Monday, July 05, 2010

BOOKS: Wicked Prey by John Sandford

Words fail me at times. How can I describe how much I loathe this 19th entry in the Lucas Davenport series by John Sandford? I hated Wicked Prey enough to consider never reading another book by John Sandford.

I'd been warned. Patrick had told me not to expect to like this book. Nonsense, I thought to myself. I had gotten use to the rough and tumble language Davenport and his fellow lawmen in Minnesota used. I had followed the exploits of Davenport, solving crimes and building a family with wife Weather, son Sam and adopted daughter Letty. I'd become fond of them all. Thought I knew them as characters.

And then Sandford exploded all of that with a book built mainly around Letty. Or a character called Letty. And the suddenly dumb supporting cast around her. Sandford tries to portray Letty as a smart chip off the old man's block. He fails. Letty doesn't just hide information from Lucas on the belief she's protecting him, Sandford actually has Lucas confirm her suspicions later in the book. Not a chance!!! Acting on those beliefs, she sets into a motion, a plan that could get people killed and/or seriously hurt. She has a few qualms about this, but nothing approaching rational soul-searching.

Naturally, because she's smart as a whip (although a LOT LESS SMART than Sandford gives her credit for), all the OTHER adults she inveigles into helping her with her scheme NEVER TALK TO EACH OTHER. It's the old Siskel and Ebert saw about how certain movies REQUIRE nobody talk to each other, which runs counter to the fact that everybody blabs about everything all day long. A total house of stupid cards.

All so Letty can do some really creepy stuff. Creepy stuff that a 14-year old should never be part of. Despite her childhood. And despite an impending official adoption that would have any rational adoptee on their best behaviour in real life.


And it spoils a pretty decent caper plot for Davenport to solve himself. A robbery crew (NOT a murder gang) is in town to relieve the bagmen at the Minnesota Republican Presidential Convention of their loot. As it turns out, the crew is not murder-adverse and that makes their robbery spree a big problem, rather than a footnote to John McCain's coronation. Davenport and company do figure it all out and the good guys survive the resulting shootout. The bad guys, not so much.

We can also add Randy Whitcomb to the list of the survivors, although the ending of the book is chilling. A dim-witted refugee from an earlier Prey book, Whitcomb's parting words for Davenport in this book, thanks to Letty's machinations, write the novel's postscript.

The next Sandford book owes me big-time.

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