on May 10, 2003
Lucas Davenport is the luckiest crime fighter in the World. He has survived 14 Prey novels by John Sanford (John Camp). (Naked Prey is is latest, reviewed elsewhere). Lucas gets invited to St. Louis for a few days by the FBI. Luckily, Minnesota doesn't need him. He is getting married, but Weather doesn't want him around Minneapolis, and neither do the politicians. Off he goes to search for the deadly Clara Rinker. You rember Clara? She is the best hit-woman in the business who tried to kill Lucas a couple of books ago. We wonder: Will Rinker go after Weather? Lucas' pregnant girlfriend? We hope not because she has been a target in four other books already and that plot line is getting old. Maybe Lucas will still have the luck to instantly make friends with police he doesn't know so they can give him the help he needs in a strange city. Maybe his luck will help him circumvent the reluctant, bureaucratic FBI guys and gals so he can work without restrictions in total freedom, even if lots of people are dying. He must quickly track Rinker down in a city she knows well and Lucas doesn't. She has friends to help her, and places to hide. Lucas has to make some friends and get his luck going for him, or Rinker is going to keep on keeping on killing people as she seeks revenge.
Clara Rinker shot Lucas in the throat once before. She got away because she has some luck, too. Lucas got well. We admire Lucas. We like Rinker. She is a soft spoken, beautiful, brilliant killer with reasons why she is to be feared. Since we knew her last, Clara has fallen in love, and became pregnant by the son of a Mexican drug lord. She has retired and is a threat to nobody because she is living at home south of the border with the Mejias. Being a housewife isn't so bad.
Things change. Somebody shoots her bad and ticks her off. Was the boyfriend the target? Or was she? She isn't going to forget this.
The FBI drafts Lucas to come help find Clara because they hear she has come back into the country, mad as hell. Lucas can trapse around the country solving crimes while still on the Minneapolis payroll. Luckily, the hunt will only take a few days. The fact that his old FBI girlfriend Malone is going to be there won't bother the pregnant Weather because she has an Episcopalian wedding to plan and a house to finish.
Lucas should be able to clean up this case in two or three days, but what if Rinker is as unpredictable as ever. Or as dangerous? Maybe she has more help than Lucas has? The one with the most luck or help wins. We hope nobody gets killed
This is a fun plot, a page-turner if you don't think too much about whether it makes sense. Sandford offers his usual crisp, clear, adventure writing with good characterizations. Maybe we don't know who all the bad guys are, or how the story will end. Rinker knows how to disappear. Lucas knows how outsmart people and track them down. I liked the evil dooers better than the cops in this one. Too much unfair use of cell phone technology and police arrogance.
Sandford is a skilled writer (a Pulitzer Prize winner in his other life) so even 14 books don't yet get too tiring or predictable. This is a fine summer read that will hit the top of the charts.
on February 21, 2003
Clara Rinker, hit woman extraordinaire, gets hit herself and her lover Paulo is killed. She looses her baby, but gains in fury to go after her employers in St. Louis whom she blames for trying to assassinate her. So she schemes to eliminate them, one after the other.
Enter stage left: Lucas Davenport, Minneapolis `deputy Police Chief and now working for the FBI. Helping him are Mallard and Malone of the FBI and an old pal of his, Andreno, a retired cop.
Let the killings begin. The first victim is Nanny Dichter, serving as a warning to the others - Paul Dallaglio, Andy Levy and John Ross. The killings are innovative and elegant. So much so, that Davenport increasingly admires Rinker. But the chase is on, and Rinker manages to escape every time by the fraction of a minute.
The author not only has a vivid imagination, but knows how to put it on paper to keep you spellbound. Truly a great mystery. And I will not hold it against a lazy editor who brings a telephone conversation on page 147 and then repeats it verbatim, though under different circumstances, on page 158.
on January 4, 2003
In Mortal Prey, author John Sandford gives us another exciting and fast-paced story.
Detective Lucas Davenport is drafted by the FBI into helping them locate Clara Rinker, an attractive and intelligent young woman who also happens to be a very successful hired killer. Rinker had disappeared a few years back and had made an attempt to go straight, but when someone tries to kill her and succeeds in destroying her new life, Clara starts a killing spree of her own.
Years before, Lucas Davenport had encountered Clara when she was working as a hit woman and she had outwitted him and escaped. Now Lucas has another chance to put Clara in prison; however, his feelings are somewhat mixed because in some ways he liked Clara and felt sorry for her because of the physical and sexual abuse that she had endured as a child.
