4 stars out of 5
Hard to believe this is the 25th book in the "Prey" series - most of which I've read - and while I won't call it the best of the bunch, it's well worth reading as usual. Also as usual, author Sandford manages to get in a guest appearance by one of his other cool characters, Virgil Flowers.
The story begins when Letty, the daughter adopted by Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Lucas Davenport and his surgeon wife, Weather, is home from college. Letty gets a call from a panhandling woman she befriended in San Francisco, who's begging for help in the belief that someone is killing off her traveling friends. Letty insists on helping the girl, and while Lucas suspects the whole thing is just a panhandling ploy, he agrees to accompany Letty.
As it turns out, Letty's newfound friend is on to some nastiness that could rival the Charles Manson gang (led by a guy who goes by the handle of Pilate). Following the gang members, who leave behind a string of grisly murders, takes Lucas out of his usual Gopher State to others including Wisconsin and Michigan's remote Upper Peninsula. In the process, he asks for and gets help from his buddy Virgil (a.k.a. "that f***ing Flowers") - always a treat for me because, well, I like him better than Lucas. In the process of catching the bad guys and gals, Lucas manages to get under the skin of his higher-ups (in part because he pulled Virgil off another job without permission). Lucas also is starting to see unwelcome changes in how he and his work are valued, hinting at changes that may come in future books.
For the most part, the thrill of the chase remained exciting throughout; but I'll also say that Letty - more than a bit of an errant child - isn't my favorite character by a long shot. I certainly don't want anything bad to happen to her, but if it did, I honestly wouldn't miss her much. I do like Lucas's wife Weather, but she gets exceptionally short shrift here. I also feared in the beginning that Sandford may be slipping toward the banality of Stuart Woods's Stone Barrington series when it comes to dialogue that seems to be more blather than substance. Then again, there are plenty of hopeful (and amusing) indications that this won't happen, such as this conversation with a Wisconson cop:
Lucas: "You divorced yet?"
Cop: "Let's not go there...I think she's gonna get the season tickets for the Packers."
Oh yeah - Sandford's still got it.
Gathering Prey by John Sandford (G.P. Putnam's Sons, April 2015); 416 pp.