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Broken Prey: Lucas Davenport Mysteries    by John Sandford order for
Broken Prey
by John Sandford
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Lucas Davenport, head of Minnesota's State Bureau of Investigation, figures he's got plenty of time to compile his personal list of 'Best Songs of the Rock Era' while his family is away in England for three months. However, his plan backfires when long-time sidekick Sloan calls Lucas in to help track down a brutal killer who tortures, then scourges his victims with barbed wire.

Lucas and his investigators zero in on a possible suspect, paroled mental patient Charlie Pope, who has a history of committing violent sex crimes. But it soon becomes clear that Charlie just didn't have the smarts to set up such intricate killings. And where exactly is Charlie Pope? There's no sign of the man, leaving Lucas wondering if Pope is dead, or has accomplices who choreograph each crime. The trail goes cold until the killer contacts headline hungry Star Tribune reporter Ruffe Ignace. The killer reveals that he's grabbed his next victim and that she will die very soon. Ignace contacts Davenport and repeats everything he's been told verbatim. At first Lucas suspects a copycat, but when the reporter reveals details of the other two crime scenes that only the investigators and the killer know, Lucas initiates a massive manhunt for Pope and his latest victim. But again, they're too late; all they find is another grisly kill site and far too few clues.

Though the last few installments of the Prey series have lacked their usual intensity, John Sanford is back in top form in this episode. Lucas Davenport continues to evolve and remains one of the most interesting investigators in crime fiction. This time, Sandford goes against his usual norm and keeps readers guessing the identity of the killer until close to the end of the book. Lean and gritty writing, break-neck pacing and a fine cast of secondaries add zest (and nicely placed doses of comic relief), making Broken Prey another edge-of-your-seat nail-biter that will stick with you after you turn the last page.

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