An obsessive personality can create challenges. Most recently, stumbling onto John Sandford’s “Prey” mysteries has sent me over the edge into the realm of addiction. The series began in 1989 with Rules of Prey, and continued with an average of one book each year. The twenty-sixth, Extreme Prey, came out last April. My fascination began when I ran across a copy of Wicked Prey, 2009, in a used book store.
In Wicked Prey, Minneapolis is host to the Republican National Convention. The convention attracts a cast of thieves with plans for the huge amounts of cash carried by lobbyists and other shady political operatives. Complicating the mix is Randy Whitcomb, a psychotic thief and amateur pimp. A damaged personality from childhood, Randy is now confined to a wheelchair and looking to get even with Lucas Davenport, the detective he blames for the bullet that crippled him. A sniper out to assassinate several politicians keeps everybody looking over their shoulders.
Why had nobody told me about these books?
After completing one book, I realized the complex relations between characters meant the series is best read in order. Rules of Prey, the series’ opener, was my next choice, and I was hooked. From that point, I continued through the first ten books (okay, I admitted it’s an addiction), and the fascination has not waned. If you love detective/police procedurals, you’ll feel the same.
Lucas Davenport evolves through the series from a maverick detective to devoted husband and father. Along the way, he has a daughter with a television reporter who refuses to marry him, lives with several other women, marries a surgeon, and adopts a teenager. In his spare time he develops war games that make him a millionaire. No one will ever describe Lucas as a realistic cop. He loses his job with the Minneapolis police after shooting one too many serial killers (Some people just need to be killed) but is quickly rehired because nobody else can do the job as well as he.
One of my side interests is offbeat character’s names. One of Lucas’s sidekicks, Del Capslock, was named only after the author stared long enough at his keyboard. The “delete” key and the “caps lock” key were the inspiration. Don’t question the logic. The character, an undercover cop with long hair, dirty clothes, and yellow teeth, fits the name perfectly.
While these books have some of the best character development you’ll find in police procedurals, the plots are the main attraction. Some authors use the approach of outlining every step of their books. Sandford has said that he prefers to see where the characters and events lead, even if he might have to go back and rewrite most of the book to make the whole sequence of events seem plausible. The result is lots of surprises.
Earlier, I admitted to a fascination with John Sandford’s Prey series. In one of the books, Lucas Davenport admits to a fascination with the concept of evil and the monstrous things people do to one another. The killers in his world are all monsters; but the stories bristle with action, surprising turns, and satisfying endings.