Sandford gets back to basics in this stellar 14th installment of his hugely popular Prey series, focusing on the long-standing duo of Davenport and Capslock. As the novel begins, the indomitable Lucas Davenport (now happily married, a contented father and bored out of his mind) is slogging through the northern tundra of Broderick, Minn., to inspect the naked dangling corpses of a white woman and black man ("They were frozen. Like Popsicles.") that have shocked the locals as well as Minnesota's governor with the ugly specter of a lynching. Davenport, now more or less a free agent for the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension ("I kick people's asses"), is unleashed by the governor, giving Davenport and his scruffy sidekick, Del Capslock, a chance to escape their square city lives and catch the villain(s) while staving off the media vultures, Sandford's trademark subplot. As in previous novels, the original crime (rendered in a truly horrific opening sequence) is merely the gateway to a deeper, more insidious criminal enterprise, this one an international labyrinth of stolen cars, drugs, gambling and kidnapping. Some truly vicious familial machinations in the small town contrast well with Davenport's staid and stable home life. Another pleasant surprise is the precocious Letty West, whose awakening teenage sensibilities make an impression on Davenport. Sandford's usual background details (readers will learn how to run a muskrat trapline and how an Indian casino operates) are deftly woven into the fabric. This latest installment in a series now a decade and a half old is vintage Sandford. (May 12)
Forecast:It's a safe bet that this top-notch effort—issued in a 500,000 first printing, and a main selection of the Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and BOMC—will hit number one. 21-city author tour; audio rights to Recorded Books.