This author has a wonderful writing style and he keeps his characters fresh and interesting. The dialog and the jokes that the police detectives and FBI agents exchange are entertaining and ring true.
on August 8, 2002
Professional hit-woman Clara Rinker returns for another shot at Lucas Davenport as the brilliant Prey series reaches 13 with nary a sign of dross on its gloss. What Sandford does as well if not better than any other crime fiction writer is make good villains. Though his Clara Rinker kills for money, he puts so human a face on her it requires an act of will to resist her appeal. We meet her first as victim (shrewd Sandford), ambushed, gunned down in cold-blood. Fatally wounded in the same ambush is her lover, the man whose child she was carrying. Since Paulo was the son of a notorious Mexican crime family, conventional wisdom names him as the mark. During her long convalescence, however, Clara has a chance to rethink that. Back in St. Louis, where she made her world-class reputation, there are five powerful men who regularly hired her gun and who might have begun to worry about how deeply she was clued into their various nefarious operations. She decides they've formed a cabal against her and that it's time to become proactive. At this point, enter series hero Lucas Davenport (Chosen Prey, 2001, etc.), one of the few ever to survive a one-on-one with Clara (Certain Prey, 1999). In his day job, Lucas is Minneapolis's Deputy Police Chief, but the FBI drafts him for an all-out war. Like the talented guerilla she is, Clara strikes with elegant ferocity, taking out her targets as planned, staying an infuriating step ahead of all her adversaries, including Lucas. But Lucas scares her. While she likes and respects him, she knows there's no safety for her until she kills him. Which parallels precisely the way Lucas feels about her. Vivid cast, bristling action, neat surprises-and it's funny. Probably the cop novel of the year.
on July 13, 2002
Mortal Prey is the latest in a series of mysteries starring Lucas Davenport, a very complex man. He is the main protagnist in the Prey series, and watching him evolve has been a fascinating process, as he struggles to walk the thin line between the profession he loves-police work, and his own killer's instincts.
Mortal Prey also re-introduces Clara Rinker, a hit woman who has complex issues of her own. The tension between these two main characters, and the finely crafted aspects of the supporting members is nothing short of outstanding.
The story opens with an assassination attempt which leaves Clara alive, having lost her baby and her lover. Who was the intended target? Herself or the powerful Meija family scion? As the tale unfolds, the reader finds herself caight up in the myriad twists and turns this complex case takes, until a final stunning climax is reached. John Sanford has created a fascinating addition to a sometimes tired Genre.
If you are looking for an entertaining page turner, this is the one!
on June 24, 2002
Loyal Lucas Davenport fans will remember Clara Rinker, the stone killer from 'Certain Prey.' After making her escape, she fled to Cancún, where she established a new identity, found a lover and became pregnant. Clara, now Cassie McLain, was on her way to a normal existence for the first time in her life. Then a hired gun from the States makes an attempt on her life killing her boyfriend and wounding her enough to lose her child. Clara recovers with one thing one her mind - cold, cold revenge. Clara's going home, with some very evil plans.
When the FBI realize that McLain was Rinker and has returned to the States, they call in Davenport, who is, after all, the only cop to ever even come close to catching her. Lucas, who is spending his time annoying builders and supervising his fiancée Weather's pregnancy, reluctantly agrees. Actually, the truth is that Weather tells him to go away and stop bothering her. What follows is a classical chase thriller where Rinker manages to keep killing one step ahead of her pursuers. In several cases, she even manages to rub Lucas's face in it.
If you are a sucker for tricks and wild plot devices, you are going to love 'Mortal Prey.' Rinker is smart and crazy. Each killing is detailed and jarring, full of the kind of twists that keep this from being yet another long chase. And while Clara is certainly over the top, Sandford manages to make her a sympathetic character all on her own. I found myself cheering for her time after time. She is after the Mafia men who put out the hit on her and she intends to get each and every one. That she is also capable of killing anyone in her way seems to become a matter of indifference.
Lucas and the FBI agents as well, repeatedly get left holding the bag. Malone and Mallard return, along with a host of camp followers. Davenport, true to his nature, runs his own investigation with the help of some St. Louis retired officers, and manages to keep finding almost enough clues. Of course, it wouldn't be any fun if they caught her too early, and the little glitches and tricks that keep her out of reach are novel enough to keep the action moving without any sign of tedium.
Oddly enough, Sandford does such a good job of making Rinker likeable that he winds up making Davenport look a bit of a jerk. One is tempted to think he is suffering from a bad case of premarital jitters, and that may very well be the case. I can't consider it a major defect, because the book itself is extremely well written. Certainly, it is a welcome return to Sandford's best form.
on June 24, 2002
Ever since I read my first John Sandford novel ("Eyes of Prey" as I recall) I have been hooked. Each time I finish one, I can't wait for the next "Prey" book to be released, because I know I will be in for a non-stop pleasure read for a day or two.
Lucas Davenport, the protagonist of all the Prey novels, is a Minneapolis cop who has moved up the ranks, but nonetheless is at his best on the hard streets of crime-- especially solving bizarre murders and bringing the criminals to justice.
