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Mortal Prey (Lucas Davenport Series #13)

Mortal Prey (Lucas Davenport Series #13)

4.3 75
by John Sandford, Eric Conger (Narrated by)

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This time, Lucas Davenport is the prey.


This time, Lucas Davenport is the prey.

Editorial Reviews

In this spellbinder, the 13th installment in John Sandford's Prey series, likable hit woman Clara Rinker becomes an assassination target herself. When the plot fails, Rinker slips underground to track down her would-be killers. To quiet things down, the feds call out Minneapolis deputy police chief (and series hero) Lucas Davenport. Lucas has his own steer-sized beef with the soft-spoken Rinker: A few years back, in Certain Prey, she nearly killed him. In this exciting thriller, everyone is caught in the crossfire.
New York Daily News
A startling tale, Mortal Prey brings to life the complex workings and inner psychology of high-priced killing.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Like the best writers in this genre...Sandford evokes his netherworld with authentic-sounding dialogue and meticulous details.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
[A] smart,knowing take on the thriller genre.
Publishers Weekly
It's the little things about Lucas Davenport that make him such a kick to follow his ruminations about why a public bus smells like urine, his fear that a cell phone won't work in the bathroom "with all the tile." Davenport is, of course, a marvelous if unorthodox cop from Minneapolis, starring here in his 13th Prey offering, which finds creator Sandford operating at top efficiency and in high style. Clara Rinker, the hit woman extraordinaire who slipped out of Davenport's grasp in 1999's Certain Prey, is now back on the prowl, looking for revenge against old enemies from Kansas City who killed her fianc and shot her in the gut. The bullet spared her life, but not that of her baby. The FBI, knowing she's headed to Missouri, assembles a huge team of shirt-and-tie, laptop-carrying agents, but also taps Davenport to make the trip. Sure enough, Rinker starts knocking off old business partners in creative ways, making the tech-minded FBI look foolish. It's only Davenport and his feet-on-the-street savvy that finally rope Rinker into a furious pursuit and showdown. Sandford's eye for the tell-all character quirk remains finely tuned, as does his deadpan humor, rivaled by few in the crime-drama ranks. Longtime fans should take note that changes are ahead for Davenport. He's marrying his sweetie, Dr. Weather Karkinnen, and they're having a kid. He's also about to leave the city police force, following his boss, Rose Marie Roux, to a job with the state police. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In Mortal Prey, Lucas Davenport is back again, dealing with building his dream house, planning a wedding with the expectant Dr. Weather Karkinnen, and leaving the city police force for a job with the state police. Then bodies start to stack up, and he's drafted by the FBI and the DEA to track down and stop revenge-obsessed hit woman Clara Rinker. The juxtaposition of the great cop with the great criminal creates a startling tale that is filled with rich characterization and exceptional drama. Richard Ferrone continues his excellent tradition of narrating Sandford's "Prey" series, bringing just the right clarity and action to enhance the listener's experience. Highly recommended.DDenise A. Garofalo, Astor Home for Children, Rhinebeck, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Professional hit-woman Clara Rinker returns for another shot at Lucas Davenport as the brilliant Prey series reaches 13 with nary a sign of dross on its gloss. What Sandford does as well if not better than any other crime fiction writer is make good villains. Though his Clara Rinker kills for money, he puts so human a face on her it requires an act of will to resist her appeal. We meet her first as victim (shrewd Sandford), ambushed, gunned down in cold-blood. Fatally wounded in the same ambush is her lover, the man whose child she was carrying. Since Paulo was the son of a notorious Mexican crime family, conventional wisdom names him as the mark. During her long convalescence, however, Clara has a chance to rethink that. Back in St. Louis, where she made her world-class reputation, there are five powerful men who regularly hired her gun and who might have begun to worry about how deeply she was clued into their various nefarious operations. She decides they've formed a cabal against her and that it's time to become proactive. At this point, enter series hero Lucas Davenport, one of the few ever to survive a one-on-one with Clara (Certain Prey). In his day job, Lucas is Minneapolis's Deputy Police Chief, but the FBI drafts him for an all-out war. Like the talented guerilla she is, Clara strikes with elegant ferocity, taking out her targets as planned, staying an infuriating step ahead of all her adversaries, including Lucas. But Lucas scares her. While she likes and respects him, she knows there's no safety for her until she kills him. Which parallels precisely the way Lucas feels about her. Vivid cast, bristling action, neat surprises—and it's funny.Probably the cop novel of the year.
From the Publisher
“Vivid cast, bristling action, neat surprises— and it’s funny. Probably the cop novel of the year.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Sandford’s eye for the tell-all character quirk remains finely tuned, as does his deadpan humor, rivaled by few in the crime-drama ranks.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Lucas Davenport Series , #13
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 7.18(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt


