Book Review: Gathering Prey by John Sandford

Posted September 23, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Gathering Prey by John Sandford

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Gathering Prey by John Sandford
Series: Lucas Davenport #25
on April 28, 2015
Pages: 407
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also in this series: Rough Country

They call them Travelers. They move from city to city, panhandling, committing no crimes—they just like to stay on the move. And now somebody is killing them.

Lucas Davenport’s adopted daughter, Letty, is home from college when she gets a phone call from a woman Traveler she’d befriended in San Francisco. The woman thinks somebody’s killing her friends, she’s afraid she knows who it is, and now her male companion has gone missing. She’s hiding out in North Dakota, and she doesn’t know what to do.

Letty tells Lucas she’s going to get her, and, though he suspects Letty’s getting played, he volunteers to go with her. When he hears the woman’s story, though, he begins to think there’s something in it. Little does he know. In the days to come, he will embark upon an odyssey through a subculture unlike any he has ever seen, a trip that will not only put the two of them in danger—but just may change the course of his life.

Also by this author: Rules of Prey, Shadow Prey, Eyes of Prey, Easy Prey, Chosen Prey, Invisible Prey, Phantom Prey, Wicked Prey, Dark of the Moon, Heat Lightning, Rough Country, Bad Blood, Shock Wave, Storm Front, Deadline, Extreme Prey, Escape Clause, The Fool's Run, Deep Freeze, The Empress File, Twisted Prey, Holy Ghost, Neon Prey, Bloody Genius, Masked Prey

Twenty-fifth in the Lucas Davenport detective mystery series and revolving around a loner who believes in justice, anyway he can get it. This story roams from the Dakotas across to Michigan and doesn’t disappoint with Letty playing a part in this one.

My Take

Whew, it’s another pip of a Davenport and includes a life-changing event. I think it’s a nasty trick on Sandford’s part ’cause now I’ll have to wait until Extreme Prey comes out April 2016. However, I do have the Virgil Flowers series to look forward to…and I suspect I’ll wish I’d read them conjointly.

Ya can’t help but adore Lucas, Letty, and Weather. Letty’s past and outlook on life bring her more inline with Lucas’ morality while her observational skills enable her to blend in anywhere. She knows more than any teenager should about the horrors of life. Weather worries about them both with her liberal slant toward life while Lucas is managed by her. He knows it and cowers. Between he and Letty, they work to manage what Weather knows. And I absolutely adore “reading” Lucas’ mind as he, in turn, considers Weather’s foibles. I keep remembering that scene some stories back in which Weather kept having trouble with that darned garage door, lol. Frickin’ thing… Then there’s Lucas himself. A thug with a fascination for designer suits and fine shirts who loves poetry. What’s not to love?

This story begins so sweetly and quickly descends into a mind-numbing horror. It’s odd though. There’s a tension missing. I know, how could that possibly be with someone as hideous as Pilot running around loose? Another type of horror is Lucas’ increasing depression over how bureaucrats view crime: something that shouldn’t bust the budget. Hey, people are always getting killed, so why worry about it?

One of the things I love about this series is the cooperation that exists between police departments. Notice I said police departments. It’s the way we regular people want to think the police work. Well, until we stub our toes *she says as she glances away with a grin*

“The Secret Service had three agents poking around, and they generally considered the BCA to be their assistants in the matter. Sort of like secretaries, or maybe receptionists. Or maybe golden retrievers.”

I can understand Skye’s need for revenge…and I do feel bad for her. If only she’d trusted in Letty and Lucas. And Lucas… Well, Lucas is relieved in a way that the indomitable Letty who thinks she can handle anything learns how outclassed she is.

“‘…his idea of a raid is ten people with M16s and camo and helmets and three TV trucks. We could’ve gotten the same results by knocking on the door.’

‘Well, the important thing is the safe.’

‘… The important thing isn’t the safe,’ Del said. … ‘Nobody gives a **** about anything but the entertainment media, of which we are now a branch.'”

Poor Weather. She so wants Letty to go to medical school, and Lucas finally lets the air out of her tires, so to speak. He tells her the only way Letty will be a doctor if she could be a Navy SEAL doctor.

I’ve been exploring transitional phrases for my editing blog, and it struck me that Gathering Prey had one of those transitional problems. We went from Field of Prey in which Lucas seemed fine with what he was doing to Gathering Prey which has him very, very bored. Either I missed something or…

I loved Roman and his posse. He’s totally accepting of his lack of investigative skills and happily accepts Lucas’ help. He’s also laidback in his subtle way, letting Lucas know that he, Laurent, has the strategic skills. It is nice payback of a sort against Lucas who has always been the one leading and commanding.

