Golden Prey – John Sandford Thriller (2017)

Golden Prey by John Sandford

Lucas Davenport is better known as the Minnesota BCA detective of previous novels. He’s a tough, no nonsense operator who, due to a successful business that he sold, is also a very wealthy man. In Golden Prey, Davenport has left the BCA and taken a position as a US Deputy Marshall. That’s about the only change in his life as he is still one mean yet moral mofo.

The US Marshall Service is a tough station for someone who is a political appointee, as Lucas is. The other Marshalls are jealous and the senior officers resent him. But Davenport doesn’t give a damn. He is determined to continue on his merry way and get stuck in.

As he is new to the service, Lucas is sent undercover to apprehend a blackmail ring involving a sheriff and his deputies. He’s successful and after the arrests he hears about a fugitive known as Garvin ‘Gar’ Poole, a stone-cold killer who has disappeared. Davenport enjoys a challenge and decides that the capture of Poole would be a fitting project to keep him entertained and assist in his eventual acceptance into the Marshall Service.

Meanwhile, Poole is completing one last big job. He has decided to hit the money-counting house of a major drug cartel. Together with his good friend, Sturgill Darling, he manages to steal millions, but kills four gang members and one six-year-old girl in the process. Poole doesn’t care. He’s a stone-cold killer.

Davenport gets wind of Poole’s involvement in the homicides and sets off in pursuit. But Lucas is not the only one chasing the elusive member of the Dixie Hicks (redneck crime network) as Garvin is. The drug cartel want their money back and don’t care what they have to do to get it. The unfortunate duo of Luis Soto, and his sadistic female partner, Charlene Kort, are dispatched to track down Poole by going through his family and friends.

Soto is a ruthless killer with neither remorse nor conscience. But Kort is worse. She is the torturer used to extract information from their targets. She uses work tools such as saws and drills and thoroughly enjoys her work. In fact she finds it sexually stimulating. The bloodthirsty pair wreak havoc as they pick up Gar’s trail, managing to stay one step ahead of Lucas for the most part.

What follows is one of the best thrillers you will read, and one of the finest in the ‘Prey’ series, which is an excellent body of work. Lucas is presented as an old-time lawman who loves the hunt. Sandford has taken him from the confines of Minnesota and given him free rein to move across the US in his new role. The entire country has become his nature preserve with the criminals as his prey. It’s like taking the old western format, with the cowboy marshalls, and placing them in a modern context. Rebel Voice loved this book.

The cast of characters is substantial but definitely not overwhelming. Each is complete and consistent. The settings are glorious and emotive and the plot is sizzling all the way. Sandford continues to employ his usual technique of dry humour throughout. Although Davenport is a serious person in a deadly business, he retains his sense of the absurd. His colleagues are self-deprecating and real, unlike the likes of Jack Reacher who is a complete fabrication and parody.

It’s refreshing to meet fairly normal people in abnormal circumstance trying to get along. The same can be said for the criminals in this. Gar Poole and Sturgill Darling are not simply homicidal maniacs. Perhaps not even. Darling in particular feels very bad about the little girl that his friend murdered. During a discussion about it, Poole reveals that he knows that there is something wrong with him and that such killings are not OK, but he is loyal to his friends to the death.

The characters of both Darling and Poole, whilst criminal and bloody, do perversely manage to attract both sympathy and admiration from the reader even if the child’s murder was abhorrent. The pair will find no such emotions, however, in the form of Lucas Davenport who has no compunction abut killing both should it be required. As much as Golden Prey is a light read, it is not dumb or shallow. The author does a fine job of maintaining the subtle complexities that make it such a great read.

Poole has a girlfriend, Dora Box, who is also a memorable personality in her own right. When she is abducted by the lesbian contract killers, Rosie and Annie, the sparks fly in one ways than one. Again, Sandford ensures that there are layers to the people presented. He is an expert at gifting such delicate renderings without the weight that sometimes accompany them.

Golden Prey has been set up for a sequel of sorts, or perhaps it could be called a spin-off. Rebel Voice is certain that Sandford is intent on further elaborating upon the ‘western’ feel to this story. What makes it all the more interesting is that Davenport is not your typical country boy in the way that his friend Virgil Flowers is. Lucas likes his comforts. In that he is kinda like a Pinkerton Detective, or perhaps a cross between a Pinkerton and a Marshall. It’s an addictive combination for anyone who likes their thrillers fast and punchy.

The ending to this book is top-notch. It is straight out of the movie Heat (with Pacino and De Niro), only much better. We can see the relationship between Darling and Poole, and even Box. No one-dimensional characters in this read.

Rebel Voice will be amazed if this story does not make it to the silver screen. It’s tailor-made for it. But the book is good enough for anyone for now. We advise that you read this one and prepare yourself for the many other equally great adventures of Lucas Davenport that are sure to follow.

Sult scale rating: 8.5 out of 10. This is a highly recommended read that will thrill, chill and will you into reading more. Don’t miss it.

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