By John Sandford


Copyright © 2002 John Sandford.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 0399148639

Chapter One

THE THOUGHT POPPED INTO HER HEAD as she lay in the soft-washed yellowed sheets in the hospital bed. The thought popped in between the gas pains and muscle spasms, through the pungent odor of alcohol swabs, and if she'd read the thought in a book, she might have smiled at it.

    She wasn't smiling at anything now.

    She stared past the IV drip bag at the whitewashed plaster ceiling and tried not to groan when the pains came, knowing that they would end; tried not to look at the hard-eyed Mexicano at the end of the bed, his hand never far from the pistol that lay under the newspaper on the arm of his chair. Tried not to think about Paulo.

    Tried not to think about anything, but sometimes the thoughts popped up: tall, wiry Paulo in his ruffled tuxedo shirt, his jacket on the chair, a glass of red wine in one hand, his other hand, balled in a fist, on his hip, looking at himself in the full-length mirror on the back of his bedroom door, pretending to be a matador. Paulo with the children's book Father Christmas, sitting naked at her kitchen table with a glass of milk and a milk mustache, delighted by the grumpy Santa Claus. Paulo asleep next to her, his face pale and trusting in the day's first light, the soft light that came in over the gulf just before sunrise.

    But the thought that might have made her smile, if it was in a book, was:

    Just like the fuckin' Godfather.

LIKE THIS: AN Italian restaurant called Gino's, with the full Italian-cliché stage setting—sienna orange wails, bottles of Chianti with straw wrappers, red-and-white checked tablecloths, baskets of hot crusty bread as soon as you sat down, the room smelling of sugar and wheat, olives and peppers, and black oily coffee. A few rickety tables outside faced the Plaza de Arboles and the fifties tourist-coordinated stucco church across the way, San Fernando de Something-or-Other. The church belfry contained a loudspeaker that played a full, slow bell version of the Singing Nun's "Dominique," more or less at noon, depending on whose turn it was to drop the needle on the aging vinyl bell-record.

    Paulo took her to lunch almost every day, picking her up at the hotel where she worked as a bookkeeper. They'd eat Mexican one day, California or French the next, Italian twice a week. He picked her up about noon, so on most days she could hear, near or far, the recorded bells of San Fernando's.

    Gino's was the favored spot. Despite the clichéd Italian stage-setting, there was an actual Gino cooking at Gino's, and the food was terrific. Paulo would pick her up in a black BMW 740iL, his business car, with his smooth-faced business driver. They'd hook up with friends, eat a long Caribbean lunch and laugh and argue and talk politics and cars and boats and sex, and at two o'clock or so, they'd all head back to work.

    A pattern: not predictable to the minute, but predictable enough.

ISRAEL COEN SAT up in the choir loft at the back of the church with his rifle, a scoped Remington Model 700 in .30-06. He'd sighted it in along a dirt track west of town, zeroed at exactly sixty yards, the distance he'd be shooting across the Plaza de Arboles. There was no problem making the shot. If all you wanted was that Izzy Coen make a sixty-yard shot with a scoped Remington 700, you could specify which shirt button you wanted the slug to punch through.

    Not that everything was perfect. The moron who'd bought the gun apparently thought that bigger was better, so Izzy would be shooting at sixty yards through an eight-power scope, and about all he could see was a shirt button. He would have preferred no magnification at all, or an adjustable two- to six-power scope, to give him a little room around the crosshairs. But he didn't have that, and would have to make do.

    The problem with the scope was exacerbated by the humidity in the loft. Not only was the temperature somewhere in the 120s, he thought, but the humidity must have been 95 percent. He'd sweated through his shirt at his armpits and across his chest, and the sweat beaded on his cheeks and forehead and arms. When he put the rifle to his cheek, the scope fogged over in a matter of seconds. He had a bottle of springwater with him, and that helped keep his body cool enough to function, but there was nothing he could do about the fogging eyepiece. The shot would have to be a quick one.

