Book Review: Phantom Prey by John Sandford

Posted July 10, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review:  Phantom 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.

Phantom Prey by John Sandford
Series: Lucas Davenport #18
Genres: Detective, Mystery
Published by Putnam Adult on May 6, 2008
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also in this series: Rough Country

A widow comes home to her large house in a wealthy, exclusive suburb to find blood on the walls, no body — and her college-age daughter missing. She's always known that her daughter ran with a bad bunch. What did she call them — Goths? Freaks is more like it, running around with all that makeup and black clothing, listening to that awful music, so attracted to death. And now this.

But the police can't find the girl, alive or dead, and the widow truly panics. There's someone she knows, a surgeon named Weather Davenport, whose husband is a big deal with the police, and she implores Weather to get her husband directly involved. Lucas gets in only reluctantly — but then when a second Goth is slashed to death in Minneapolis, he starts working it hard. The clues don't seem to add up, though. And then there's the young Goth who keeps appearing and disappearing: Who is she? Where does she come from and, more important, where does she vanish to? And why does Lucas keep getting the sneaking suspicion that there is something else going on here...something very, very bad indeed?

Also by this author: Rules of Prey, Shadow Prey, Eyes of Prey, Easy Prey, Chosen Prey, Invisible Prey, Wicked Prey, Gathering 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

Eighteenth in the Lucas Davenport mystery detective series and revolving around Lucas, a not-quite-legal, focused-on-true-justice cop.

My Take

I do love the off-the-wall characters, and Sanderson does a lovely job of integrating an “info dump” with Lucas thinking about how to explain his men in their personnel evaluations. I do like it when authors come up with these creative ways of imparting background info, lol. This one gives us insight into Lucas as well in how he reacts to his thoughts.

There’s a reality to Lucas’ character and the people with whom he works. How they really think. It’s one of the things I do enjoy about this series, as Sanderson gets into the nitty-gritty of the manipulation, humor, viciousness, and the real worries of cops, lawyers, and politicians. The “realness” pours over into Lucas’ relationship with his wife. He acknowledges (in his head where it’s safer) that he needs to cater to his wife while his wife definitely wears the pants in this family, *more laughter*. I do love Lucas’ reasons for not wanting to die, lol.

Lucas has this obsession with beautiful clothes (seems the governor has some good advice on socks and pjs):

“‘If you get assassinated this week, can I have those socks?’

‘No. We pass these down through the generations, to the oldest sons.'”

More of that realistic humor Sandford includes is that bit about the gravel in the driveway…oh, man…too true. Lucas’ worries that Alyssa will veer off into astrology and the planets. There may even be, dare I say it?, chicken guts! That scene at the liquor store? Oh, lol. Then there’s that realism, ahem, that makes me wish I had “way more money than” I needed. Wouldn’t it be fun if you could make just one thing true for yourself out of a novel…

Crack me up… “The Minneapolis City Hall … squats … like a wart poking through a diamond necklace.”

What I did not enjoy was trying to figure out Fairy. Yeah, I know that it’s supposed to heighten the tension and all that, and it sure kept me reading as I needed to know who Fairy was and her motivations. But that ending felt like a loose thread. A whole nest of snarled, loose threads. Deep in my subconscious I put it together, but I wanted it all laid out. Wahh. *eye roll* I know, I know, it’s stupid. Authors are not required to tie up every little bit. *Excuse me while I go off and pout*

Throughout the story, I kept wanting to hit them over the head. Can’t they see? Have they no conscience? How can you kill when you’re not even sure!?! I thought of the people the victims were leaving behind. The ones who would mourn their deaths, and I wanted to cry and hit out. And, yeah, I know, they’re characters in a book fer gosh sakes! That’s when you know you’ve got that part of your story nailed.

That business plan for test marketing advertising sounds pretty clever. I don’t like the people behind it, but then I suppose ya gotta be cold to be successful.

I had read some time ago that Sandford saw Lucas as a sociopath, and it’s made me more aware of his behavior and reactions. And yes, more interested in those comments in the story. It only confirms what I think about Lucas being a sociopath. That he’s not.

Then there’s the sideshow of Heather Toms. Oh, boy, *even more laughter*.

I cannot resist one of Sandford’s books. It’s the perfect combination of suspense, mystery, reality, and laughter. Yeah, who knew a mystery could be this much fun to read?

The Story

It’s a mother’s nightmare. A missing child and no clues. Luckily for Alyssa Austin, she has pull and can push to intensify the search for her daughter.

The Characters

Lucas Davenport is a troubleshooter for the governor and keeps his razor edge by playing winter ball in a cops-and-bureaucrats league. Dr. Weather Karkinnen is a plastic surgeon and Lucas’ wife. Letty is the teenager they adopted from Naked Prey, 14. She’s got an internship at Channel 3. Sam is their baby. Ellen is their housekeeper. Elle is an old friend of Lucas’, a nun, and a psychologist.

