Phantom Prey, published in May of 2008 is the eighteenth installment of John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series.
Phantom Prey begins with the disappearance and suspected murder of the adult daughter of a wealthy widow, Alyssa Austin. Austin has returned home one evening and discovered her security system had been turned off, and there are bloodstains on the walls. The blood belongs to her daughter; Frances and nobody can seem to break the case. Alyssa asks her friend, Weather to talk to her husband Lucas Davenport. Davenport is one of the top cop/honcho guys with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, (which is sort of like a FBI type of organization on a state level). Lucas is stuck in the end of winter doldrums, so he agrees to take a look at the case.
By the time March rolls around in Minnesota, everyone is sick and tired of snow, sleet, rain and cold. The winter blahs have hit hard, and Lucas, usually the clotheshorse of the department is stuck in jeans and jacket mode. We find Lucas hanging out in an almost empty apartment that is being used for surveillance on a beautiful pregnant woman, Heather Toms, who happens to be the wife of a fugitive drug lord. Throughout the novel, the characters return to this apartment and watch Heather, who appears to have an aversion to closing the blinds. And it would appear that cops too, enjoy a good show. Eventually, the errant drug lord makes an appearance and gun-play a-plenty ensues.
Using this case as a backdrop and the peripheral characters involved in it as a sounding board, Lucas begins to probe Frances’ disappearance. Frances was caught up in the Goth scene, and as Lucas starts to make inquiries, Goths that may be involved are attacked and brutally murdered. What started as a missing persons case rapidly evolves into a multiple homicide. The title of the book fits perfectly with the crime being solved. But an explanation of the title might ruin the first half of the novel. I’ll just say it fits, and not everyone is as they appear to be on the surface. Leave it to Sandford to take the mundane, tweak it just a bit and make it completely atypical and unexpected.
One of the things I like about the Lucas Davenport series is the relationship he has with his wife. Weather is a terrific character. She’s a successful surgeon, loving wife and mom with a no nonsense persona. Lucas can be dishing the baloney for all he’s worth and she calls him on it every time,
…..So: will you see her, or will I have to nag you into it?”Tell me, how great is Weather Davenport……
“Aw, for Christ’s sakes,” Lucas said.
“I’m pretty tied up. Maybe—“
“Lucas. You haven’t done a thing for a month, except sit around and watch Heather Toms take her clothes off,” Weather said. “You always have this slump at the end of winter. The only way out is work. So find the time.”……..
……….Because, realistically, once Weather had decided that he was going to talk to Austin, there was no way out. If she put her mind to it, she could nag the paint off a garage…”
Sandford has a great way of throwing one-liners into his books. They may not have much to do with the story, but they realism
"Golf is the stupidest game ever invented,” Dell said.I know this has nothing to do with the story, but it's these little occasional exchanges between characters that really bring the book to life, and usually provide me with a little snicker.
“That’s true,” Shrake said, pointing the putter at Del. “But you’re not qualified to say it. You have to play it for twenty years before you can fully appreciate how exquisitely stupid it really is.”
I’ve been waiting for years for Hollywood to come knocking on Mr. Sandford’s door. It’s yet another series that I don’t understand how they’ve missed making into movies. Seriously, we get Saw every year like clockwork, Final Destination up the whazoo, (do they understand the meaning of the word FINAL?) and nobody has written a screenplay about Lucas Davenport? What the heck is wrong with Hollywood?? I’ve given it some thought, and I have a prospective list of actors for the role of Lucas Davenport. Hollywood? Are you listening?
Keanu Reeves—umm…Speed...yeah...oh..Point Break....ugh, pass....
Mark Wahlberg—Ditto Keanu, except The Happening….ugh again….
Hugh Jackman—ehh…maybe, but a little too pretty and he’d have to do a tough guy American accent.
Pierce Brosnan—too purty.
Ben Affleck—ehh—he’d have to beef up a bit and look meaner. He’s a little too sweet faced.
Vince Vaughn—he’s a big guy, but sorta goofy. Not sure he can pull off bad-ass.
Bill Pullman—did cranky guy really well in Bottle Shock. Dye the hair black and he’d do Lucas proud, maybe a touch too old, but I like the guy.
Kurt Russell—perfect, except he’s not quite tall enough and probably a little too old, but I think I love every movie he’s ever made, even Soldier (I know….) But just being Kurt Russell makes him perfect.
All terrific actors, (usually) but I think my top two picks are:
Liev Schreiber—he can play the bad-ass with the best of them, just dye the hair dark and cut him loose.
Dominic West—played a cop on The Wire, looks the part and is believable as the big guy cop.
Yup, that’s it then, Dominic West or Liev Schreiber. This could be HUGE, an entire franchise, a lifetime of roles, like James Bond with a Heineken.
Summing up, if you’ve not read any of the Prey series, I suspect you could pick it up anywhere and enjoy the books. But if you’re a series geek like me, and you’re looking for a new bunch of books, pick up the first one and work your way through. It’s one of my favorite series, and always a good read. You can check out Sandford's complete bibliography here including brief descriptions of each of his novels.
Phantom Prey was great, and make sure you check out Bookworm’s World on Monday, May 17th for the next installment of the Days of Prey Blog Tour. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've gotta go. I just started Wicked Prey and
Storm Prey comes out next week. I've got to get caught up!
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the review copy.