    No matter. He'd scouted the play for three days, he knew what the conditions would be, and he was ready, up high with a rifle, yellow vinyl kitchen gloves protecting against the inadvertent fingerprint, the jeans and thin long-sleeved shirt meant to guard against DNA traces. Izzy was good.

    He'd been in the loft for an hour and ten minutes when he saw the 740iL ease around the corner. He had two identical Motorola walkie-talkies sitting next to his feet. Izzy believed in redundancy. He picked up the first walkie-talkie, pushed the transmit button, and asked, "Hear me?"


    "Come now."

    "One minute."

TEN OF THEM had been sitting in the back of Gino's, the talk running down, a friend leaving and then another, with his new girlfriend, who'd been brought around for approval. Then Paulo looked at his watch and said to Rinker, "We better get back."

    "Just a minute," she said. "Turn this way." She turned his chin in her hand, dipped a napkin into a glass of water, and used the wet cloth to wipe a nearly invisible smear of red sauce from his lower lip.

    "I was saving that for later," he protested.

    "I couldn't send you back that way," she said. "Your mother would kill me."

    "My mother," he said, rolling his black eyes.

THEY WALKED OUT Of the Italian restaurant—Just like the fuckin' Godfather—and the black BMW stopped beyond the balustrade that separated the restaurant's patio from the Plaza. They walked past an American who sat at a circular table in his Hawaiian shirt and wide-brimmed flat hat, peering into a guidebook—all the details as clear and sharp three days later, in the hospital, as the moment when it happened—and the driver started to get out and Paulo called, "I got it, I got it," and Rinker reached for the door handle, but Paulo beat her to it, stepping in front of her in that last little quarter-second of life....

    The shot sounded like a firecracker, but the driver knew it wasn't. The driver was in his pocket as Rinker, suddenly feeling ill—not in pain, yet, but just ill, and for some inexplicable reason, failing—went to the ground, Paulo on top of her. She didn't understand, even as a roaring, ripping sound enveloped her, and she rolled and Paulo looked down at her, but his eyes were already out of control and he opened his mouth and his blood gushed onto her face and into her mouth. She began screaming as the roaring sound resumed.

    She rolled and pushed Paulo down on the cobbles and turned his head to keep him from drowning in his own blood, and began screaming at the driver, "Paulo, Paulo, Paulo ..."

    The driver looked at her, everything slow-moving. She saw the boxy black-steel weapon in his hand, a gun like she hadn't seen before. She saw his mouth open as he shouted something, then he looked back over the car and then back down at Paulo. Then he was standing over them, and he lifted Paulo and put him on the backseat, and lifted her, and put her in the passenger seat, and in seconds they were flying across the Plaza, the hospital three minutes away, no more.

    She looked over the seat, into Paulo's open eyes; but Paulo wasn't there anymore.

    Paulo had gone. She could taste his blood in her mouth, crusting around her teeth, but Paulo had left the building.

IZZY COHEN SAID, "Goddamnit," and he wasn't sure it'd gone right. The scope had blocked too much and he ran the bolt and lifted the rifle for a second shot, the bodies right there, and he saw the driver doing something, and then as Izzy lifted the rifle, the driver opened up and the front of the church powdered around him and Izzy thought, Jeez ...

    An Uzi, he thought, or a gun just like it. Izzy rolled away from the window as the glass blew inward, picked up the two walkie-talkies, and scrambled to the far corner of the loft and the steel spiral stair, the bullets flying around him like bees. He dove down the stair and punched through the back door, where a yellow Volkswagen Beetle was waiting with its engine running. Izzy threw the gun in the back, climbed in, and slammed the door. The driver accelerated away from the church's back door and shouted, "What was that? What was that gun?"

    "Fuck if I know," Izzy said. He was pulling off the latex gloves, shaking glass out of his hair. Blood on his hand—he dabbed at his cheek: just a nick. "A fuckin' Uzi, maybe."

    "Uzi? What is this Uzi?"

    "Israeli gun, it's a machine gun ..."

