Sandford always can be relied upon to satisfy readers with savvy,
tension-filled, spectacularly choreographed and interesting novels.
His Lucas Davenport procedurals have become a familiar and
staple-reading feast for those who hunger for superior plots,
well-limned characters, believable prose and striking atmosphere.
In his latest work, INVISIBLE PREY, Sandford has crafted a
complicated and creepy story that takes off on page one.
Davenport technically works for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
(BCA). But Rose Marie Roux, director of the Department of Public
Safety, is Lucas's "real boss," and they have been a team for many
years. Their mutual respect and ability to trust each other make
them tough adversaries whose solve rate is extraordinary.
The first two murder victims are a rich elderly woman and her
companion. They lived together for years and had been like family.
Both are brutally "hammered" to death, and the killers trashed the
house. Obviously things are missing, but what the killers chose is
confusing. Why did they steal this and not that? Why destroy a
piece and leave a similar item in place? Why didn't they take ATM
or credit cards? Why did they kill the victims right away instead
of forcing them to give up the PIN numbers of any cards they owned?
Why did the invaders take junk along with some extremely valuable
items? And who knew what was in the house and how to break
The cook and the maintenance man found the women in the morning.
The alarm went out immediately, and the "game was afoot." While the
detectives and forensic people are focused on the first crime,
another is pulled off, also with no clues or forensic evidence.
Once word got around about the Boucher/Peebles murder, an elderly
woman named Marilyn Coombs invites two people to her home to get
their take on an old newspaper clipping that says: "A noted
Chippewa Falls art collector and heir to the Thune brewing fortune
[and a talented quieter] was found shot to death in her
home…" No one was ever caught, and the case has remained
Despite her age, Coombs is very insightful and sees similarities
between that long-ago murder and the current one. Unfortunately,
her "guests" realize how dangerous she could be to their scheme,
and as "Coombs shuffled out to the front door as [her visitors
left] leading the way," one of them called her name and "when she
turned [she was] hit with the finial ball [pulled] out of the
banister post," killing her instantly.
As the body count rises, an awareness that the relatives of the
dead are also in danger makes Davenport angry and frustrated. He
tries not only to solve the known crimes but also to protect the
others. However, he can't be everywhere at once and is haunted when
he is unable to prevent other murders. As clues and evidence begin
to emerge, some things stand out. The authorities discover that
quilting and an "antique" quilt of curses allegedly done by a
battered woman is at the heart of some of the crimes. A music box
and a sewing basket are added to the gathering items, and an oil
painting with the word "Reckless" on the back is also stolen and
seemingly very relevant to the current cases.
As the police give the investigation their all, readers also are in
the heads of the killers. Along with describing the crimes,
Sandford makes readers privy to the discussions between the deadly
duo themselves, revealing how they think and rationalize their
despicable acts. This device adds an extra dimension to the already
While all of this is going on, an explosive subplot wends its way
through the entire tale. A 16-year-old girl accuses the president
of the State Senate of having a sexual relationship with her. If
true and he is arrested, then he will be branded as a pedophile,
thus ruining both his political and personal lives. DNA and a
description of the man's anatomy are the best clues to the veracity
of the charge; evidently, he has an unusual skin anomaly. The
discussions between the detectives about this small irregularity
brings the tension down with a bit of dark humor.
John Sandford has been compared to Dashiell Hammett, Ed McBain and
Elmore Leonard because he imbues his work with a realistic
atmosphere. In his Prey series he has created a cast of
fully-rounded characters, snappy dialogue and tightly-paced plots.
Fans and new readers will not be disappointed with INVISIBLE
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 22, 2011