Roman is such a contrast with Pilate. Roman considers his posse, their emotions, and wants to help do good. Pilate. Pilate is a Charles Manson who gets off on hurting people. Others, his own. He’s not picky about their sex, although he won’t tolerate any woman “disrespecting” him. Nor does he have any clue… No, that’s not true. He does know what loyalty is, it simply has no connection to him.

Pilate’s women are good. No, not in the angelic sense, but good at pulling the wool over your eyes. And they all have that problem with “not having been there” *eye roll*. I’m curious about the childhood backgrounds of these jerks. No, I’m not going to excuse their behavior. They’re adults, they can choose to behave like decent people, but I would be curious to know if their parents should have been sterilized before they had kids.

“He didn’t want her to enjoy herself. He wanted to use her, and for her to know that she was being used, like an appliance.”

I do feel bad about the cops who get shot. And, they need to figure out if they’re facing down the bad guys because they want the credit or because the baddies need to go down. The Birches ticked me off. They could’ve been a lot more grateful for being alive.

At the opposite end of the scale is that barista at the coffeeshop. I love her!! That girl can think on her feet, woohoo!

I did have to laugh when Frisell makes that comment about not leading enough. Ah, yes, the technical assessment…lol…

Oh, baby, it’s gonna be fun when Henderson starts his campaign to be vice-president. The Henderson Hoagie, uh-huh…LMAO…

The Story

Thank god for Letty… It’s Skye’s call freaking out about Henry that gets Lucas moving.

It’s not a Minnesota deal, but if Lucas doesn’t get involved, he’s afraid that Letty will. It’s a move that has Del, Flowers, Jenkins, and Shrake worried about Lucas’ survival. For Sands is P-I-S-S-E-D.

The Characters

Letty Davenport is attending Stanford University now, which is making Lucas nuts as he worries over her. She’s the Davenports’ adopted daughter (Storm Prey, 20). Detective Lucas Davenport heads up a special unit within the BCA who answer only to the governor, Elmer Henderson. He also functions as the BCA liaison with the Secret Service. And he’s getting irritated with those jobs. Dr. Weather Karkinnen is a plastic surgeon at Hennepin General. Sam and Gabrielle are their other children.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is…
…like a state police group and is headed up by Henry Sands, who does not like Lucas. The BCA is overseen by Rose Marie Roux. Virgil Flowers is one of Lucas’ agents with good connections. He’s stuck on that fake case in Fergus Falls sucking up to a lame state senator, Moore. One who has say over the BCA budget. Del Capslock is another of his agents and a good friend who’s recovering from events in Field of Prey, 24. Barb Watson is a technical specialist. Jenkins and Shrake are trying to find the murder weapon used in the Merion murder. Beatrice Sawyer leads the BCA crime scene crew. Julie Katz has the cadaver dog. Catrin Mattson has joined the BCA as a detective (Field of Prey) and is seeing a shrink.

Phil is a good sniper with a regional SWAT team in Minnesota. Martin Bobson is having to backtrack on who he assigns as prosecutor for the Merion case.

Baudette PD
Nancy Mahler is a sheriff’s deputy.

George “Pap” Tillus is Chet’s father and operates a run-down campground in Baudette. Seems he’s running an illegal campground as well.


Santa Monica PD
Lewis Hall is an intelligence cop interested in Pilate. He’s investigating the Kitty Place murder. Ruben is a CI.

Los Angeles PD
Detective Rick Robinson is with Homicide. He asks Lucas to send the killer to South Dakota…’cause they got the death penalty and use it.

South Dakota

South Dakota Highway Patrol
Steve Clemmens is up in Butte County.


Wisconsin Highway Patrol
Joe Hagestrom is a patrolman.

Wisconsin’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI)
Bob Stern is an agent who’s worked with Lucas before. Mike Maddox is another agent.

Hayward PD, Sawyer County
Clark Chapman is the sheriff. Rick was the jerk attorney yanking everyone’s chain. Mark Hassellhoff is the county attorney who’s much more cooperative.


State Police HQ in Lansing
Jon Duncan is a senior case coordinator (he might be with the BCA…?) Captain Ferguson.

Barron County PD in the Upper Peninsula
Sheriff Roman Laurent is an ex-army Ranger. They have a total of six deputies and a police dog. Bernie Allen is one of the official ones. Doug Sellers, Jim Bennett is the postmaster, Barney Peters is a lawyer, Rick Barnes runs a Subway store, and Jerry Frisell is a high school teacher and coach. All were military veterans and are Laurent’s deputized posse.