    "I know what is a fuckin' Uzi," the driver shouted. "WHY is this fuckin' Uzi? Why is this?"

    "I don't know," Izzy said. "Just get us back to the plane and maybe we can find out."

THE AIRSTRIP WAS a one-lane dirt path cut out of apiece of scraggly jungle twenty kilometers west of the city. On the way, the driver got on his cell phone and made a call, shouting in Spanish over the pounding of the Volkswagen.

    "Find out anything?" Izzy asked when he rang off.

    "I call now, maybe find out something later," the driver said. He was a little man who wore a plain pink short-sleeved dress shirt with khaki slacks and brown sandals. His English was usually excellent, but deteriorated under stress.

    A couple of kilometers east of the airstrip, they stopped and the driver led the way through a copse of trees to a water-filled hole in the ground. Izzy wiped the Remington and threw it in the hole and tossed the box of shells in after it. "Hope it doesn't dry up," he said, looking at the ripples on the black water.

    The driver shook his head. "There's no bottom," he said. "The hole goes all the way to hell." The phone rang on the way back to the car and the driver answered it, spoke for a minute, and then clicked off with a nervous sideways glance at Izzy.


    "Two dead," the driver said. "One bullet?"

    "One shot," Izzy said with satisfaction. "What was that machine gun?

    The driver shrugged. "Bodyguard, maybe. Nobody knows."

THE AIRSTRIP TERMINAL was a tin-roofed, concrete block building, surrounded by ragged palmettos, with an incongruous rooster-shaped weather vane perched on top. What might have been a more professional windsock hung limply from a pole beside the building, except that the windsock was shaped like a six-foot-long orange trout, and carried the legend "West Yellowstone, Montana." A Honda generator chugged away in a locked steel box behind the building, putting out the thin stink of burnt gasoline. Finger-sized lizards climbed over walls, poles, and tree trunks, searching for bugs, of which there were many'. Everything about the place looked as tired as the windsock. Even the trees. Even the lizards.

    From the trip in, Izzy knew the generator ran an ancient air conditioner and an even older dusty-red Coca-Cola cooler inside the building, where the owner sat with a stack of Playboy magazines, a radio, and a can of Raid for the biting flies.

    "I'll call again," the driver said. "You check on the plane."

    When Izzy had gone inside, the driver, now sweating as heavily as the American, dug a revolver out from under the front seat of the Volkswagen, swung the cylinder out and checked it, closed the cylinder, and put the gun under his belt at the small of his back.

    Izzy and the driver had known each other for a few years, and there existed the possibility that the driver's name was on a list somewhere; that somebody knew who was driving Israel Coen around Cancún. But the driver doubted it. Nobody would want to know the details of a thing like this, and Izzy wouldn't want anyone to know.

    Only two people had seen the driver's face and Izzy's in the same place: Izzy himself, and the airport manager.

    The driver walked into the airport building and pulled the door shut. The building had four windows, and they all looked the same way', out at the strip. And it was cool inside. Izzy was talking to the airport manager, who sat with a Coca-Cola at a metal desk, directly in front of the air conditioner.

    "Is he coming? the driver asked.

    "He's twenty minutes out," Izzy said, and the airport manager nodded.

    The driver yawned. He had twenty minutes. Not much time. "Nice trip," he said to Izzy. He tipped his head at the door, as though he wanted to speak privately. "Hope your business went well."

    "Let me get my bag," Izzy said. He stepped toward the door, and the driver pulled it open with his left hand and held it. Izzy stepped out, the driver right behind him, his right hand swinging up with the revolver. When it was an inch behind Izzy's head, he pulled the trigger and Izzy's face exploded in blood and he went down. The driver looked at the body for a moment, not quite believing what he'd done, then stepped back inside. The airport manager was half out of his chair, body cocked, and the driver shook his head at him.

    "Too bad," he said, with real regret.

    "We've known each other for a long time," the airport manager said.

    "I'm sorry."

    "Why is ... Let me say a prayer."

    "No time," the driver said. "Today we killed Raul Mejia's baby boy."

