By O’Dell Isaac II
A gang of hard-core robbers, a revenge-minded pimp and a crazy loner with a gun are just three of the hazards dogging a veteran Minneapolis cop in Wicked Prey, the latest in John Sandford’s series featuring antihero Lucas Davenport.
The Republicans are having their huge convention in St. Paul, and Davenport is concerned about security. Political conventions mean money, Lucas reasons, and money invariably draws bad guys. His veteran cop instincts rarely steer him wrong, and he’s got a bad feeling about this.
Davenport is right, of course. Brutus Cohn is a career criminal, a high-end robber and hijacker looking for one last big score on which to retire. His crew has intelligence on a number of street-money men in town, who will be doling out cash to grease the wheels of the presidential campaign. Hitting them is the perfect crime, because they are carrying huge amounts of cash and, because what they’re doing is illegal, they can’t very well go to the police.
Randy Whitcomb is a paraplegic ex-con, a pimp whose last run-in with Davenport resulted in the shooting that put Whitcomb in a wheelchair. Lucas didn’t pull the trigger himself, but Whitcomb still blames the cop, and is looking for a little payback. If he could just get his hands on Davenport’s 14-year-old adopted daughter, Whitcomb could even things up…
Justice Shafer is a loner with a history of right-wing extremism. He also has a .50 caliber rifle, and is awaiting orders on whom to shoot.
John Sandford (the pen name of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Camp) is especially adept at developing compelling characters on both sides of the law. The good guys aren’t always all that good, and the bad guys aren’t always all that bad. Such is the case with Davenport, who generally comes down on the right side of things, but has few qualms about how he gets there. If a witness has to be used as bait, or if certain rules have to be circumvented, so be it.
In Wicked Prey, Lucas discovers similar traits in Letty West, the 14-year-old he took into his home after she lost her mother in Naked Prey (the 14th book in the series). Despite Lucas’ exasperation at Letty’s stubborn streak and her tendency to manipulate events so they turn out in her favor, he knows where she acquired these traits, and secretly approves.
While earlier Prey novels have been heavier on action (as Lucas grows older and gains seniority, he is on the streets less), Sandford still knows how to build suspense. The tension snowballs as Randy gets closer to exacting revenge, Cohn launches his last big robbery, and Shafer lurks at the periphery of the Republican convention, ready to make a statement with his rifle. And what the hell is Letty up to, anyway?
All these elements, plus the usual snappy dialogue, make Wicked Prey an enjoyable addition to Sandford’s 18 previous Lucas Davenport novels.