrative concerning a Lithuanian drug dealer who has fled and his wife is under surveillance while the police await his return. The two threads are nicely structured and paced, they remain separate and the reveals in each are very well done and the final resolution for each is convincing and very satisfactory.

John Sandford has a cheerfully cynical style and a tremendous gift for creating interesting and credible characters. There is a big cast and they are all well realised, even the small parts have clear and distinct voices. This gives the book a great context, the various threads are nicely played out with a strong and spiky humour. The biggest problem with the book is Lucas Davenport, he is just not a likable character. This is not a fatal flaw, the surrounding cast provide enough of a counterbalance, it is annoying. It would be fine if it was the author's intent that Davenport be annoying, this does not appear to be the case. I get the impression that Davenport is intended to be charismatic, spiky but with enough charm to bring the reader on to his side. This is still a gripping and very entertaining thriller.

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