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Hidden Prey    by John Sandford order for
Hidden Prey
by John Sandford
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Lucas Davenport is spending an uneventful day at home with his wife and baby son when his boss at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension calls about a dead Russian. Rose Marie Roux wants Lucas to travel to Duluth and help the local cops, and also an ambiguous Russian investigator, Nadya Kalin, unravel the odd circumstances surrounding Ridion Oleshev's death.

Oleshev had important connections back in Russia and his high-powered father is demanding answers, as is the American government, especially the counterintelligence agencies. They want to know why the bullets dug out of the corpse are fifty years old and they want Lucas to track down someone they believe is a credible witness to the killing. Most importantly, they want verification as to whether Oleshev was a spy, or not. What follows is a convoluted tale of ingrained ideologies that date back to long before the Cold War, of old animosities and of government mistrust - not to mention a growing trail of bodies. By far the most engrossing scenes (and the most disturbing characterization) involve those of the cunning 92-year-old spymaster, 'Grandpa Walthar' who's kept his identity, and his agenda, hidden for decades. He's never let the fall of his old Russian regime stop him from doing what he's been trained to do, what he believes is necessary. And he keeps on doing his best to ensure that his skills and his knowledge will live on.

John Sandford hits the mark again in Hidden Prey. The real appeal of his stories are his characters and his inventive and involved plotting, ingredients that have kept loyal fans hooked on the Prey series for years. Lucas Davenport continues to evolve, although at the moment he finds himself surprisingly content with his wife and baby son, and wondering if he's the right role model for new ward Letty. The persistent dark cloud of depression still hangs over him, and actually has him contemplating another line of work -- one that might help banish the cynicism that he (and so many other cops) develop over the years. There's little doubt that Sandford will explore these and other issues in future stories of this crackerjack series.

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