Friday, June 27, 2014

Dead Watch - John Sandford

In my opinion, Dead Watch is at the same level as the worst in Prey series. It is not bad, but needed more woven intrigues. Perhaps I didn’t like it very much because the story was about politics – but when I think about it, I enjoyed the Mary Queen of Scots court stories which were full of intrigues: friends could become foes and vice versa.

The hero in this book was a 33 year-old army intelligence veteran, now worked as a forensic bureaucrat, named Jake Winter. If something went wrong, he tried to find out what really happened. Basically, like Lucas Davenport, he was a fixer.

Madison’s attorney: “If there’s some really screwed-up problem, that nobody can fix, and that must be fixed, Jake fixes it. He makes lists of people who need to be fired, who need to be promoted. He had ears all over the bureaucracy… he scares the heck out of those people. And that’s what’s got to be done if you want to find [Lincoln].”

In Afghanistan, Jake Winter’s leg had been wounded and now he was limp and usually walked with a cane. He lived in Burleith, Washington, and worked for Bill Danzig, the president’s chief of staff.

Lincoln Bowe, a former senator from Virginia, was missing and probably dead. His wife, Madison thought that his rival, Arlo Goodman, the governor, knew something about it because she was being followed by the Watchmen, the governor’s volunteer militia group, or the governor’s thugs. There was a rumor that the missing politician had had ‘a package’ about a big corruption done by the vice president that could bring him down. Jake Winter had to find the package before Arlo Goodman, who also wanted it because of his ambition to be the next vice president.

I think the mysterious man who first tipped Jake Winter about the package's existence, stayed mysterious.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Field of Prey - John Sandford

Field of Prey was only published last month. I had read many negative reviews on but after reading it myself, I think I like this book after all.

Two teenagers found a cistern full of dead bodies in Red Wing. It seemed the killer had killed one young girl every summer and had been doing it for many years. Lucas Davenport from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was asked by his boss to take a look at the case, named The Black Hole case. Bob Shaffer led the investigation, but with Lucas’s help the case should be able to be solved much sooner because the governor wanted to be the next vice president. At that time, Lucas had been working on a case of a disappearance of the suspect who had run a Ponzi scheme on a St Paul investment company.

The Ponzi scheme suspect was finally seen in Florida, so Lucas sent his thugs, Jenkins and Shrake, to pick him up. Meanwhile, his other agent Virgil Flowers worked on a case in New Mexico and Del Capslock was in El Paso, looking at old people who were smuggling guns. Basically, Lucas was on his own on the Black Hole case.

Bob Shaffer found a clue about the Black Hole case, but he thought it was weak and didn’t tell Lucas and Del who were around. “He didn’t want to talk about it, because it sounded… too easy. Possibly even stupid. Should that turn out to be the case, he didn’t need Davenport or Capslock gossiping about it.”  This wrong step made Shaffer killed. The story went slow after that. It took lots of chapters for Lucas to find what Shaffer had found earlier. If he was not so diverted with more cases, he perhaps could have solved the mystery sooner. In working the case, the cops took anything they could find and followed them all. It wasn’t like Shaffer to feel that what he had found wasn't important.

When the body of Shaffer was found, Lucas - who was at home - looked for a company to go to the crime scene. He finally took Letty, his adopted daughter. He actually could go by himself if Del was not available. Bob Shaffer was alone when he was looking at cemeteries.

The story was taken place in Goodhue County. The killer lived in a small town named Holbein and after a while I found that this town was fictional. I couldn’t find it in any map, but John Sandford gave a discription about where it was.
“In Minnesota, there’s Lake City, seventeen miles south of Red Wing, Holbein fourteen miles southwest, Zumbrota, eight miles past Holbein, ...”

I don’t like how the killer suffered schizophrenia. This bit reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The relation of the killer and his old buddy was similar to Norman Bates and his mother. Schizophrenic killer was also used in Phantom Prey. If in Phantom Prey Lucas took his wife to interview a suspect, in Field of Prey he took his daughter to see a crime scene. Lucas should have been more professional and didn't take a family member when he was working.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Silken Prey - John Sandford

Porter Smalls, a  conservative Republican politician, had been caught having porn files in his office computer. Smalls claimed that he had been framed and the governor directly assigned Lucas Davenport to discreetly look at the case. The election was coming and of course Smalls’ rival, Taryn Grant, benefited from this incident.

Lucas had been fixed things for the governor before, but this case was much more dangerous. He could make enemies everywhere if he took a wrong step and probably would lose his job at the BCA – not that he needed the money anyway.

