Best selling author John Sandford has another winner with his recent book, Field Of Prey. It is an intense mystery thriller that explores the world of serial killers. The suspenseful plot moves along at a fast pace with the cat and mouse game between the BCA detective, Lucas Davenport, and the serial rapist-killer.
The story begins with a teenage couple losing their innocence, and then smelling something really bad. After the police come to investigate they find a body stuffed in a well, eventually discovering twenty-one skulls. The female victims had been killed over a great many years, one every summer, regular as clockwork. The story takes several unexpected turns with Lucas becoming more and more emotionally engaged. In this novel Lucas appears to know all of the facts he needs to solve the case; yet is unable to connect the dots. All the while, girls are going missing and dying at the hands of a serial killer. The only slight problem with the plot is the small scenes with Virgil Flowers, the main character of his other series, also a BCA detective. Because of the intense plot and great character portraits the few parts of the book that included Flowers was a distraction because he was working on a completely separate unrelated case.
The characters are very well developed, believable, and has the reader rooting for and against them depending on if they are good or bad. Lucas Davenport is part Hollywood part policeman. He drives around in a Porsche and Mercedes wearing fancy clothes but is also a very good father and husband who cares about his family. Davenport is a guy doing a job he loves while making sure the bad guys don’t win. There are also the familiar characters: Del Capstock, Rose Marie Roux, agent Virgil Flowers and Davenport’s family. A new face, Goodhue County Deputy Catrin Mattsson, is the female version of Davenport. She is tough, pretty, refuses to bow to authority, and has a take no prisoners attitude.
Because he made the serial killer so wicked and evil Sandford told blackfive.net that he tried very hard not to “go into great detail with the graphic scenes. I had to walk a thin line not to make it too graphic. I intentionally did not put in a description of the rapes themselves.”
Also, within recent Sandford books is a social commentary on a certain issue. The author does this without getting heavy handed or appearing to lecture the readers. Many times he gets his point across through humor. In this book he has a few including describing someone who is schizophrenic and a personal comment on how he views the media today with a book quote that pretty much summarized it all, “Fu—in media.” Sandford has multiple scenes in the book where the media becomes an impediment to the investigation, spins the facts the wrong way, or outright distorts the truth.
He noted to blackfive.net, “This is a developing attitude of mine. As a newspaper reporter I took my job seriously. Today a lot of newspaper reporters feel they need to add their voice. The problem is most reporters are idiots without much knowledge. I am not saying they are not smart, they are. But they are trying to express an opinion when they do not have enough facts on hand. They simply do not have enough time to learn things as they cover different issues on different days, such as business one day and the school board the next. They are no longer reporting what is happening but are reporting what they think is happening. I am very discouraged by our state of the media. We don’t want the reporters opinion we want to formulate our own.”
In his next two books there will also be some social issues covered. Due out this July will be a young adult novel, a series of three, entitled Uncaged. The plot has a boy with Asperger Syndrome, a computer genius who is socially retarded, becoming an animal rights radical. He joins a group that raids an Oregon animal laboratory and finds that there are criminal elements involved with this lab. The boy goes on the run to save himself with his sister who is trying to help him.
The other book due out in the fall will be another Virgil Flower’s novel. The story has a school board ripping off its school district of millions of dollars. After a drunken reporter finds out the school board decides to kill him. Once again, Sandford allows his feelings about the media to come through but also discusses animal rights in this book as well. He has Flowers initially investigating those involved in stealing dogs and selling them to medical facilities for research.
As in all Sandford books there is a riveting mystery with added humor. Field of Prey has many twists and turns. This novel is extremely fast-paced that allows the reader to get into the mind of a serial killer, the victims, and the police investigation.