Last year, I participated in a TLC Tour that celebrated John Sandford's 20th mystery in the Prey series. Not only did we read his latest "Storm Prey", but we also got to choose another one of his books to highlight as well (mine was "Broken Prey"). This tour was a no-brainer for me. I have read EVERY SINGLE Prey book, starting with "Rules of Prey" which was published in 1990. I cut my crime thriller teeth on Mr. Sandford, and for that I thank him.
So of course when I received an unsolicited copy of Sandford's 21st installment "Buried Prey" from the lovely Lydia Hirt at Putnam, that became my very next read. All other commitments be damned. Lucas Davenport is as close to a drug fix as it gets for me.
Synopsis: On the edge of the Minneapolis loop, two young girls are found wrapped in plastic, and hidden under a slab of cement in a building that was being torn down for development. A small group of police officers who had been working back in 1985 know exactly who these two girls are. Nobody is more haunted by this case than Lucas Davenport, who, at the time, was just a young rookie cop. Lucas will always wonder if he did everything he possibly could have to solve these two girls' disappearances. A schizophrenic homeless man was accused of the crime, but Lucas never believed he was responsible. In fact, Lucas always suspected he was on the trail of the real culprit.
In the equivalent of a literary lottery for any Davenport fan, we go back to 1985 to understand the intricacies of this case. This is before Lucas married his surgeon wife Weather, before the kids, before becoming a political fixer in the BCA. Lucas has a woman in every corner of the city, he is just starting to form his life-long friendships with Del and Sloan, and is starting to make some extra cash writing computer role-playing games. Lucas has been working as a street cop and is like an eager puppy when he gets to work the case of the missing girls. Lucas has his spider sense, even back then, and this case was never solved to his satisfaction. Now in the present day, he gets his second chance.
My thoughts: I don't think it took more than two or three days for me to knock out this latest (and greatest, in my opinion) installment of Lucas-ness. I'm not sure if there is any way you can understand the euphoria I experienced in reading this book unless you love Lucas the way I do. Let's do this. Imagine a loved one...a spouse, a significant other, a best friend, or even a parent...someone you love. And you get to travel back in time, before you knew them, to experience them in their earlier years. THAT is what this was like, and it was crazy fun.
The mystery is a heart-breaking one, because it involves missing children whom you know did not get out of their abduction alive. It involves a particularly despicable villain, foul in every way, who narrates a few chapters, but whose name isn't revealed to you until the end, at the same time Lucas makes the connection. The pace is quick, the detecting is smart, and the suits are Italian. You can't want for anything more from a Prey novel.
And Sandford throws a MAJOR character under the bus. I was shocked. I was distressed, because this particular character had been in the mix from the days of yore, but I was also impressed. Not every author has the guts to do it. I don't like to be coddled. I don't like it when 30 people die at the hands of a serial murderer, but the daughter of the protagonist (or the wife, or the mother, or the sister) makes it, just because it's cleaner. John Sandford, you ripped out my heart, but I love you for it.
Of all 21 Prey novels I have read, this one takes the prize by far. I'm a little nervous at this point, because I'm not sure if Sandford can top it. It won't stop me from reading book #22 though.
5 out of 5 stars