Book Title: Invisible Prey
Author: John Sandford
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons / Penguin Group
Publication date: 2007
Review date: January 2011
(1-didn’t like it; 2-it was ok; 3-liked it; 4-really liked it; 5-it was amazing)
Lucas Davenport returns as an agent from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to pursue the killers responsible for the deaths of two elderly women: Constance Bucher, a wealthy socialite, and her maid, Sugar Peebles. Simultaneously, Lucas handles a crime that involves a politician and pressure from the governor. Constantly on the run between the two cases, he is pulled further and further into the world of antique collecting as well as into the political world of the governor. The killers continue to evade discovery as they watch Lucas’s progress toward solving their crime. As he gets closer to learning the truth, they take more and more drastic actions, leaving a trail of violence and evidence of greed in their wake.
The story opens with the killers staking out the house of Constance Bucher. They have obviously done their homework as they know the name of the maid that opens the door—Peebles. They kill her and Bucher and then steal some items after moving the bodies to where they can’t be seen from outside. The narrative switches in the next chapter to Lucas with the primary point of view. He is consulting with a colleague on the political situation that he finds himself in due to an alleged crime committed by a well-known politician. Another agent arrives on the scene to update Lucas on the murders, and so the chase begins. Lucas is a veteran of detective work and has a deep and wide network of people and other resources to draw on in order to accomplish his job. As the narration switches between Lucas, the killers, and other characters, the details of the crimes begin to unfold, and Lucas is able to make more and more connections. He learns about other cases that might be connected to the Bucher murder case while discreetly arranging things so that the governor’s wishes in handling the politician’s crime can be met, within the law of course. The killers keep an eye on Lucas’s progress and take drastic measures to keep their identities secret.
Lucas Davenport is an agent for the BCA, but his real boss is Rose Marie Roux, the director of the Department of Public Safety. Lucas is apparently the star of all the Prey novels by John Sandford. He is a “man’s man,” married to a plastic surgeon (who seems to play the role of his conscience), and father to a son and a teenage ward. Lucas is almost three-dimensional. He seems to care about his work, although he is a gruff man with a foul mouth. In fact, almost all of the characters regularly swear. Only a few characters are shown to have higher language standards, one of them being a teenager named Ronnie Lash. Ronnie is a good student, well-liked, a devout Christian, and well portrayed. He struck me as a kid with a soul. Unfortunately, despite the many characters in this story, very few have any depth. As mentioned already, most have foul language. These characters portray a world where crass behavior, foul language, and dirty innuendo are the norm. This really detracted from the story for me as I thought the plot was well thought out and the story promising.
Sandford has a very direct method of narration. For the most part, he gives just enough detail for the reader to envision the surroundings and the characters; however, he then gives almost an obsessive amount of detail on streets and directions of turns when Lucas or the other agents are driving. The use of foul language and the level of nastiness (sexually and in brutality) of the crimes leads me to believe that this series may be popular for its titillating elements. I have not, however, read any other books by Sandford, so I cannot draw any authoritative conclusions. Early in the story, a fleeting character named “Capslock” is introduced. I felt indignant at this choice of name for a character. It seems almost as though Sandford had put in a placeholder name (from the keyboard he was typing on) and forgot to put in an actual name for the character. Did the editors not question this choice of name? Overall, I might have appreciated Sandford’s writing more if not for the above-mentioned shortcomings.
Ronnie Lash’s character serves as a great ideal to look up to and model. However, the reader must wade through a lot of filth and violence to reap this one small reward. That particular reward also comes early in the story, and no further spiritual markers or moral awakenings are made. All of the characters seem to end in the same spiritual place they began.
Overall, I think the plot had a lot of promise and could have turned into a really solid story with strong, deep characters and emotional or spiritual changes, whether for better or for worse. I am disappointed that this book did not impress me because I had been excited to pick it up and read it, hoping for a great story. Instead I did a lot of cringing as I learned to desensitize myself to the foul language and sexual innuendos.
I do not really recommend this to anyone. If you don’t mind the use of foul language and titillating imagery and want an easy diversion, this book might suit you. However, it will not uplift you or improve you in any way that I can foresee. If you’re going to spend time with fictional characters, you might as well read something more fulfilling—with deeper characters and some inner conflict. This book earned 1.5 stars only because of the plot.