Friday, May 8, 2015

John Sandford’s 25th Lucas Davenport novel, ‘Gathering Prey,’ debuts at #1 on bestsellers list

Yes! Yes! Yes! Whenever a new John Sandford thriller comes out, I’m that happy woman first in line to buy it. ‘Gathering Prey,’ the 25th Lucas Davenport novel, has just been released and immediately claimed the number one spot on the U.S. bestsellers list, according to Reuters.

Lucas Davenport is the Chief Investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He’s independently wealthy, having founded and then sold a company that designs computer simulations. His wife, Weather (who, in an earlier book, saved his life when he was shot in the throat) is a surgeon. Their adopted daughter, Letty, is a student at Stanford. We first met Letty when she was eight or nine and subsisting on whatever she caught in her backwoods traplines.

Lucas’ right-hand man and fellow BAC agent, Virgil Flowers, now covers
the southern part of the state and has his own series of novels while making cameo appearances in the Davenport series.

Davenport and several of the other characters have been with us since 1989 when the first book in the “Prey” series appeared. We’ve watched them grow older, go through marital, health, and other crises, solve cases, despair, celebrate, mock each other mercilessly and cover each others’ backs.

In ‘Gathering Prey,’ Lucas’ daughter, Letty, meets a couple of buskers named Skye and Henry who are playing and singing (badly) in a park in San Francisco and offers to buy them a meal at McDonalds. Skye is freaking out because she thinks she’s seen a guy named Pilate in town; she says he’s “the devil.” Naïve Henry thinks all those stories about murder and torture are just not true: Pilate is a good guy who’s going to get him a part in a movie.

But Pilate is, in fact, the leader of a murderous gang of “Travellers” who wander from state to state, attending Fairs and other Events where they can buy and sell drugs, and also sell the bodies of the women travelling with them.

Letty goes back to Minneapolis for the summer break, having given Skye her phone number. Henry is lured to a meeting with Pilate where he is tortured and murdered. Pilate enjoys such activities, for his own pleasure but also to impress his followers with his power. When Skye cannot find Henry, she calls Letty and begs for help. She believes the Travellers have killed her partner and are going to kill her next.

Letty buys her a bus ticket and persuades a skeptical Lucas to listen to Skye’s story. He agrees to investigate. What follows is a complicated chase across several state lines with the help of myriad law enforcement agencies. Letty gets involved (despite Lucas’ efforts to keep her out of it) and is attacked by Pilate at a Gathering of the Juggalos, followers of the Insane Clown Posse. (Yes, there really is an Insane Clown Posses; Google them if you don’t believe me.)

The chase continues into the isolated small towns and wooded areas of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I won’t spoil the experience by detailing what happens next. Let me just say that I started reading and did not put the book down until I was finished – I was hooked.

Photo by David Swanson/Philadelphia Inquirer
Sandford himself is an interesting guy. His real name is John Roswell Camp. He started out as an Army reporter and, after getting out of the Army, worked as a reporter in Missouri and then as a reporter and editor at the Miami Herald and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He won the Pulitzer Prize in journalism in 1986 and was one of four finalists for it in 1980. He also won the Distinguished Writing Award of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1985. He still takes occasional assignments and was embedded with an Air Assault Battalion during the Iraq War.

He has a serious interest in archaeology and is the principal financial backer of the Beth-Shean Valley Archaeological Project in Israel. He is also a serious painter and photographer and, while he does not exhibit his paintings, his photos have appeared in numerous publications.

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