Written by John Sandford

Review written by Philip Gooden

His historical novels include the Nick Revill series, set in Elizabethan London, a Victorian sequence, and a series of Chaucer mysteries, now in in e-books.

Simon & Schuster Ltd
RRP: £20.00
Released: May 8th, 2014

The real mystery for John Sandford fans in the UK is why he isn’t as well known over here as Michael Connelly or George Pelecanos. True, the Minnesota settings may lack the glamour of Washington or LA, but the wide skies and scattered townships around the Twin Cities of Minneapolis–Saint Paul are fertile ground for some of the best crime stories now being written. 

Sandford has two series heroes: Lucas Davenport, now a senior cop with a roving brief in the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and Virgil Flowers, a younger and more easy-going investigator who tends to operate out in the sticks. The two men are friends but the books detailing their cases have a different tone. After Flowers’s last outing in Storm Front  -  an untypical dip into a caper-style novel, with Dan Brown touches  -  we’re back in the mainstream with Davenport and Field of Prey.

This is one of the darker entries in the Prey series, with the kidnapping of a waitress at the beginning, the fifth in a sequence of such attacks and far from the last. As usual in the Davenport stories, the reader finds out early on the identity of the perpetrators, since we see things from their viewpoint at the same time as we follow the police investigation.

Not so much a whodunnit then as a how-will-they-be-apprehended? But Sandford still pulls surprises, including one late on in Field of Prey that will make you go back and look at the whole story again. His other strengths are his rapid-fire dialogue and quick character sketches, the convincing display of resentments and rivalries  -  as well as cooperation  -  in the police hierarchy, and realistic touches like the scenes here where a family are eager to exploit their young daughter’s potential as a witness in order to get on television.  

Maybe the new TV version of Fargo will help to popularise Minnesota as the home of quirky if violent crime, but for my money John Sandford got there long ago  -  and does it better. 

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