Shadow Prey by John Sandford: A review

My considered opinion is that Minneapolis detective Lucas Davenport is a jerk. He's one of those guys who sees himself as a gift to women of all shapes, sizes, and kinds. He excuses his behavior as a Lothario by saying that he just LOVES women. And so he moves back and forth among a gaggle of women giving them the precious gift of himself and, quite often, his sperm. 

He has a more or less steady girlfriend with whom he has a child, but when a NYPD lieutenant comes to Minneapolis to assist in the investigation of a series of killings that may be related to one that occurred in New York, he just can't help pursuing her and eventually falling into bed with her, in spite of the fact that she is married and has two teenage children. 

He's supposed to be in the "intelligence" section of the Minneapolis police department and yet he drives around town in his Porsche in order to meet with his contacts. Not exactly the discrete behavior one might expect from one in such a position. His co-workers and superiors seem in awe of his abilities as a detective, but, frankly, I don't see much evidence of sharp detective work. He just seems to blunder around until information falls into his lap.

This is the second book in this series and, so far, they read like the fantasy of a man in mid-life crisis. It occurs to me that I just might not be the prime audience for whom these books are being written.

All that being said, this is an interesting story which explores the fraught relations between the Native American community of Minnesota - and, by extension, America - and the police and larger community. 

Here we meet Sam and Aaron Crow, two aging Sioux radicals who have planned a terror campaign against government officials whom they deem enemies of Native American people by virtue of crimes they have committed against the People - crimes for which they have never been punished. The Crows aim to see that punishment is meted out before they die.

They have sent their followers out to various locations around the country to dispense justice with ceremonial stone knives which they wear around their necks. A slumlord in Minneapolis, a rising political star in Manhattan, a Federal judge in Oklahoma City, all fall to the knife. But then two Native Americans in Minneapolis, a drug-addled teenager and a social worker, also are killed in the same manner. Has the killer turned on his own people? How can all these murders be related?

One feels a great deal of empathy for the Crows. Their cause seems righteous on many levels. The men whom they sent their followers to kill had committed crimes, often heinous crimes, against Native Americans. But can such violence ever be justified? Maybe when there is no hope of receiving justice through the courts? At least within the pages of a book, we can cheer such retribution without any actual blood being spilled.

But what of the murder of the teenager and the social worker? Their killer is a psycho feeding off the energy of the Crows' campaign. And that may be a natural consequence of such violence.

So, all in all, a good story, but I just cannot like the main character. This is a very long-running series. This book was published in 1990 and it's still going. I wonder if Lucas Davenport ever grows up during all those years.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



  1. Too bad you don't like this detective that much. Are you planning to continue reading the series? Who do you think is its target readership?

    1. I think it is written mainly with men of a certain age in mind and it seems quite popular among that group. My husband likes it and is the one who recommended it to me. I don't think most men pick up on what I discern as a kind of subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, sexism in the relationship between characters. That seeming acceptance of sexism as normal is what really gets up my nose! Still, other than that complaint, the books are well-written and the stories are interesting. I'll probably read more - eventually.

  2. I have a female blogger friend who reads and enjoys this author's books. I was thinking of getting one for my husband. Now I don't know. I guess I will get him one to try and see how he reacts.


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