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Burglaries are one of those 'victimless' crimes that seem to go under investigated by the police in modern Britain. When half of the houses get robbed on a street it's usually the one family who did the lot and the police know exactly who they are - so why don't you just lock them up? It's not a victimless crime at all as the person whose house was targeted may never feel safe again. It's even worse if the burglar comes in whilst you are asleep upstairs - personally I would not want to be a single woman if this happened. 'Night Prey' explores the mind of one of these cat burglars who enjoys breaking in at night. This burglar soon moves on from the 'victimless' act of stealing to the very victim based crime of murder.
Lucas Davenport returns once more as he seeks a killer who is attacking women and leaving them horribly mutated. It seems that the killer is aware of police procedures and he is leaving very little for the crime fighter to work on. In fact he is forced to search every small detail in the hope that it will lead to better information. Davenport is not only investigating under the pressure of the killer striking again, but the fact that the media are looking to blame his boss for the time wasting. Add to this Davenport's new colleague, a forthright woman dying from cancer, and perhaps this case is just too much for one man?
Having read nearly all of John Sandford's 'Prey' series I am well aware of the structure that he uses. He normally runs the story of the killer and the police's investigation parallel so that we see cause and effect. Initially the killer will be in control and the murders lead the police to investigate. However, as the story unfolds the police begin to trap the suspect and the killer starts to unravel in a series of exciting ways. In many ways 'Night Prey' is the quintessential 'Prey' novel, but also very different. The story of the killer and Davenport's investigation do run parallel, but unlike in most of the books Davenport is confused through most of it. This is due to the killer's knowledge of crime and his ability to avoid leaving clues. Some people may find that lack of cause and effect a little off putting as the killer continues unabashed, but I actually enjoyed reading about Davenport's unusual frustration and his investigations that lead down the wrong path.
The breaking of the link between killer and Davenport may be a first for the 'Prey' series but it allows a new side of Davenport to be examined. I have always enjoyed Davenport's character as he is intelligent, but also works from his gut. Normally he is a very self assured man who often uses his experience to identify a likely killer earlier than everyone else in the department. Therefore, it was interesting to see him flounder a little and only come across any decent information by chance. The other characters are also good, with the witty banter between police colleagues being particularly good. The introduction of a female investigator who has only so long to live really adds to the dynamic of the book and forces the pace on. The volatile relationship between her and Davenport is also a highlight.
Like in all 'Prey' novels the second most important element after Lucas Davenport is the killer themselves. Once again Sandford has managed to create a sociopath who you could just about imagine existing in normal society. This is a man who becomes obsessed with a woman, but unable to announce himself to her he acts out his rage on others. The best parts of the novel were seeing how the killer became increasingly unravelled as time passed and leaving behind more and more evidence. The book starts off at a decent pace, but the real action begins as Sandford enters the end game stage.
With his excellent sense of timing and structure Sandford has made the 'Prey' series one of my favourite set of books. However, because of their similar nature, 'Night Prey' suffers. Out of all the books this is probably the one that sticks closest to the formula. If you are new to the books it is a great place to start, but if you are slightly jaded by the series you may find this one too much to bare and make it your last. Personally, I love the way that Sandford builds the tension throughout and I also liked the way that this one saw a more impotent and flawed investigation. If you are a crime thriller fan and enjoy fast, fun reads go read John Sandford's 'Prey' series now!
Author: John Sandford
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