Compared to the previous book in Prey series, Silken Prey was not as exciting. The pace was slower and Lucas had no idea where to look at until people started to be missing or killed. It was the killers who were having ideas how to progress, how to avoid the cops, and Lucas was only following their trails; although the killers’ efforts to shake him, gave him more clues instead. Besides working with his usual BCA agents, he also asked help from Kidd, a hacker and an artist.

Lucas Davenport was 40 in the first Prey book, now he was 49 and had a family: a wife, an adopted daughter, a toddler son, a baby girl, and a housekeeper. I think he was not as sharp as before – although the amount of curse words were much more reduced. In the old days, he wrote clues on pieces of paper and stuck them on his wall and looked at them and thought before sleeping. Now he often discussed cases with his wife or went shopping. "Nothing was so likely to clear the mind as spending money."

Monday, June 16, 2014

Stolen Prey - John Sandford

A whole family were tortured and murdered by Mexican drug gang. BCA cop Lucas Davenport was at first called to handle the media, but his boss expected him to catch the murderers. A federal police was sent from Mexico to help, since he was familiar with the drug gang.

The Mexican gang had been laundering money via Polaris National Bank in Minneapolis and one of the bank employees saw the opportunity to steal the month’s flow of money. Another BCA cop, Shaffer, worked on the murders’ angle and Lucas worked parallelly until the Polaris president asked him to investigate from the money’s angle. Who had stolen the money and where it had gone?

Stolen Prey was another great book in the Prey series. The tortures made everybody scared by only hearing the name ‘The Mexicans’. In America, tortures on children and dogs are intolerable. It’s odd how they sometimes value animals more than people.We also see how Shaffer developed from a very straight cop to a slightly flexible one, how Lucas corrupted him.

Lucas to Shaffer: “Tell the reporters a strategic lie”
Shaffer (after thought about it): “It feels unethical. But I won’t give you up, if you tell it.”

In the beginning of the book, Lucas was robbed after drawing money from an ATM machine while doing his night jogging. He sprained his wrist and had to wear a fiberglass cast throughout the book. He determined to catch the two amateur robbers, but since he was busy working on the Mexicans, he delegated the case to Virgil Flowers, his subordinate.

A cop like Lucas had many enemies and again in this book, the bad guys came for his family. He could not always be around to protect them. It was not like in the old days, when he was single; now he had a family and he had a responsibility. He was lucky to have a daughter like Letty. He said to her in Wicked Prey: “You take care of your family and you take care of your friends.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Buried Prey - John Sandford

When Lucas Davenport was still a uniformed cop in Minneapolis Police Department, he came across a case of missing two young girls. More plainclothes cops were needed, so Lucas was hired temporarily. He worked harder than the others and found a lead to a mysterious man named John Fell. The other cops focused their search on a homeless guy which ended with the guy’s death. Case was closed although the missing girls had not been found. Lucas was not satisfied, but he couldn’t work alone. His boss, Daniel Quentin, who had political ambitions, was happy with his work and Lucas was permanently made into a plainclothes and given new cases. Soon John Fell had been forgotten.

Years later, a contractor found the bodies of the two girls, buried in a concrete basement. Again Lucas was drawn to the case, feeling guilty why he had given up then. Now he determined to find John Fell, believed that Fell had had more victims.

I liked this book very much because it told Lucas’s early years in MPD. It didn’t really make sense though, how he never visited his mother, who suffered breast cancer. She was the only relative he had, it seemed, or he was more a loner than I had thought. He reminded me of Tintin (by Herg√©), who was also an orphan. (Tintin has a loyal dog, though, and Lucas doesn't.) Young Lucas couldn’t do whatever he liked back then. Every time he got a lead, he couldn't follow it and had to share with others, or at least to his boss, who didn’t like to be called at midnight at home. Now Lucas was a boss in the BCA, with his own secretary, researcher, detectives, and thugs; he could even decide which cases he wanted to take.

=Back at the BCA, Lucas called John Simon, the director, and told him what was happening. Simon had almost no control over Lucas’s unit, and resented it, but lived with it.=

Here he also worked on this case by his own will, although in the end his boss took the glory because John Fell was a serial killer after all.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Storm Prey - John Sandford

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was January in Twin Cities and a storm was coming. Four people robbed the pharmacy at University Hospitals in Minneapolis and kicked an old pharmacists when he was trying to get help. This old man had been in medication and the unharmed kick killed him. However he managed to scratch his attacker so the police would be able to find the man by his DNA. Meanwhile, Lucas Davenport’s wife, Weather, who was a surgeon, came early to that hospital for a separation operation on a twins and saw two of the robbers’ face, one inside and one outside.

