A review of Silken Prey, by John Sandford
@@@@ (4 out of 5)
Here’s Lucas Davenport again, that brilliant, multimillionaire, Porsche-driving cop, a friend of the governor, who takes on the most difficult criminal cases in the state as the top agent in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. This time around, Lucas is caught up in a murder case that’s somehow tied to the U.S. Senate campaign between the loony right-wing incumbent and the beautiful young billionaire psychopath who markets herself as a liberal Democrat. In other words, this is not the Minnesota we met in Fargo. It is, in fact, perilously close to the real state of the state. It’s no accident that Sandford’s suspenseful novel brims over with so much unrealized potential for satire. That’s just Minnesota. (Or, for that matter, just about any state in the Union.)
Here’s the skinny: A disgusting collection of child porn has shown up on the Senator’s personal computer, and the media is now merrily lynching him. Soon afterwards, an unscrupulous Democratic campaign trickster named Tubbs has gone missing, and foul play is suspected. Among the possibilities that occur to Davenport are (1) Tubbs planted the porn to torpedo the Senator’s campaign and was killed by whoever had hired him to do it, quite possibly the psychopathic Democratic challenger; (2) Tubbs was murdered by someone he was blackmailing, or simply on general principles for being such an odious character; or (3) Tubbs has gone on an extended bender, which he’s done before. Since the possible political repercussions of Tubbs’ disappearance are obvious, and evidence indicates that a bender is highly unlikely, the governor has asked Lucas to investigate. As Lucas ponders the possibilities, he learns that the source of the porn was, astonishingly, the Minneapolis Police Department. Soon, other complications ensue — and Lucas finds his life on the line as he pursues this case to the very top of the political heap.
Silken Prey is the 23rd novel in Sandford’s eminently satisfying Prey series, which revolves around the life and work of Lucas Davenport. Other characters in the series have spawned novels of their own — a total of 13 more books. Previously, I’ve reviewed several of Sandford’s works: Stolen Prey, Storm Prey, and Phantom Prey, plus Shock Wave and Mad River, featuring investigator Virgil Flowers. Sandford writes with a sure hand, imbuing his characters with the sort of contradictory values and behavior that label them as fully human. Their foibles and foolishness give rise to humor, more often than not, softening the violence that characterizes all his books.
Sandford, now 69, was a Pulitzer-winning journalist before 1989, when he turned to full-time fiction writing. Sandford is a pseudonym for John Roswell Camp.