Lucas Davenport of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension isn’t slowing down at all. Despite being wounded frequently and despite the fact that he long ago should have been sitting behind a desk when he isn’t home with his family, Lucas pushes cases hard. That fact is what makes him so good at what he does and also alleviates his frequent bouts of depression. He may grumble and groan when the case begins but before long the scent is in his noses and he is off on another one.

Sitting on a stakeout across the street from the wife of a cocaine dealer isn’t doing much for him. It is boring. Sure, Heather Toms is naked a lot and is seemingly oblivious to the fact her blinds are open while she prances around her apartment, but Lucas doesn’t much care. Sigitas Toms, aka Ziggy is on the run and Lucas and Del are occasionally keeping watch hoping he will come back.  It’s been eight months and still no sign of Ziggy. If they get lucky Ziggy’s brother, Antsy, who was left behind and clearly the dumber brother of the two and who also recently beat the heck out of two St. Paul cops just might show up.

Lucas knows Ziggy will return at some point, but not exactly when. He can feel it though and isn’t about to pull the plug on things like everyone else has. In the meantime, it is March, the paper work is endless, the skies are dreary and Lucas is slipping in to one of his dark moods. His wife, Weather asks Lucas to talk to Alyssa Austin. Alyssa is a friend of Weather and Allyssa’s daughter, Frances has been missing for months. Blood was found in the seams of the flooring tiles in Alyssa’s home and the other clues that seem to indicate Frances is dead. But, with no body, Alyssa refuses to give up hope and the vigil is tearing her apart. Frances was part of the Goth scene and a bartender she knew who is also part of that scene has now been found brutally murdered. Lucas doesn’t think much of Alyssa because she is into astrology, planes of existence, and all that mumbo jumbo. Alyssa knows she is a suspect because they can’t come up with a real suspect and have stopped looking. Weather wants him to help and reluctantly he agrees. Before long, Lucas is riding hard on a case that seems to have no end, a young Goth that appears and disappears at will, and an ever increasing body count.

Unfortunately for the reader much of this novel meanders around in the land of funhouse mirrors with ghosts and the like. Shifting in points of view from Lucas to Alyssa to imagery characters that may or may not be really real the novel drifts and flounders for more than half the book. The second half of the book is more of an anti climax than any thing because so much is telegraphed by the mid point all that is left is to tick off the checklist as the pages pass.

It would be easy to assign blame for this weak effort due to the fact hat John Sandford’s wife died of cancer during the writing of this book. An event that must have been devastating for him and something I would have no idea how to handle – let alone manage to continue to write. I have no idea if that is behind the problem here or not.

What I do know is that, for me, this novel is not the Lucas Davenport written by John Sanford I know and love. This is a poor imitator featuring weak writing, a convoluted main case and a much better secondary case that is much more interesting. John Sandford, when he is on a roll, is a damn good author .This isn’t one of those times. One can only hope he will be back at that level soon.

Phantom Prey

John Sandford

http://www.johnsandford.org

Thorndike Press

http://www.mlr.com/thorndike/

2008

ISBN# 1-4104-0535-4

Large Print

535 Pages

$34.95

Review copy provided by the Plano, Texas Public Library system. For more information on the library system, visit http://www.plano.gov/Departments/Libraries/

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

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