Twisted Prey by John Sandford
Lucas Davenport is back, this time in his new role as US Marshal. He gets a call from a serving US Congressman, Porter Smalls, who was the victim of an assassination attempt in which his friend and mistress, Cecily Whitehead, died. Smalls is convinced that the attack was the work of Taryn Grant, a psychopathic billionaire Congresswoman who had a falling out with him and is after some payback. The problem for Davenport is that he also had a run-in with Grant and she’s just about crazy enough do away with him just for the hell of it.
Lucas investigates the site of the Whitehead killing and makes a few initial finds that the local cops missed. It appears that those responsible were highly professional killers, with possible military connections. Davenport begins to feel that he’s getting in way over his head, but the challenge excites him. Our number one Marshal thrives on the adrenaline rush of taking on elite contract killers.
As back-up, Lucas calls in his Marshal colleagues, Rae Givens and Bob Matees, who are also happy to bend the rules when it comes to getting a result. Together they poke and probe at those they believe responsible. It all starts to get very murky when a major Defense Contractor seems to be the employer of the assassins. The same corporation is also responsible for the illegal sales of weapons to foreign nations and terrorist groups. Davenport finds himself immersed in a national scandal that involves the FBI.
Of course, no Davenport novel would be complete without someone trying to kill him, and Lucas is lucky to survive an attempt on his life in the hotel were he’s staying. He’s of the opinion that it’s the same ex-military (or perhaps still serving) that tried to kill Smalls. Lucas and his team must step up their game if they’re not only going to solve this one, but survive it.
The Prey series is one of the best around. Previously, Davenport was a homicide detective with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. His move to the US Marshals Service is an excuse to do the same things that he did before, but on a national scale. It makes for gripping reading. Sandford makes no bones in this novel about his distrust for the military-industrial complex. It is a dirty world in reality and the author does not spare those immersed in it. Rebel Voice wonders how such an industry could gain serious control of US structures of government when so many learned men and women are fully aware of the corruption involved, and publicize it regularly.
Taryn Grant is an interesting character. She’s beautiful, intelligent, wealthy and powerful. She’s also completely off her rocker. Grant has ambitions to enter the White House in the role of Commander-in-Chief and will let nothing and no one stop her. She’s like a physically attractive and much younger version of Hillary Clinton. Ole Hills missed her chance to get the top job, but will Grant?
As Lucas gets closer to the truth behind the Smalls attack, those in control decide to begin removing anyone who might compromise them. This has the consequence of causing deeper paranoia between the assassins which can only lead to further death and mayhem. It’s at this point that the killers become more desperate and turn to Lucas’ family as a way of dissuading him from pursuing his investigations. His wife, Weather, is seriously hurt in a hit and run, with the man responsible soon turning up dead, apparently by his own hand. Lucas, again, isn’t convinced that it was suicide. He realizes that he’s up against some very ruthless and highly trained professionals with substantial resources including access to confidential information.
The dogged persistence of the US Marshals and their friends in the FBI, together with the inherent fractures within the criminal enterprise, means that everything starts to unravel for Taryn Grant. But Taryn is no slouch when it comes to getting her hands bloody. She decides that the time has come to take charge of her own affairs and so makes her move. She crazy, but impressive.
Twisted Prey is another strong offering from Sandford. Lucas Davenport fits seamlessly into his new role and it brings an exciting dimension to his story-lines. Sandford made a clever move with this job change, and it opens up a host of avenues for Lucas to explore. Virgil Flowers appears briefly in this one and the same Sandford humour is evident throughout. The Prey series contains a very droll, dry sense of fun which is perfect for the characters shown. It’s witty without being over-the-top.
The tension builds nicely as Lucas closes in. The action is constant with many different threads running side-by-side until the end when the shit hits the defense contractor fan. We are left wondering what will happen with Taryn Grant who appears to be just too smart and ruthless to fall easily into any trap that Lucas might set. Rebel Voice looks forward, as always, to the next instalment in this great series.
Sult scale rating: 8 out of 10. This is a very good book with some memorable characters. The settings are vivid, the plot twists entertaining and the story-line and personalities consistent. Lucas Davenport is no shrinking violet. He’s the thinking man’s Jack Reacher. Twisted Prey is recommended by this site. John Sanford has yet to produce a poor book. That’s almost as impressive as the exploits of Lucas Davenport