Review

Phantom Prey

by John Sandford

“Something wrong here, a cold whisper of evil… She
couldn’t pin it down, but it was palpable…. The house
was dark, except for [the] lamps…triggered by photocells at
dusk…. Nothing else --- but the hairs on her forearms and the
back of her neck stood upright. Some atavistic sense was picking up
a threat.” She called out for her daughter, Frances, and for
Helen the housekeeper. Silence. She grabbed the gun and went
through the house, not knowing if she was being foolish or savvy.
All clear. Then “she noticed the dark streaks on the
wallpaper at the edge of the hall… Not knowing exactly why,
she stepped over and touched them --- and felt the tackiness under
her finger. Pulled her finger back and found a spot of
crimson.” She called 911 and waited for the cops. She gave
them her name, Alyssa Austin, and her tony address. They were not
impressed with her, or the blood, or the fact that her daughter was
missing.

This is the introduction to PHANTOM PREY, the 18th novel in John
Sandford’s legendary Prey series, which features the
head of Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Lucas
Davenport, a very smart veteran police officer with a sly wit and a
way with people. He and his team have a great close rate and are
currently staking out the apartment of “Siggy” Toms. He
“had been the Twin Cities’s largest-volume cocaine
dealer, pushing the stuff through his contacts in…real
estate, stockbroking, and used car businesses. He had been netting
two million a year, tax free…with money stashed all over the
United States and Europe.” Two hours after his arrest, he was
bailed out and within a very short time lost his
“watchers” and disappeared. Siggy’s wife now
lives in an apartment waiting for him to return. They have one
child, and she is pregnant with their second. Thus, for three
months, a rotation of the BCA team spent hours in a ratty apartment
directly across from Heather’s domain.

The case is moving very slowly and is not especially difficult. But
when Lucas goes home to his wife Weather, a surgeon, their son and
their ward, his spouse gives him the lowdown on the “Austin
case.” Alyssa Austin is an acquaintance of Weather’s,
so of course they now know that her daughter is still missing. She
needs help and wants Lucas to take a look at what is going on. The
girl was a Goth who had a strange menagerie of friends. But even
when the bodies of other Goths appear, no suspect comes up on the
radar. She doesn’t know her daughter’s social circle
but offers a few names, and he promises to take a look and not take
over the investigation.

Just about this time, two new characters appear on the scene: Fairy
and Loren, a couple of oversexed, violence-addicted psychopaths who
have a hit list and plan their attacks with care. When they are
with people, everyone is enthralled with Fairy, the name they gave
her because she seems to be the personification of Tinkerbell. But
these two are no Peter Pan and his delightful Tinker --- they are
feral killers who are able to hide not only what they do but who
they are. And so the brutal killings go on and the body count
rises.

As if these goings-on were not enough, Lucas finds himself deeply
drawn into the cases, and he must be careful about all of the
politics involved. His sense of fairness is legendary in the
different police districts, and he is able to head off any bad
feelings when he tells them that he will share and help them if
they do the same. Too many people are dying, and it’s more
important to concentrate on that than to worry about
territory.

Fairy is a very petite young woman who comes across as a little
girl sweet as sugar. But no one really knows where she came from or
where she goes when she disappears. This is very bothersome to
Lucas, who feels she is almost taunting him. When he goes looking
for her, she seems to hide. As one by one her “crowd”
diminishes with each murder, Lucas’s instincts tell him that
more is going on than meets the eye. He senses something altogether
different from what appears on the surface is fomenting underneath
the actions and tensions of the antagonists.

John Sandford is the pseudonym for John Camp, a Pulitzer
Prize-winning journalist who discovered he had a talent for crime
fiction in the form of police procedurals. His reputation is
cemented in his ability to render well-limned characters, keep his
regulars fresh and growing, and create hot plots that draw readers
in from the first sentence. His dialogue is perfectly pitched, and
his style is approachable, making him a master storyteller.
Sandford’s legion of faithful fans will surely enjoy the
strange twists and dangerous turns he leads them through in PHANTOM
PREY.

Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 18, 2011

Phantom Prey
by John Sandford

  • Publication Date: May 6, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0399155007
  • ISBN-13: 9780399155000