For the robbers it was a bad nightmare getting worse and worse √† and for the police the headache was worse and worse. When the pharmacist died, they were involved in a murder. They tried to remove any witnesses by committing more murders, also didn’t hesitate to get rid of their own people. They sent a killer after Weather, without knowing that she was the wife of ‘the second smartest cop in Minnesota’ [said Virgil Flowers. Who was the first?]. Again in this book Lucas did a personal errand, using the BCA people to guard his wife. The robbers did themselves harms when they went after Weather: 1) The state cops would never give up until Weather was safe 2) The killer was riding a motorbike and this led the investigation to the Seed, a motorcycle gang, and a bar owned by two of the robbers.

Lucas's part was not as big as in other books. At first he was even only mentioned as 'Weather's husband', while in previous books in this series he was the main character. In this book he really worked as a team with his BCA men. It would have been easier if they could get Weather out of town, but since the writer made her a very important part of the separation operation team, Weather had to be in the hospital every day, while a killer was hunting her.

The plot was unpredictable with lots of twists, made this one of the best books in Prey series.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wicked Prey - John Sandford

The Republican convention was coming to Twin Cities and the cops were very busy. A poor man had been seen shooting a new .50 cal rifle nearby and the person who ran the convention security coordination committee asked Lucas Davenport to look into it. Then Lily Rothenburg, a captain with the NYPD, called Lucas to warn him that a bunch of robbers were coming to Minneapolis. And there was Randy Whitcomb, a pimp who had had a history with Lucas [Eyes of Prey & Chosen Prey) and swore to get back at him, but as he was afraid, he targeted Lucas’s 14 year-old ward, Letty West.

I really enjoyed reading this book, especially after the disappointing Phantom Prey. Letty, who worked as an unpaid intern for Channel Three, soon found out that Randy Whitcomb was after her. Knowing that if she told Lucas [I thought it was touching that she called him ‘Dad’ and Weather ‘Mom’], Lucas would kill Randy and got himself in trouble, Letty decided not to tell him and to solve the problem herself.

The robbers were the main focus in this book. First they robbed lobby men (=lobbyists) in their hotel rooms. These ‘vote buyers’ carried a lot of money and since their activity was illegal, the robbers thought they perhaps wouldn’t report the robberies to the cops. However, the victims were Neil Mitford’s friends. Neil Mitford was the governor’s executive assistant. He called Lucas to catch the robbers without telling anyone about the illegal money. At first it indeed raised a question, but when the robbers killed a cop, the cops began to take it seriously and hunted the cop killers. The scene culminated in St Andrews Hotel when the desperate robbers hit the strong room.

The book concluded with Letty officially became Letty Davenport.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Phantom Prey - John Sandford

In Phantom Prey, Lucas Davenport worked on two cases: 1) surveillance on the wife of Twin Cities’s largest volume cocaine dealer who had vanished after he bailed out of jail 2) the disappearance of a rich heiress and murders of her friends.

If I have to pick the weakest book in the Prey series, this is it (so far). Usually the stories have some complexity, but in this book I didn’t find it. I have read many crime fiction novels and it felt like one of those, not up to usual John Sanford standard I had expected.

I think the surveillance thing was okay, but the Frances Austin – the heiress - investigation was a little disappointing. It was two different killers and one of them suffered schizophrenia. Years ago I read All Around The Town by Mary Higgins Clark, which I thought was great. The schizophrenia thing in Phantom Prey reminded me of that book, and since in my opinion John Sandford was a better writer than Clark, I had hoped he could have done better. And Lucas had been usually smarter.** The pace was slower than usual, so Lucas had to be shot earlier to make it more interesting.

Lucas worked on Frances Austin case because his wife Weather had asked him to. France’s mother was Weather’s friend. This made the case was not as politically important as the errands from the governor. Weather’s influence in this book was bigger, far long from the unintelligent woman who had broken the garage door in Hidden Prey. Lucas even brought her to interview a suspect. Why brought Weather if Sloan could help?

**When Lucas was looking for Fairy, he showed a photo kit of her to the Frances's friends to see if it looked like Frances and he got answers such as: "It looks a little like her, but the hair's wrong, and this woman is skinnier..." "In this picture she looks a little like Frances, but she doesn't look like her in real life. She's smaller and skinnier and darker."  Lucas should have had an idea that Fairy was someone related to Frances, especially if a homicide cop had told him earlier the same idea. He would have had solved the case much sooner.