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Invisible Prey    by John Sandford order for
Invisible Prey
by John Sandford
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

John Sandford has given readers an intelligent, complicated and always evolving protagonist in Lucas Davenport, hero of the gritty, violent and wildly popular Prey series. His singular skill at tracking the worst kinds of killers has landed Davenport a position as one of the most trusted (and feared) investigators in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, where politics often factors in as much as catching the bad guys. Sandford's stories are always wonderfully complex thrillers with a checkered array of villains - from violent serial killers to Russian Mafioso to relentless hitwomen. This time, however, the tenacious investigator is working two very different and much tamer puzzlers: in the first, he and his team are pushing for the arrest of a Senator suspected of having sex with a minor, and in the second assisting in a high profile investigation into the bludgeoning deaths of an elderly heiress and her maid.

For Lucas, the sex scandal is black and white - and tap dancing to the politicos' various tunes is a cake walk once he gets his ducks neatly and cunningly lined in a row. The murder of Constance Bucher and her housekeeper is a whole other ball game however. The only common thread that an increasingly frustrated Lucas eventually uncovers links the St. Paul killings to other unsolved murders involving elderly victims with a penchant for collecting antiques. Once Lucas establishes that all the murders were indeed clever heists orchestrated by culprits with a keen eye for valuable yet obscure antiques, the race is on to find them. But Lucas underestimates their own tenacity and greed, and before long both cases intersect in a surprising way that leaves the investigators even more baffled ... and bodies piling up.

Fans of the Prey series who've been patiently waiting two years for the next installment won't be disappointed in Invisible Prey. Sandford again provides clever character and plot development that grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let up until the last satisfying page. The plot is liberally laced with clues and surprise twists. A third of the way through, the killers are identified. A good share of the story is then told through their point of view as they begin to realize that Davenport isn't the stererotypical stupid cop who takes the easy way out. Though the Bucher case has Lucas out of his usual element, it doesn't take long for him to school himself (and his staff) on the finer points of the antique world. The conclusion is a bit too protracted as the culprits carry out rather desperate measures to get Davenport off their scent, but that does not detract from a crackerjack ending and a particularly satisfying moment of poetic justice. Invisible Prey is another stellar offering from an author who never fails to impress.

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