The latest in a long series from author John Sandford, Gathering Prey opens with Skye and Henry befriending Letty, the adopted daughter of Lucas and Weather Davenport. Letty knows very quickly that Skye and Henry are part of a group known as “Travelers” and spends some time with them learning about how they move around the country. Their lifestyle is far away from Letty’s life as a student at Stanford.
During the course of a fast food meal Henry and Skye tell her about someone they know as “Pilot” and his band of disciples. As Skye explains it becomes clear that Pilot is basically head of a small cult whose members will do anything for him. The man they know as Pilot preaches his own brand of end of the world of end of the world fanaticism known as “The Fall.” Skye believes he and his people will kill and have done so though Henry just thinks the dude is cool as well as a bit odd. The man has movie connections and Henry very much would like to be in the movies.
Weeks pass into summer, Letty is back home in Minnesota, and Henry disappears. Skye is alone, scared, and calls Letty for help. Letty arranges for Skye to get to Minnesota. She also talks to her dad, Lucas Davenport, about the situation. Lucas works for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and is very good at his job when left alone to do his job. The politics of the job is increasingly interfering with his primary job of catching killers. Lucas believes the bosses are supposed to deal with the media and the flack of the cases when necessary while leaving him free to do his job of getting the bad folks off the streets. Increasingly it is becoming apparent to Lucas that containing costs and covering one’s backside is taking over in favor of getting the job done. He has enough going on without Letty bringing him something that most likely is nothing more than Letty being played by scammers for money.
Though he should be working a couple of other things, he agrees to meet Skye and listen to what she has to say. That meeting changes everything because there is enough there to get him interested enough to make a couple of calls. Those calls lead to other nuggets of information worth pursuing. That daisy chain of connections gets strong and stronger and before long, Lucas is far from home and Minnesota as he chases a crazed idiot and his followers bent on escaping at all costs.
The latest in the long running series is a good one though not nearly at the level of earlier books in the series. Family has been a major theme in many of these novels and such is the case here in Gathering Prey where Letty takes a major role. A role that could be further expanded depending on how the author decides to take things as a result of the turning point ending of the book.
At the same time, the book is predictable in that from the first few pages readers once again know who the bad guys are. That is quickly confirmed as the point of view switches to follow them again and again throughout the book as they do the bad things you would expect from deranged whack jobs. As they escalate their violence and the manhunt comes closer to them, it becomes more and more clear that this is a thriller style novel featuring shallow deranged whack job characters, plenty of action, and not the mystery we used to see in this series. The read quickly becomes all about the case with the good guys in hot pursuit all across the countryside of the upper Midwest and bad guys doing very bad things. Everyone has guns as do the numerous civilians who become heavily involved towards the end of the book.
This is not to say that Gathering Prey is not a good book. It is. One just has to read it for what it is and not what one wants it to be as expressed in many of the negative reviews. One has to understand that this series, especially over the last several books, has changed to a thriller series. Gone are the complex mysteries of the earlier books in the series. Gathering Prey is billed as the 25th book of the series and things have changed over time. Expecting the exact same kind of book the reader got in book five, book ten, etc. is foolhardy and shows a lack of understanding regarding how series change over time.
Those who can’t get enough of Virgil Flowers will also be thrilled to know he has a presence in this book.
Gathering Prey, while certainly not the best in the series, is one that is good.
Gathering Prey: A Novel
Thorndike Press (Gale Cengage)
Large Print Hardback (also available in hardback, audio, and e-book)
Material was picked up at the Haggard Branch of the Plano Public Library System to read and review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2015