Naked Prey — John Sandford ****

Naked PreyJohn Sandford’s Lucas Davenport novels fall into the category of hard boiled contemporary detective/crime fiction. It is a series marked for its interesting characters, and beyond that, it is simply well written and superbly plotted. I always feel like I’ve climbed inside the brain of Lucas Davenport when I read Sandford, and it’s an unsettling place to be.

The amazing thing is that, some thirteen books into the series (Naked Prey is the most recent) there’s nothing stale about the writing or the characters. When this novel opens, Lucas has finally settled down after many years of wider appreciation of women pretty much everywhere. That means there’s no woman for him to be irritating or for him to irritate. I was worried that Sandford wouldn’t know what to do with a Lucas who couldn’t flirt with any serious intentions, but he found a good foil in a twelve-year muskrat rapper called Letty West. I’d bet almost anything Letty is going to be around for a good while. Certainly Weather will be the kind of influence she needs. This novel works not just because of Letty, but because of the way it explores morality issues where they are least clear.

Of all the novels, I have to say my favorite is Winter Prey — this is where Lucas first runs across Weather Karkinnen, who is a wonderful character, smart and tough enough to meet him on his own terms.