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Mind Prey - John Sandford

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Author: John Sandford / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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      26.06.2007 12:19
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      A fun, but empty, crime thriller

      Crime fiction is little more than an exploitation genre. The author will often profit from thriving on the fears of the reader. Who wants to read a mundane book about a police officer cracking down on local graffiti artists when there are cases of murder, rape and torture instead? An author has two ways of tackling the sticky issues of violent crime; be sensitive, or just go for the action. The likes of Karin Slaughter try to explain the reasons behind the crimes and give the victims a realistic and harrowing narrative. However, the likes of John Sandford choose to brush over the deeper aspects and psychological side of crime and instead concentrate on a thrilling ride. Is either group correct in method? I believe there is plenty of room for both points of view and it’s hard to argue with the quality action adventure that is Sandford’s ‘Mind Prey’.

      There are certain crimes that grab the world’s attention and the abduction of a wealthy mother and her two young daughters is such a case. When a heavy media presence is involved there is only one man that can handle the pressures of solving a crime under the gleam of the media’s cameras – Lucas Davenport. It’s obvious from the very start that this is not a kidnapping for money and that a mad man has taken the family. Davenport must fight against the clock to save the victims before anything worse happens. However, this is no ordinary killer, but a sociopath who likes to play mind games. He is willing to give Davenport and his team some clues, but never enough to reveal his true whereabouts. Can Davenport use his skills as an investigator and creator of RPG games to get into the head of this dangerously deranged killer?

      Sandford has been writing about Davenport in his Prey series for many years now and some of you may even have read one or two of my reviews on the series. It has become a firm favourite of mine for two reasons; structure and character. The best Prey books follow a structure that sees the reader knowing who the criminal is from the beginning and following Davenport and his team as he hunts them down. This is the case in ‘Mind Prey’ and once again this structure leads to some excellent set pieces and keeps the reader on the tip of their toes.

      The characters in ‘Mind Prey’ are also excellent, and in particular Davenport. I have read the books out of order and this is a mid series book, but you can see how he has grown from a maverick loner hot shot into a maverick team player. Sandford is able to make Davenport a charismatic and funny character who you love to read about. It would be so easy for the character to be arrogant and self serving, but Sandford never allows this. This novel is set during the period in which Davenport must decide whether to take the plunge with his partner Winter and ask her to marry him. This storyline runs parallel to the criminal thread and acts as a great way of softening both Davenport’s character and the novel itself.

      The other characters in the book do not get as well developed background as Davenport, but there is the usual high quality ensemble of other police officers. Sandford has a great style of writing the interaction between the police colleagues as it has a very realistic feel. What Sandford does especially well in this book is create an interesting villain and victim. The relationship between abducted and the abductor is always an interesting one and writing it poorly could undermine the book. Sandford deftly creates an authentic relationship between the characters and gives them enough back-story to make it believable. I would argue that the book does lack a little compassion for the victim and that the grim details are brushed over slightly as not to make the book too dark.

      It is the juxtaposition between the out and out action chase elements of this book and the seedy torture and capture of the family that stops this book from being amongst the very best Prey novels. Sandford describes events that occur to the kidnapped family that will have the hairs on your neck standing on end. However, I feel that he cops out a little bit as the psychological impact is brushed over and we return back to Davenport’s storyline too quickly. It seems that Sandford did not want to get too bogged down in the emotional turmoil of the three women, not at the cost of pacing. By doing this he does achieve a very well paced story that is gripping throughout. The concluding quarter is in particular very exciting, but you can’t quite help feeling that the suffering of the family was a little short changed.

      Overall, ‘Mind Prey’ is a very good piece of crime exploitation. If you do not worry too much about the plight of the victims there is a story here that starts off well and gets increasingly exciting as it moves to the conclusion. The character of Davenport is still one of the best crime characters around in modern fiction and for fans of the series, and new readers, this book could be considered a fun read.

      Author: John Sandford
      Price: amazon uk - £5.49
      play.com - £5.49

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    • Product Details

      It was raining when Andi left the parent-teacher meeting with her two daughters, and she was distracted. She didn't notice the red van parked beside her, or the van door slide open. The last thing she did notice was the hand reaching out from her and the menacing voice from the past. When Lucas Davenport hears that psychiatrist Andi Manette and her daughters have been kidnapped, he knows instinctively that he's about to tackle one of his worst ever cases. For this time, Davenport has truly met his match - a nemesis more intelligent, and more depraved, than any he has tracked before. A pure, wanton killer who knows more about mind games than Davenport himself.