Mortal Prey by John Sandford
John Sandford, real name, John Camp, is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist. His media skill-set has transformed impressively into fiction (insert fake media joke here) and he is, to put it bluntly, a fucking literary great.
I have at this time read quite a number of Sandford’s stories, and not one has been below the very high standard that I have come to expect of someone who is a master of his craft. His characters – in particular his two best known protagonists, Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers – are engaging, likeable, believable and consistent. Virgil, or to give him his much used title, ‘that fuckin’ Flowers’, is so good that he has his own series which interplays nicely with that of Davenport’s.
Mortal Prey centres around Lucas, and is set early in his police career when he is still a Minneapolis deputy police chief, before his many notable adventures for the State Bureau of Investigation (with that fuckin’ Flowers). He has also yet to wed at this tender time in his life but, make no mistake about it, Davenport is as he will always be.
He is flirty, cheeky, borderline sociopathic, intense, yet humorous. He is certainly flawed. He is a skeptic. He is a real(ish) person. He is typical in this respect, as all of Sandford’s characters are approachable and believable, even the sociopathic ones. The author truly has a gift for using few words yet still managing to present an intimate insight into his creations. At the end of his novels I am left wondering how exactly he pulled it off, as it appears effortless, but it is certainly the result of someone who has finely honed his skills to the point where, for my money, he ranks with Hemingway, Steinbeck and King as one of the greats of US literature.
In Mortal Prey, we meet the tragic Clara Rinker, a hit-woman for the St. Louis mob. Clara has fled her old life, but her unfortunate past catches up with her in Mexico. She is forced back to St. Louis to take care of business. The result is a rollicking good tale of action, adventure and enough twists and turns to keep a curly wurly happy.
Along the way we learn more about Clara’s life and the factors that drove her into her role as a killer. By the end of this novel, I found it very difficult not the feel affinity with Rinker as she tries to avoid capture by Davenport who is assisting the FBI. Perhaps it says something about me, that I was actively cheering on the hit-woman throughout (don’t tell Homeland security though…).
The plot-line is superb. It’s not stretched. It’s not overdone. It’s a typical Sandford story-line, which is to say, it’s damn near perfect. One feature of the entire Prey series, that runs consistently throughout, is the humour. Both the good guys and the bad guys, and those in between, seem to appreciate the – ofttimes tragic – comedy of life. The cops poke fun at one another, as real cops do. They bitch and snort and fart and think inappropriate thoughts. This humorous undercurrent means that the emotionally intense topics covered never overwhelm. The stories therefore are layered but not weighty.
The themes, the schemes, the dreams might prick the conscience of the reader, but you should still finish the story with a lighter sense of enjoyment and, I expect, a desire for more (really – Sandford should be paying me for this shit… this is good shit. But imagine if in reality Sandford was a complete gobshite… damn but I would feel really silly them).
Anyhoo… Mortal Prey is an excellent read and a good introduction to the Lucas Davenport series, which goes on from here, and from strength to strength. I am of the humble opinion that everyone should read a John Sandford novel at some time in their lying on the sofa, drinking tea, life. You won’t be disappointed.
Ladies, Lucas Davenport is a handsome fashionista who drives a Porsche. Guys, Lucas Davenport has a lot of guns, likes to fight and drives a Porsche. You see? Something for everyone.
If you don’t enjoy this book then I want to know why. If it’s because you are a contract killer who hates this story because it reminds you of your bloodied past, and makes you really angry, then please send your complaints c/o Kellyanne Conway, to the White House, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C.
However, if you dislike Mortal Prey and you are a beautiful female then… Well hello there… how you doin’?
Sult scale rating: 8 out of 10. Highly recommended.