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Treat the aboriginal people of a country with respect. Sounds like an easy concept, but not one that our fore fathers chose to accept with some of the worst human rights atrocities of all time. Pesky Native American tribe in your way? Then why not provide them with some disease ridden blankets? Is your town surrounded by Aboriginal Australians? Perhaps methodical persecution and removal of their children will help? There are a lot of people across the globe that have historic reasons to dislike one another, but what would happen if these deep wounds were to open? Perhaps after all these years it about time they got some payback?
When a local slumlord had his throat slit it is not big news. The same level of ambivalence greets the death of a local racist. It is not until the death of a prominent business man that people start to see a pattern emerging. There are a spate of copy cat killings going on that see the victim approached in broad daylight and having their throats cut. Although the victims are not the most pleasant of men it is still the police's job to protect them. Therefore, a taskforce is set up and maverick cop Lucas Davenport is given the job of using his network of snitches to uncover what is going on. This could be Davenport's most difficult case as he comes up against the silence of the Crow community and a new partner that may prove somewhat of a distraction.
I am a long standing fan of the Lucas Davenport Prey novels, but have read them out of order. One moment he is a consultant for the police, the next he is a younger man back on the force. In my opinion some of the earlier books are harder to enjoy as Davenport is not the easiest of men to get along with. The darkness in his character is what makes him so appealing as he is willing to step across the line to get a case closed, even if it means killing someone. Most of the time, and especially in the later books, this all seems justified and in character, but 'Shadow Prey' is a book that also paints him as a man you may not like at all.
The violent edge to Davenports character is present in 'Shadow', but it his other vice that unbalances the book - women. By the time of this book he is in a relationship with a female reporter and they have a child together. John Sandford lets you know early on that Davenport's eye does wander, but the affair he has in this book is probably his lowest point. Not only does he fall for a colleague, but she is married and vulnerable to the advances of someone like Davenport. Around a third of the book seems to concentrate on this relationship and this not only detracts from the main action, but is also pretty uncomfortable as you see two people ruining their own lives, and those of their families.
Put aside the issue with Davenport's actions and you still have one of the weakest stories in the series. This is to a large part due to so much of Sandford's energy going into the relationship element of the book. Therefore, the action parts of the book feel very underdeveloped and you never get a strong idea of why exactly a multitude of different characters got together to seek the one common goal. The lack of bite in the story is only highlighted further when the finale comes and it is as action packed and well written as the rest of Sandford's work. He is a very talented thriller writer, but in the case of 'Shadow Prey' he just got off track.
It would be unfair not to allow every author at least one or two poor books in their career and 'Shadow Prey' is one of these for John Sandford. Instead of the usual back and forth between the hunter and the prey, you have a book that discuses the hunter's love life as much as their work life. I don't mind some character development, it is a must for a long running series, but portraying your lead as a love lost loser preying on married women does sit uneasy with me. Perhaps with a stronger central mystery I could have overlooked these shortcomings, but the action is second best when compared to the rest of the series. Having read the 'Prey' novels out of order I know that there are some genuine classics to come, for those who read 'Shadow Prey' early on, do not take it as a sign of the usual standard of the books.
Author: John Sandford
Price: amazon uk - £0.01 second hand