The Office of Regional Research at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) has…
Rose Marie Roux as its director (and Lucas’ boss), although she seems rather distracted by her work on the security committee for the Republican National Convention. She’s adding to that impressive résumé: street cop, state representative, state senator, Minneapolis police chief, and now director. Del Capslock (of the slogan’d sweatshirts; this one says “underwear not included”; Cheryl is a nurse and his wife), Virgil “that fuckin” Flowers uses his fishing hobby to write articles and meditate on the crimes, Jenkins and Shrake really like their leather saps, and Jim Benson is the new guy, poor sap; all of them work for the department and Lucas. Carol is Lucas’ scary secretary; Sandy is a student intern who does a helluva job. Dan Jackson is their photographer.

The governor is Elmer Henderson of the Minnesota Hendersons; the family never thought he’d amount to anything. Neil Mitford is the governor’s chief weasel. Tony Mose is a public defender.

Minneapolis PD
Lieutenant Whistler is in charge of Homicide. Detective Harold Anson is working the Ford murder. Les Cooper got beaten up by Antsy — and she’s the niece of a BCA agent out of Bemidji.

Feeney is the Hennepin County assistant medical examiner who works at Hennepin County Medical Center where Weather does a lot of her surgeries.

St. Paul PD
Officer Janice Loomis-Smith knows Lucas from the tool mark symposium. She finds Xai Xiong‘s former Honda Prelude.

Dakota County Sheriff’s Department
Dick Pratt is an investigator.

San Francisco PD
Luther Wane says they don’t want him if they have to pay to come get him.

Ignace Ruffe is a cut-throat reporter with the Star Tribune; he’s willing to work with Lucas. Odd Angstrom owns Odd’s Tow and Wrecking; Linda works at the front desk. Jerry and Ricky are two of their drivers. Emily Wau is a manager at the Maplewood branch bank.

Alyssa Austin is a good-hearted woman, a modern woman who runs a chain of high-end athletic clubs, and has an interest in both the practical and the metaphysical. Frances is her missing daughter, a Goth. Hunter is Alyssa’s neat and tidy but deceased husband. Helen Sobotny is her housekeeper; Ricky Davis is Helen’s boyfriend.

AusTech was…
…Hunter’s company. Martina Trenoff is the assistant anxious to succeed. A little too eager. Ann Coates is head of Human Resources. Tara Laughlin is vice president for legal affairs. They finally dish on Martina.

Alyssa’s clubs
Frank Willett is a trainer at Alyssa’s clubs. Gina Nassif works Human Resources. Dalles Burger is a lawyer with Stone & Kaufmann and a client at Austin’s health club.

The Goth group includes…
…the murdered Dick Ford, a bartender at the A1, whom Charlene Mobry (she works in cosmetics) was sorta dating. Karl “Lurch” Lageson was a friend of his. Jerry is another bartender. Roy Carter, he works at Mike’s a liquor store in Dinkytown, might have seen the Fairy. Jean Brandt is a Goth neighbor of Roy’s. Greg, Dave, Sharon, and Wanda “Wolfie” had seen Ron and the Fairy together. Darrell. Richard Trane, Judy McBride, and Brad Francetta were some of the people in the photograph Karen Slade took.

Patricia Shockley was a friend of Frances’ from kindergarten through college. Leigh Price is Patricia’s roommate and a witch who works at 3M. She’s also interested in Virgil. Mark McGuire and Denise Robinson are trying to get a unique business up and running. Bob George was one of Shockley-Price’s neighbors.

Fairy, a.k.a., Mary Janson, is dark, obsessed with revenge for Frances.
Loren is her partner, in every way.

Loren Whiteside-O’Keefe teaches drama at Augsburg. Loren Doyle was killed in a jet boat accident.

Heather Anderson Toms is fashion-conscious and Siggy’s wife. Sigitas “Siggy” Toms is the largest-volume cocaine dealer in the Twin Cities. The cops busted him, jailed him, and the courts let him out on bail despite his being a flight risk. Antanas “Antsy” Toms is his brother and his enforcer. That’s all he had brains for. The Tomses’ mother sounds like a nightmare.

Louis is a shoplifter. George William Boyd is selling assault vests and Mini-14 Ranch Rifles along with Kevlar helmets. Oops.

The Cover and Title

The cover is dark — dark, dark green with a narrow band of night-vision green slicing through the center illuminating a grove of trees scattered along the band. The author’s name is slightly bigger than the title and in an embossed yellow while the title is beneath it in an embossed white.

The title is about Lucas’ Phantom Prey. A fairy everyone sees, but no one knows.

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

  1. I love these books and I am sure but I have probably read this back when it came out but I can’t remember. I never thought that Lucas was a sociopath at all! He cares about things that a sociopath would never. Weather, Letty and Sam in particular. Interesting that the author said that though.

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