Gathering Prey by best selling author John Sandford is a thrilling Lucas Davenport story. Per his usual style the plot combines suspense and humor; although, this one is a lot more graphic and violent.
The plot begins with Lucas’ adopted daughter, Letty, about to leave Stanford University, heading home for the summer. At a stop over she meets two “Travelers” and befriends them. They tell her about a Charles Manson like gang originally from California, but now operating throughout the Midwest. The leader’s name is Pilate and he has about twenty followers who kill for fun, rob, torture, and rape. After arriving home, Letty tells Lucas about her encounter and how she plans on helping the “Travelers.” Through the first half of the book she becomes Lucas’ sidekick, playing a major supporting role. The rest of the book has Lucas working mainly alone, tracking and attempting to apprehend this cruel gang.
Sandford noted to blackfive.net, “The Juggalos are fans and followers of the group, “Insane Clown Posse.” They “travel” to see this group perform. They look like street people, but have bike packs, staffs, hiking boots, and a lot of the women have dogs. For awhile the FBI had them classified as a gang, but there is a lawsuit filed to declassify them. I guess the best description is for them to be considered a modern day hobo. They are not homeless and just “travel” around because they like it. The Juggalo subculture is split between violent and nonviolent factions. Some of the more violent ones have committed acts against the non-criminal ones. I made my violent Juggalos essentially a Manson type group. They are crazy, lost, and screw-ups. When Lucas finds this group it becomes like a war.”
Readers are being set up by the author for a possible career change by Lucas. As with previous books there is a sense that Lucas is getting fed up with the bureaucracy, office politics, and the way cases are handled. Throughout his early career at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) he was someone who worked independently. In this novel, Davenport’s team is sparingly mentioned, basically missing in action, while Lucas hunts down the bad guys mainly by himself.
The author commented, “I do not consider what I am about to say a spoiler since I have been hinting at this for awhile. It is a goodbye to Letty and Weather since Lucas will be solving cases alone. They will be there but just in the openings. Over the years Lucas has become too bureaucratic and too family oriented. This career change will have him go back to his early days of solving crimes. In the next book as Lucas is taking it easy around the house he gets a call from the Governor who is now running for President. What he is hoping to do is get the Vice-Presidential nomination. Sort of like when the former Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, ran. No one thought he would get the nomination, but he ran anyway to get the Vice-Presidency. In my book the Governor, Elmer Henderson, is told to become more a centrist on the issues because ‘something might happen to the lead candidate.’ He fears for his life and the lead candidate’s life so he brings in Lucas, someone he can trust. The following book will have the Governor elected Vice-President and he appoints Lucas as a US Marshall. His job is to find violent criminals throughout the US that essentially have disappeared.”
Sandford gave a heads up about his next book, which will not be a Virgil Flowers novel. It is entitled Saturn Run and will be released in October. Co-written with physicist, Ctein, Sandford describes it as a scientific thriller. This stand-alone is set in 2066 where China and the US race to find some alien technology left behind on Saturn. He has decided to deviate from many science fiction books by portraying the leadership characters as women, including the President of the US, the chief engineer for both China and the US, and China and America’s Joint Chief of Staff.
It has become obvious that Sandford wants to expand his writing. With Gathering Prey and his next novel he has decided to move in a new direction. Regardless of what he decides to do this author always seems to incorporate in his novels an adventurous story that is compelling and enjoyable.