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The 17th installment in Sandford's Prey series, this novel finds Lucas Davenport promoted to special agent for Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He investigates two cases-the brutal murders of an elderly heiress and her maid in an elegant St. Paul neighborhood and the sordid affair between Minnesota state senator Burt Kline and a minor. Lucas's home life with his wife, Weather, and their young son and his relationships with his boss, Marie, and police officers Jenkins and Shrake provide an ongoing backdrop to the investigations. The world of antiques and art is also detailed as the tale's body count increases, but Lucas looks for clues and steadily makes his way toward resolution. There is quite a bit of offensive language here, which may cause discomfort for some listeners. Richard Ferrone's intense, clear voice and breathless pacing create a powerful atmosphere. This thriller is well crafted, with a touch of humor, well-developed characters, and plenty of plot twists. Recommended.
—Denise A. Garofalo
AN ANONYMOUS VAN, some-kind-of-pale, cruised Summit Avenue, windows dark with the coming night. The killers inside watched three teenagers, two boys and a girl, hurrying along the sidewalk like windblown leaves. The kids were getting somewhere quick, finding shelter before the storm.
The killers trailed them, saw them off, then turned their faces toward Oak Walk.
The mansion was an architectural remnant of the nineteenth century, red brick with green trim, gloomy and looming in the dying light. Along the wrought-iron fence, well-tended beds of blue and yellow iris, and clumps of pink peonies, were going gray to the eye.
Oak Walk was perched on a bluff. The back of the house looked across the lights of St. Paul, down into the valley of the Mississippi, where the groove of the river had already gone dark. The front faced Summit Avenue; Oak Walk was the second-richest house on the richest street in town.
Six aging burr oaks covered the side yard. In sunlight, their canopies created a leafy glade, with sundials and flagstone walks, charming with moss and violets; but moon shadows gave the yard a menacing aura, now heightened by the lightning that flickered through the incoming clouds.
“Like the Munsters should live there,” the bigger of the killers said.
“Like a graveyard,” the little one agreed.
The Weather Channel had warned of tornadic events, and the killers could feel a twister in the oppressive heat, the smell of ozone thick in the air.
The summer was just getting started. The last snow slipped into town on May 2, and was gone a day later. The rest of the month had been sunny and warm, and by the end of it, even the ubiquitous paper-pale blondes were showing tan lines.
Now the first of the big summer winds. Refreshing, if it didn’t knock your house down.
ON THE FOURTH PASS, the van turned into the driveway, eased up under the portico, and the killers waited there for a porch light. No light came on. That was good.
They got out of the van, one Big, one Little, stood there for a moment, listening, obscure in the shadows, facing the huge front doors. They were wearing coveralls, of the kind worn by automotive mechanics, and hairnets, and nylon stockings over their faces. Behind them, the van’s engine ticked as it cooled. A Wisconsin license plate, stolen from a similar vehicle in a 3M parking lot, was stuck on the back of the van.
Big said, “Let’s do it.”
Little led the way up the porch steps. After a last quick look around, Big nodded again, and Little pushed the doorbell.
They’d done this before. They were good at it.
THEY COULD FEEL the footsteps on the wooden floors inside the house. “Ready,” said Big.
A moment later, one of the doors opened. A shaft of light cracked across the porch, flashing on Little’s burgundy jacket. Little said a few words—“Miz Peebles? Is this where the party is?”
A slender black woman, sixtyish, Peebles said, “Why no . . .” Her jaw continued to work wordlessly, searching for a scream, as she took in the distorted faces.
Little was looking past her at an empty hallway. The groundskeeper and the cook were home, snug in bed. This polite inquiry at the door was a last-minute check to make sure that there were no unexpected guests. Seeing no one, Little stepped back and snapped, “Go.”
Big went through the door, fast, one arm flashing in the interior light. Big was carrying a two-foot-long steel gas pipe, with gaffer tape wrapped around the handle-end. Peebles didn’t scream, because she didn’t have time. Her eyes widened, her mouth dropped open, one hand started up, and then Big hit her on the crown of her head, crushing her skull.
The old woman dropped like a sack of bones. Big hit her again, as insurance, and then a third time, as insurance on the insurance: three heavy floor-shaking impacts, whack! whack! whack!
THEN A VOICE from up the stairs, tentative, shaky. “Sugar? Who was it, Sugar?”
Big’s head turned toward the stairs and Little could hear him breathing. Big slipped out of his loafers and hurried up the stairs in his stocking feet, a man on the hunt. Little stepped up the hall, grabbed a corner of a seven-foot-long Persian carpet and dragged it back to the black woman’s body.
