Book Report: Easy Prey by John Sandford (2000)

I inherited this book from my aunt along with a couple of the next books in the series. Amazon informs me this is the eleventh book in the series, so I’ve undoubtedly missed a lot of the references and asides within this book that allude to incidents which the long-time fans of the Lucas Davenport novels would recognize. Each time I hit one of these many references, I recognized it for what it was, but I let it go. I know what a Robert B. Parker fan who started with Hugger Mugger must feel.

The book starts, chapter 1, in the mind of the killer with a bunch of foreshadowing; the killer awakens and doesn’t know he’s going to kill someone later, but he does. Honestly, given the plot of the book, ultimately the cheap foreshadowing doesn’t hang right with the rest of the plot. But the frenetic nature of the action, with the multitude of police characters and considerations in handling a case, one can overlook them–or forget the first chapter by the time the bodies start to pile up.

Good points:

  • Set in Minnesota, which is the upper Midwest. Although they worship the pagan Vikings and even refer to them once in the book, they’re of good Scandinaviagerman stock like my ancestors in Wisconsin.
  • Frantic pace of novel, coupled with allusions to previous novels, intimates an incident in a line and a past to which the characters are privy even if you, fool who starts with book eleven, are not.
  • Main character, in mid forties or so, is: rich due to his sale of a computer company; drives a Porsche due to his wealth; juggles attractive women of his own age with 20-something models; and serves as a deputy chief of police who bends the ear of the chief and the mayor.

    Face it, he’s the hardboiled fantasy from the 1940s or 1960s aged a couple decades.

Bad points:

  • The intro, foreshadowing chapter is ultimately misleading.
  • Multiple murderers throw the investigation off. Also, they confuse the reader.
  • Multiple murderers mean that the bulk of the book spends time chasing red herrings.
  • Book is split between whodunit and high level police procedural; the first chapter would indicate whodunit, but who does it doesn’t depend upon clues given but late breaking developments and insights and, frankly, who’s not dead among the suspect pool at the end.

Still, the pacing of the book and the engagement of the characters–or at least the condolence of the main character to the adolescent fantasies that carry over into adulthood–carried me along to the end. I have two other books in the series, and I look forward to reading them. They will determine whether I backfill the previous novels and buy more recent novels. Overall, I’m optimistic, which is the most I can say for any suspense series I’ve picked up in a while (barring the Robert Crais books which, gentle reader, you remember I started out optimistic and sort of soured).

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