“‘When I was in Iraq,’ Laurent said, ‘we had a standard answer for somebody who suggested that an op was going to be easy.’


‘Yeah: Run!‘”

Lyle Ellis is the public defender. Amos Krall has a van that may be useful.

Jeanne d’Arc PD
The county seat is in Jeanne d’Arc where they have seven cops. Cronhauser is the police chief.

Sault St. Marie PD
Herb Jackson is their crime scene guy.

Cray County Sheriff’s Department
Carl is a deputy. Phil Turner is the sheriff.

Hale County Sheriff’s Department
Hugh Butcher is the sheriff. Hugh and Orville are deputies who get too excited. Dick Blinder is the cop under the bridge. Walt is known in Mellon.

Brownsville is where the first shoot-out occurs. Margery is the hamburger fry cook who got off a good one. Ben has a pickup and follows the killers.

I reckon the lesson here is to not run afoul of anyone in the Upper Peninsula. Mrs. Boden is in the gas station with others. Ted’s bar has another group of townsfolk holed up. The Old Eagle Inn is where the artists, Sandy and Larry Birch, are working.

“People in the UP know they have to take care of themselves, because nobody else will.”

Constance Frey is worried about her husband, Louis.

The media
Daisy Jones is a reporter with WCCO television and known for her confessional talks with Twin Cities celebrities. Jennifer Carey is a television reporter for Channel 3 and the mother of Lucas’ first daughter. Annie McGowan anchors Channel 11.

Shirley “Skye” Bellows and the sweetly naive Henry Mark Fuller are Travelers hiking from one event to another, busking. Carl is a friend with whom she meets up. Siggy and Ivan are going to the Hayward Juggalo.

Swede Hollow in Minneapolis is…
…a neighborhood tucked inside a hollow where the disenfranchised gather.

A Juggalo Gathering is…
…like a Woodstock where fans of Insane Clown Posse or other hip hop groups with the Psychopathic Records label come together to party. A very distinct characteristic is painting one’s face to look like a clown. We first meet Randy, your friendly fat guy, at the Hayward, Wisconsin, gathering. In his mundane life, Randy owns a self-storage place in Ann Arbor. Dave is the medic. Betty Morrow is a participant with a camera.

Andy is a participant at the Michigan Juggalo.

Porter Pilot/Pilate is the devil in a human suit. His “disciples” will do anything for him. Sell drugs, rape, steal, whore. Murder. The scary Kristen Jones is perfect for him with her filed teeth, and she likes to kick butt. Ellen, Laine Archer of the golden pussy, Linda Petrelli, Melody Walker, Carrie, Michelle, and Alice McCarthy are the women. Raleigh Waites is his second-in-command with a nasty attitude about sex. Arnaty “Bony” Roscow was driving the station wagon, Chet Tillus, Terry, Jason “Jase” Biggs, Parker Collins, Kelly Bland, Bell, Biggie, Coon, and Darrell are some of his disciples. Neal Ray Malin is an honest drug dealer from Chippewa Falls. Ann Webster owns the house where Malin rented the top floor. I did like Malin in that he didn’t fall for Pilate’s grandiose statements.

“He half dozed, entertaining himself with fantasies of cutting up Kristen. The fine-woven treachery of the idea turned him on.”

Park Raines is Ben Merion’s defense lawyer. Lucas is positive that Merion murdered his wife, Gloria, and proving it is in the background. Connie Sweat is Merion’s girlfriend on the side; she’s known as Honey Potts at the Blue Diamond Cutter Gentleman’s Club.

Gary Bazile is a lacrosse player studying economics at Stanford who is calling Letty every night of her summer vacation. Ralph Benson is a professional bowler in Scottsdale who’s missing a car. Brett Givens is working as a sign man for a real estate company. Dale Cory stole a safe that should have been, well, safe. Larry Royce in Duluth complained about hookers outside the mall.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a deep and gloomy green, a torched RV deep amongst the towering trees, a few rays of sunshine penetrating to ensure we see that RV. It’s an interesting color arrangement in the author’s name and title with his first name in a muted blue, his last name in white, and the title in a neon green.

The title is what the villain is doing, Gathering Prey.

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2 responses to “Book Review: Gathering Prey by John Sandford

  1. I haven’t read this one yet so I only skimmed your review. I absolutely love this series and I need to get this one. I am excited that Letty has a big part too 🙂

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