And from upstairs, three more impacts: a gasping, thready scream, and whack! whack! whack!
Little smiled. Murder—and the insurance.
Little stooped, caught the sleeve of Peebles’s housecoat, and rolled her onto the carpet. Breathing a little harder, Little began dragging the carpet toward an interior hallway that ran down to the kitchen, where it’d be out of sight of any of the windows. A pencil-thin line of blood, like a slug’s trail, tracked the rug across the hardwood floor.
Peebles’s face had gone slack. Her eyes were still open, the eyeballs rolled up, white against her black face. Too bad about the rug, Little thought. Chinese, the original dark blue gone pale, maybe 1890. Not a great rug, but a good one. Of course, it’d need a good cleaning now, with the blood-puddle under Peebles’s head.
OUTSIDE, there’d been no sound of murder. No screams or gunshots audible on the street. A window lit up on Oak Walk’s second floor. Then another on the third floor, and yet another, on the first floor, in the back, in the butler’s pantry: Big and Little, checking out the house, making sure that they were the only living creatures inside.
WHEN THEY KNEW that the house was clear, Big and Little met at the bottom of the staircase. Big’s mouth under the nylon was a bloody O. He’d chewed into his bottom lip while killing the old woman upstairs, something he did when the frenzy was on him. He was carrying a jewelry box and one hand was closed in a fist.
“You won’t believe this,” he said. “She had it around her neck.” He opened his fist—his hands were covered with latex kitchen gloves—to show off a diamond the size of a quail’s egg.
“Is it real?”
“It’s real and it’s blue. We’re not talking Boxsters anymore. We’re talking SLs.” Big opened the box. “There’s more: earrings, a necklace. There could be a half million, right here.”
“Can Fleckstein handle it?”
Big snorted. “Fleckstein’s so dirty that he wouldn’t recognize the Mona Lisa. He’ll handle it.”
He pushed the jewelry at Little, started to turn, caught sight of Peebles lying on the rug. “Bitch,” he said, the word grating through his teeth. “Bitch.” In a second, in three long steps, he was on her again, beating the dead woman with the pipe, heavy impacts shaking the floor. Little went after him, catching him after the first three impacts, pulling him away, voice hard, “She’s gone, for Christ’s sakes, she’s gone, she’s gone . . .”
“Fucker,” Big said. “Piece of shit.”
Little thought, sometimes, that Big should have a bolt through his neck.
Big stopped, and straightened, looked down at Peebles, muttered, “She’s gone.” He shuddered, and said, “Gone.” Then he turned to Little, blood in his eye, hefting the pipe.
Little’s hands came up: “No, no—it’s me. It’s me. For God’s sake.”
Big shuddered again. “Yeah, yeah. I know. It’s you.”
Little took a step back, still uncertain, and said, “Let’s get to work. Are you okay? Let’s get to work.”
Twenty minutes after they went in, the front door opened again. Big came out, looked both ways, climbed into the van, and eased it around the corner of the house and down the side to the deliveries entrance. Because of the pitch of the slope at the back of the house, the van was no longer visible from the street.
The last light was gone, the night now as dark as a coal sack, the lightning flashes closer, the wind coming like a cold open palm, pushing against Big’s face as he got out of the van. A raindrop, fat and round as a marble, hit the toe of his shoe. Then another, then more, cold, going pat- pat . . . pat . . . pat-pat-pat on the blacktop and concrete and brick.
He hustled up to the back door; Little opened it from the inside.
“Another surprise,” Little said, holding up a painting, turning it over in the thin light. Big squinted at it, then looked at Little: “We agreed we wouldn’t take anything off the walls.”
“Wasn’t on the walls,” Little said. “It was stuffed away in the storage room. It’s not on the insurance list.”
“Amazing. Maybe we ought to quit now, while we’re ahead.”
“No.” Little’s voice was husky with greed. “This time . . . this time, we can cash out. We’ll never have to do this again.”
“I don’t mind,” Big said.
“You don’t mind the killing, but how about thirty years in a cage? Think you’d mind that?”
Big seemed to ponder that for a moment, then said, “All right.”
Little nodded. “Think about the SLs. Chocolate for you, silver for me. Apartments: New York and Los Angeles. Something right on the Park, in New York. Something where you can lean out the window, and see the Met.”
“We could buy . . .” Big thought about it for a few more seconds. “Maybe . . . a Picasso?”
“A Picasso . . .” Little thought about it, nodded. “But first—I’m going back upstairs. And you . . .”
