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Mortal Prey    by John Sandford order for
Mortal Prey
by John Sandford
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

In this latest installment of John Sandford's Prey series, the author once again grabs readers by the throat and pulls them unerringly into another hard-edged and violent adventure. As the story begins, Clara Rinker, a clever hit-woman and one of only a few villains who've actually gotten the best of Lucas Davenport (see Certain Prey), is living an anonymous and happy life in Mexico. She's fallen in love with the youngest son of a well-known Mexican drug lord and is almost certain she's pregnant. She finally feels at ease and figures her life is about as good as it's going to get. But then one morning when she and her lover set out for lunch, a sniper's bullet kills Paolo and wounds Clara seriously enough that she loses her baby. Once she's able to replay the event in her head, she knows the target wasn't her lover. Old enemies from her St. Louis mob days have decided to silence her and all she knows about them and their operations. Furious at their betrayal she slips out of Mexico and returns home to deal with her enemies, one at a time.

Lucas Davenport has, in an odd way, always harbored a certain amount of respect for Clara Rinker, even if she did come close to blowing his head off a few years back. When his FBI counterparts solicit his 'special insights' to help them corral Clara before she starts a bloody mob war, he's interested, but not certain if he should leave Minneapolis. His pregnant fianc9e, Weather, is elbow deep in wedding preparations and Lucas himself is overseeing the construction of their new house. He is actually a little surprised that he's enjoying the process and all the domestic aggravation that comes with it. He's also waiting to hear what his new position will be, now that his boss, the police chief, is on her way out. No, he definitely shouldn't leave town right now. But it's Weather who convinces him otherwise - in fact she all but escorts him herself, just to get him out of her hair for a while.

Once in St. Louis, the action really heats up as Lucas butts heads with not only the various factions of law enforcement who don't get along on their best days, but also as he tries to outguess Clara's next move. Not certain which of her old bosses wants her dead, she's decided to go after all of them and to say her hits are 'creatively cunning' is an understatement. While the FBI frantically tries analyzing their way to Clara's hideout, Davenport does what Davenport does best. He takes his private hunt out onto the streets, soliciting the help of a handful of seasoned street cops. He then brings his information back to the FBI, who are left scratching their heads, and wondering how many of the same the tough Minneapolis cop cracked together to get his information. But as Rinker causes more mob bosses and then some of the FBI agents to fall, Davenport's sources don't matter any more. The race to stop Clara intensifies, and as always, it's Lucas Davenport who engineers the perfect plan to halt her killing spree.

In his last few Prey novels John Sandford has shown readers a kinder, gentler Lucas Davenport. This is a man who's finally found a woman who understands him, his moods, his work and the way it affects him and has shaped him into the man he is, even if that man sometimes walks a narrow line between cop and criminal. But Sandford's very unorthodox cop still takes center stage and, judging by this latest performance, Lucas Davenport won't be relinquishing his starring role in this series any time soon. Followers of the Prey thrillers won't walk away disappointed - this volume, like all the others, packs a heck of a wallop.

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