In "Mortal Prey," Davenport is called upon as a resource by the FBI to try to stop hit-woman Clara Rinker's rampage of murderous revenge on the Kansas City mobsters who put her in the wet-work assassin for hire business in the first place. Rinker is a memorable character from the earlier novel "Certain Prey", who is a rare type of villain for whom the reader gains both respect and a certain rooting interest. The reader almost hopes that Davenport will fail in his quest to apprehend Rinker and put a stop to her killing spree. And the reader gets his wish -- almost. Will Rinker reunite with Davenport at his wedding to long-time love interest Weather? If so, will the wedding be ruined?
In "Mortal Prey", Sandford has written yet another outstanding thriller. How come Davenport has not become a movie hero?
on June 13, 2002
If you have been a little discouraged with the last couple of Prey books, now is the time for rejoicing! Sandford has come through with a beautifully plotted, highly structured roller coaster of a book with enough sly humor to delight us while we are rigid with suspense.
The venue is St. Louis, rather than familiar Minneapolis and rather than battling through the sleet and snow, Lucas endures a heat wave. The FBI calls him in on the case because of his expertise on the notorious hit woman Clara Rinker, who we met in "Certain Prey." If there is any doubt of Clara's ferocity, Lucas settles it right away:
"What if we busted in with our guns out, and Clara was sitting at the kitchen table eating oatmeal?" Andreno asked.
"She'd probably shoot us both and throw our bodies in the septic tank." Lucas said.
Clara and her Mexican fiancé were victims of an assassination attempt that killed her lover and unborn baby and almost killed her. She is sure the perpetrators are a cabal of very unsavory (read mob) guys in St. Louis. She sets out to pick them off one by one in fierce retaliation. She is monstrously clever, and after all, her victims are highly kill-worthy. The author smartly kicks around the FBI as they call in more and more agents to have more and more meetings/conferences while Clara goes about her business. Fortunately, they have Lucas and some retired St. Louis policemen doing some expert sleuthing. The pace is pounding; Clara's skills are worthy of Professor Moriarty, and the ending total mayhem.
There are a few too many characters, particularly the FBI agents whose names all seem to begin with "M," and so many mobbed up guys, it's hard to separate the good guys from the bad. The efficiency of Lucas and his over-the-hill gang strains credulity at times, but I was so taken with them, it didn't matter. I read it almost at one sitting (very possible if you don't eat, answer the telephone, and can survive sitting in a chair all day).
Join Lucas and bask in Mr. Sandford's cleverness and story telling ability. This one is a winner!
on June 9, 2002
This may well be the best plotted book of the "Prey" series. Lucas Davenport once danced with Clara Rinker, the most clever of all assassins and a female to boot. Clara had escaped from him in a previous case and seemingly disappeared. Living in South America in what she thought was a new and good life with her lover, Paulo, her world is shattered when Paulo is gunned down. Only Clara knows the bullet was actually intended for her. Clara is wounded in the shooting but during her recovery she learns to shoot long distance firearms and plans her revenge. Returning to St. Louis she methodically guns down the mobsters that she believed to have been responsible for Paulo's death. The FBI calls in Lucas Davenport because he is one of the few people who have actually met Clara in person.
She sucessfully kills several people while "the chase is on" and begins to look unstopable. After finally being wounded, she recovers one more time and follows Lucas back to Minneapolis.
Buy the book...read it when you have time to finish it...and enjoy a good mystery. Hope the next one is on the way.
on June 3, 2002
Clara Rinker shares almost all the great qualities of many leading ladies we're fond of except one: she's the villain! Rinker is back (from Certain Prey) and this time is out for total revenge for the single bullet that killed her lover, her unborn baby, and laid her up for a month or two. It doesn't take her long to return from Mexico to St. Louis where she systematically and cleverly, amidst a huge FBI team watching her every movement, proceeds to knock off her human targets.
Enter our hero of this 13th Prey series offering, Lucas Davenport, a deputy police chief, independently wealthy and working here with the FBI since he almost killed Rinker in his hometown Minneapolis in the earlier book. Cleverly hooking up with some retired ex-cops, Lucas takes to the streets and beats the horde of FBI-types with clues and ideas at every turn. Does he get Rinker this time??
We're surprised at the mixed reaction of the audience to this one. We've read the whole series (plus the three Kidd books by Sandford), and we think not only is this one of the best, but indeed one of the best books we've read in the last year. The story is good, the pace is better, and Sandford can actually write a 10-or-15-page chapter unlike some newer authors that can barely muster up three pages without changing sets. Most of all, we care a lot about Lucas (and his fiancée) and truthfully found ourselves growing fonder of Rinker herself with every passing scene. If only she weren't a murderer, she'd be quite a catch (no pun intended). Best of all, Sandford maintains suspense without shoving our face into a million sub-plots and detailed blood and guts; and when we can barely wait to race to the finish, that's a compelling read! Get it and enjoy it!