Big grinned under the mask. “I trash the place. God, I love this job.”
OUTSIDE, across the back lawn, down the bluff, over the top of the United Hospital buildings and Seventh Street and the houses below, down three-quarters of a mile away, a towboat pushed a line of barges toward the moorings at Pig’s Eye. Not hurrying. Tows never hurried. All around, the lights of St. Paul sparkled like diamonds, on the first line of bluffs, on the second line below the cathedral, on the bridges fore and aft, on the High Bridge coming up.
The pilot in the wheelhouse was looking up the hill at the lights of Oak Walk, Dove Hill, and the Hill House, happened to be looking when the lights dimmed, all at once.
The rain-front had topped the bluff and was coming down on the river.
Hard rain coming, the pilot thought. Hard rain.
Posted February 2, 2009
Could Lucas Davenport be stymied, trapped at last? It's a hot summer night, muggy with the threat of a storm, when two men known only as Big and Little gain entry to a Minneapolis mansion inhabited by two elderly women. They're savage in their assault, not only killing but further venting psychotic rage by beating a lifeless body. We read: 'In a second, in three long steps, he was on her again, beating the dead woman with the pipe, heavy impacts shaking the floor.' It seems that this is one crime that may stump Lucas Davenport, but wait. Our relentless investigator has another case on his agenda - a high ranking politician with a penchant for pretty very young things has been accused of satisfying his debauched desires with a teenager. Surely one case has nothing to with the other. It's amazing how Sandford has continued to maintain his high standard with this his 17th Prey novel, yet he has produced another winner. Don't miss it! - Gail Cooke
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Posted December 9, 2008
Minneapolis Police Detective Lucas Davenport leads a very sensitive investigation into the activities of Minnesota State Senator Burt Kline allegedly having sex with a minor. The consummate professional cop, Lucas is extremely careful with his handling of the official inquiry because he knows what a mess a media feeding frenzy would be with a politician-Lolita tryst. --- As he prepares to arrest Mr. Kline for sex with a fifteen year old, Lucas also is assigned the murders of wealthy widow Constance Bucher and her maid Sugar Rayette-Peeples in the former¿s mansion. Both were battered to death and the house ransacked. The first thought is a robbery turned ugly, as the affluent home is filled with valuable antiques. However, Lucas realizes that he has no idea whether anything was stolen so perhaps the murders were personal especially with the skulls smashed. As he continues his inquires, he soon finds a strange connection to the sleazy senator scenario, but identifying the killers still remains difficult and convoluted. ---- Though number seventeen in this long running police procedural, INVISIBLE PREY is a fantastic tale in which the two cases are appealing because of the strong key players ranging from victims, suspects, witnesses, ¿vultures¿ and participants, etc. Readers will appreciate Lucas¿ investigations as John Sandford provides his hero with not the usual suspects in what will prove to be a one sitting thriller. ---- Harriet Klausner
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Posted March 11, 2012
This was an interesting read, but not page-turner suspense for me. I felt that I was being educated about art history & the business of art more than entertained or swept along w/the unfolding story ... & the end-game plot twist was so much more predictable than most J.S. efforts. I liked it, but I was ready for it to be over so I could move on in the series.
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Posted September 22, 2011
John Sanford's 'Invisible Prey' is the 17th installment of his Lucas Davenport series.17th!
Wow, I can't imagine, I'm only on my second book of my 1st series.
Anyway, you can't write 17 books about the same character without doing something right. Mr. Sanford has again shown that he has the skills to get this accomplished. The synopsis of the story:
In the richest neighborhood of Minneapolis, two elderly women lie murdered in their home, killed with a pipe, the rooms tossed, only small items stolen. It is clearly the random work of someone looking for money to buy drugs. But as Davenport looks more closely, he begins to wonder whether the items are actually so small and the victims so random-if there might not be some invisible agenda at work here. Gradually, a pattern begins to emerge, and it leads him to . . . certainly nothing he ever expected. Which is too bad, because the killers-and, yes, there is more than one of them-the killers are expecting him. Brilliantly suspenseful, filled with rich characterization and exciting drama, Invisible Prey is further proof that Sanford is in a class of his own
As far as I can remember, this is my first reading in the Lucas Davenport series, but it will not be the last. The story of the series of murders that now plague the Twin Cities is well thought out and complete. The characters are believable, with what I think are just the right amount of deviant personality traits within Davenport's own investigators to make it personable and enjoyable.
