NAKED PREY is the thirteenth of John Sandford's Lucas Davenport
mysteries, the thirteenth in thirteen years actually. The series
has had its ups and, around WINTER PREY or NIGHT PREY, downs, but
for the most part, Sandford has written consistently tight,
suspenseful thrillers about the Minnesota police investigator who
styles himself quite accurately as the state's richest cop. Nothing
that has come before, however, will prepare Sandford's and
Davenport's former and current fans for NAKED PREY.
NAKED PREY is far and away Sandford's best, a novel that succeeds
on so many levels that it will leave readers shaking their heads in
wonder. It begins and ends with brutal murders --- the first is a
puzzle and the last is a given, but both are ultimately satisfying.
What occurs in between --- the plotting, the characterization, the
pacing --- will make you wish that NAKED PREY was twice as
NAKED PREY finds Davenport comfortably ensconced in a position
known as "Director --- Office of Regional Studies," which in turn
is part of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).
Davenport reports directly to his old boss, former Minneapolis
police chief Rose Marie Roux, and through her to the governor.
Davenport's job is to fix things (the actual terminology that
Sandford employs is a bit more, uh, graphic than that) when a crime
on the local level becomes too complicated or touchy.
When a black man and white woman are found dead, victims of an
apparent lynching in upstate Minnesota, the call goes out to
Davenport to get the job done. Davenport and his running partner,
Del Capslock, are soon in the tiny town of Broderick in rural
Custer County investigating the deaths, and lives, of Jane Warr and
Deon Cash. Davenport slowly discovers that there is far more going
on in the quiet streets of Broderick than they would ever
The murders of Warr and Cash are only the first of many that take
place during the course of NAKED PREY. Sandford pulls a really neat
trick here. The reader gradually finds out what is going on --- and
there is quite a bit --- but is ahead of the curve. The suspense
comes into play as the reader watches Davenport painstakingly work
his way through the labyrinth of secrets that Broderick holds to
his heart. And, as NAKED PREY reaches its conclusion, the question
becomes not how Davenport finds out who is behind the multiple
murders, but whether he'll find out. And don't presuppose that you
already know the answer to that one.
Readers who have stuck with the Davenport series since its
inception will find that Sandford, aiming for the moon and stars,
has reached the moon and stars. For those who haven't read a
Davenport book for a while, or who are unfamiliar with the series,
NAKED PREY is the place to jump on, right now. Whether you're
looking for a police procedural series that is new to you or not,
you need to become familiar with Lucas Davenport and you need to
start with NAKED PREY. Very highly recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011