Review

Easy Prey

by John Sandford

Read an Excerpt



A little confession here. I started reading John Sandford's Lucas
Davenport nee "Prey" novels right at the get-go, but stopped after
the first three when it seemed as if Davenport was beginning to
slide off the rails. Life went on; empires rose and fell,
relationships ended and began anew, and brain cells died, taking
hair follicles with them. Then, with the year 2000, came the new
Lucas Davenport novel, EASY PREY. On the strength of that,
Davenport and Sandford are back on my must-read list.

Davenport is with the Minneapolis Police Department; I am still not
exactly clear as to his precise role. He is an assistant chief or
something but gets his hands dirty and his pants dusty a bit too
much to be a political hack. Davenport is also independently
wealthy, having had a hand in the creation of some computer
software, so his primary motivation for slogging along and fighting
crime day in and day out seems to be that he loves doing it. And
let's say that women find him extremely attractive --- y'know, the
same type of trouble that Parker's Spenser and Spilliane's Mike
Hammer have. Davenport while juggling flames old and new in EASY
PREY, finds himself up to his ears in what appear to be serial
homicides.

EASY PREY, after a short --- but important --- preamble, introduces
us to Alie'e Maison, a fashion model on a shoot in Minneapolis.
Alie'e has overcome her humble Minnesota origins, and a less than
wonderful childhood, to become one of the top fashion models in the
country. It is unfortunate, then, that she should be found,
murdered, at the aftermath of an artsy-fartsy party where the, ah,
pharmaceuticals are flying fast and free. What is even more
unfortunate is that another dead body is subsequently discovered at
the scene of the party and the crime.  

Davenport is brought in. Where to start? Guests were coming and
going throughout the night; suspects abound. And, as Alie'e's
acquaintances also begin dying, the suspect list grows even faster
than the body count. Davenport has a lot of insight and intuition,
which he brings to the investigation, but he makes mistakes, some
of which are quite costly. And it this is quality that really puts
EASY PREY over. These are believable mistakes that a flawed cop
would make in the here and now. And his personal life? Davenport is
confused about what he wants to do. Sometimes he doesn't even know
why he's doing what he's doing. And that's believable too (have you
ever slept with someone, and wondered why the next day? Don't
answer

or ask me the same question).  

This makes for an extremely interesting characterization. Davenport
is a guy who comes off as very sure of himself --- wealthy,
powerful, successful --- who is really feeling his way along just
like the rest of us. When this quality is thrown into the middle of
a mystery, as here, it adds to the suspense of the tale. The reader
of a mystery novel expects that the detective --- Davenport --- is
going to solve the crime. Injecting this quality of uncertainty
into Davenport heightens the suspense, the feeling that, gee, this
guy keeps trying, but maybe he's not going to figure it out after
all. And all the suspects have been eliminated. Who done it? And,
when the bodies of people who were close to Alie'e start piling up,
the question becomes, Who's Doin' It?

John Sandford gets multiple kudos here for creating an engrossing
mystery in the police procedural vein, while at the same time never
losing sight of the fact that he has a strong, complex central
character with Lucas Davenport. A lesser writer might have let the
strong story overrun his strong character, or vice versa. Sandford
very subtly maintains the all-so-difficult balance, intertwining
Davenport into the complex mix and moving him right along with it.
Not everything is resolved here; at the end of the day, few things
usually are. But Sandford raises enough questions, and leaves just
enough of them unanswered, to keep new and old readers alike coming
back for the next PREY. Among the questions Sandford will hopefully
answer: What is a Lady Remington shaver used for, if not for
shaving? I think I know; I'll be reading future Davenport novels to
find out.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011

Easy Prey
by John Sandford

  • Publication Date: March 1, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0425178765
  • ISBN-13: 9780425178768