I of course wish I had started earlier in the series. Even though the main characters were introduced to the reader when they appeared, I would get lost with some of them as I read through, a common problem when one starts in the middle or the end of a series.
There are parts of every investigation, both fictional as well as real, that I like to call 'The Long Boring Parts Between the Action' when I am writing. These are the parts of an investigation when the investigator is reading through files or making notes while trying to find a hidden clue or a thread between different crimes. In Invisible Prey, these scenes were laid out efficiently and interestingly, and were not the "anchor around the neck" that some readers find them in other books. To me, this is a very good indication to me of successful writing in this genre, and not an easy piece of writing to pull off, believe me.
The action of the crimes and the subsequent investigation were well laid out, easily keeping your interest with the deviousness of the criminals and the tenacity of Lucas. Add in the sometimes almost slapstick antics and down-home outlook of the investigators and you end up with a real and thought provoking story.
As a new writer in this genre, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone who loves crime/mystery novels.
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Posted June 13, 2014
First time I have read this author....lt will be the last if the next one is like this with never ending dirty language. The story was good but keepng track of the characters was very difficult. Why authors fail to put a glossary at the start so readers know relatioships to help readers has always baffled me.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 12, 2014
Posted February 4, 2013
Posted June 22, 2012
Posted February 12, 2011
I will give Mr. Sandford credit for keeping his creative writing skills hone. In my opinion, he did allow himself to fall into the trap of a number of these mass market mystery/thriller authors by just keep cranking out these second rate stories every 2 months.
In the Invisible Prey, I was impressed with Sandford's ability to bring out the world of art and antiques into the story while weaving in various murders that happened over a number of years. The readers will find Detective Lucas Davenport investigating the Minnesota State Senator Burt Kline. The senator has been accused of having sex with a minor. Special note: the book contains an overly abundance of foul language which I don't care for. I felt the story held its own without the constant splattering of offensive language.
Overall the characters in the story were well developed and along the way Sandford dropped a sprinkling of humor which I always enjoy in a story. The story is a great beach read.
Posted January 27, 2010
Posted September 28, 2009
I Also Recommend:
Read the beginning carefully. I didn't and was then surprised later on in the book. I liked the reality of this novel in that not all the people that you like and are good survive to the end. Bad things do happen to good people. And some people just get really, really lucky. I liked the use of invisible in the title because sometimes it's best to hide in plain sight. his was my first John Sandford book and I will read others.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 25, 2009
This is only the 3rd book that I have read by Sandford, as I just began reading his stuff. I found the book to be intriguing and a quick read. The plot was great as the ending wasn't given away early in the book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 3, 2009
Loved the book and the subject. Being a quilter it was nice to see them realized as the art they are. This is one of those books you can not put down and do not want it to end.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 28, 2009
Posted March 30, 2009
Unlike so many of the genre, this one gets more than a little quirky and tricky. Fast paced, as all Sandford's favorite detective books are - if you are not familiar with Lucas Daenport and his Porsche - well, get on board and start at the beginning. The wise cracks and general banter add enough relief to tense situations - rather like a chess game, actually. The ending is not expected, which is more than good.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 3, 2008
I bit boring and far fetched. Sure its about imagination but seriously, this was boring. I love most if not all of the prey books. He is a masterful writer but I really wasnt even sure if the same guy wrote this book. I think the Davenport character is such a good one. He is a tough guy that I have come to look forward to read about. The other characters in this book were a bit beyond the ability for me to enjoy. A pair of nitwit artsy folk who kill on a whim and go on with there day like nothing happened. Its just to much. Once I got past that (wasnt hard, its just a small gripe) then I had to deal with the boring story line. There was just nothing to keep me hooked in this one. While most of the books I have read from Sandford are pretty straight forward and not all full of twists this one just had nothing. There was no twist. Folks killed, they found out who did it and it was done. No thanks, but since I like the series I read it and will read the next one. Hopefully they will get a bit more complicated or at least have a twist or two in the bookWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 2, 2008
A good read but nothing great! Seems to me that John Sanford is stretching for new plots! I'll wait for Phantom Prey to go Paperback before removing him from my 'must read' list. Wonder when he's doing another 'Kidd' novel? StuartWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 13, 2008
I too have read the entire series and believe this book to be Sanford's best. While the increased use of the 'f' word is different, knowing how most of society is today, it makes the story seem that much more real.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 8, 2008
I enjoyed this story. I was engrossed in the methadical police investigation procedures. Ghost written or not, still a real good read. I actually found myself glued to this story to the end. If you like John Sandford, you will like this one as well.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 4, 2007