How many times can John Sandford go to the Lucas Davenport well? It must be getting pretty low on water by now as he has visited the locale about twenty times. Minneapolis Police Detective Lucas Davenport has been at the heart of the entire "Prey" series which has been around for the last twenty years.
Sandford's latest novel STORM PREY has Davenport at the heart of the story and also includes supporting characters such as investigator Virgil Flowers and Davenport's wife Dr. Weather Karkinnen. If you have read all of the nineteen previous PREY novels then you know pretty much how these characters act and even what they think.
This time out Weather is working on a medical case involving twins who are conjoined at the top of their skulls. On her way to perform the separation surgery she almost collides with a van in the parking deck of the hospital. This van contains some men who are there to rob the hospital pharmacy. They do rob it and during the course of the robbery kick one of the workers there and he later dies. Now it is robbery and murder.
Lyle Mack is the planner of the robbery and he now realizes Weather might be able to identify one of the guys who was in on the robbery. He imports a killer named Cappy and tells him to take out Weather. The rest of the book is a cat and mouse story about the attempts on Weather's life.
The crime and the subsequent investigation are not enough to fill the pages of the book so Sandford also includes long passages about the surgery on the twins. It is very detailed and is fairly interesting but it adds nothing to the "criminal" story. It is just filler, though it also adds some new facets to the character of Weather.
Much more interesting is the analysis of the criminals' behavior and the paths they take to stay off the police's radar. Lyle Mack is the mastermind behind the crime but he is basically dense and leaves too many holes through which the police can spot him. His brother Joe is even more of a dolt. He keeps making stupid mistakes that threaten to bring the law down on him and quickly.
One of the most chilling aspects of STORM PREY is the random violence that occurs. People are killed or hurt just because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. You never know when one of these violent acts is going to occur and when it does it is like a jolt to your entire system.
John Sandford is still a compelling writer. He knows his characters and he knows how to detail a criminal investigation. Still writing about Lucas, Weather and Virgil is too repetitive. The reader, if he has been following the series, feels this is a story he has read before - somewhere in the past. STORM PREY is a story about good detective work but it is an echo of PREY's past.
Sandford has started writing a "Virgil Flowers" series of books but even that character is too closely associated with these stories. Sandford needs to break out an entirely new character and get his juices humming in a fresh display of his talent.
STORM PREY is published by G P Putnam's Sons. It contains 408 pages and sells for $27.95.