    He shot the airport manager in the heart, and again in the head to make sure. Back outside, he shot Izzy twice more, the shots sounding distant in his own ears, as if they'd come from over a hill. He dragged the body inside the airport building and dumped it beside the airport manager's. He took Izzy's wallet and all of his cash, a gold ring with a big red stone and the inscription "University of Connecticut, 1986," and every scrap of paper he could find on him. He also found the padlock for the door on the manager's desk, and the key to the generator box in the manager's pocket. He went outside, padlocked the door behind himself, killed the generator. There was a black patch of bloody dirt where Izzy's head had landed. He scuffed more dirt over it, got back in his Volkswagen, and pulled away.

    Raul Mejia's baby boy.

    The driver would have said a prayer for himself, if he could have remembered any.

RINKER DIDN'T KNOW the names of the players. When she woke up, she was in the hospital's critical care unit, three empty' beds with monitoring equipment, and her own bed. Anthony and Dominic, Paulo's brothers, were sitting at the foot of the bed. She couldn't quite make out their faces until Anthony stood up and stepped close. Her mouth was as dry as a saltine cracker: "Paulo?"

    Anthony shook his head. Rinker turned her face away, opened her mouth to cry, but nothing came out. Tears began running down her face, and Anthony took her hand.

    "He was ... he was dead when they got here.... We, uh, you have been in surgery. We need to know, did you see the man who shot you?"

    Rinker wagged her head weakly. "I didn't see anything. I just fell down, I didn't know I was shot. Paulo fell on top of me, I tried to turn his head, he was bleeding ..."

    More tears, and Dominic was turning his straw hat in his hands, pulling the brim through his fingers in a circular motion, like a man measuring yards of cloth.

    "We are trying to find out who did this—the police are helping," Anthony said. "We, uh ... You will be all right. The bullet went through Paulo and fell apart, and the core went into you, in your stomach. They operated for two hours, and you will be all right."

    She nodded, but her hand twitched toward her stomach.

    "I think I'm, I might have been, I think...." she began, looking at Anthony and then Dominic, who had stepped up beside his brother.

    Dominic now shook his head. "You have lost the baby."

    "Oh, God."

    Dominic reached out and touched her covered leg. He was tough as a ball bearing, but he had tears rolling down his cheeks. He said, "We'll find them. This won't pass."

    She turned her head away and drifted. When she came back, they'd gone.


Excerpted from MORTAL PREY by John Sandford. Copyright © 2002 by John Sandford. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
“Vivid cast, bristling action, neat surprises—and it’s funny. Probably the cop novel of the year.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Sandford’s eye for the tell-all character quirk remains finely tuned, as does his deadpan humor, rivaled by few in the crime-drama ranks.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Meet the Author

John Sandford is the pseudonym of Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist John Camp. He is the author of the Prey novels, the Kidd novels, the Virgil Flowers novels, The Night Crew, and Dead Watch. He lives in New Mexico.

Brief Biography

St. Paul, Minnesota
Date of Birth:
February 23, 1944
Place of Birth:
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
State University of Iowa, Iowa City: B.A., American History; M.A., Journalism

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Mortal Prey (Lucas Davenport Series #13) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 75 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been eagerly reading thru the "Prey Series" w/excitement over when "Rinker" would reappear as villianess to test Lucas again. It was an even better read than I expected. J.S. wrote her so well that I grew as equally fond of her as Lucas despite the fact she was completely amoral & I knew wouldn't come to a happy end. Rinker finally rests in peace as Lucas enters new & more humanized phases of his personal & professional life. I do so love this series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book the writing is very descriptive and intresting. The ending was classical by using the adversaries only weakness, to draw her into the kill zone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Of all the prey books this was the slowest and least enjoyable to read
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Have to say that I spent most of the book rooting for Rinker. I liked her in a bizarre way and really hated most of the FBI people. Am kind of sorry for the way it turned out. One twist at the end didn't make sense to me & there is a question left hanging in the air about Paolo. Wondering if it's a set up for a future storyline.
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SlapShot62 More than 1 year ago
Another good one from Sandford. Not sure that this ranks in the upper echelon of Prey books, but it is pretty good. We know Lucas well by now, and most of his supporting cast. We even know the killer from a previous novel. All characters have depth and Sandford delivers a strong plot all the way through. If I had one complaint or criticism it would be that the story slowed a bit towards the end. Not awful, just not as strong as some of the others. I love this series.
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Nurse1954 More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed each of the prey series
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