Publication Date: October 22, 2015
In Gathering Prey by John Sandford, Letty, adopted daughter of Lucas Davenport, gets a call from a woman that considers herself a Traveler. Travelers are young people that roam the states peacefully. The woman’s fellow Travelers have started dying and she suspects foul play and is frightened she might be next. Letty insists on going to get her friend. Lucas is sure that there is nothing to the woman’s fear but insists on going with his daughter to protect her. What he finds is what they never expected.
John Sandford is a rare author. He is 25 books into the Prey series and while some of the novels are better than the others, none of them could really be called bad. Over the course of the series, readers have seen Lucas go from a hotheaded, young detective to a seasoned and reasoned law enforcement administrator. Over the course of time, he has gathered friends and family. In Gathering Prey we see one of Sandford’s best characters, Letty, as a grown woman that has crossed the threshold and to become the strong, confident and compassionate woman we knew she would be when Lucas met her as a sharp-shooting child pursuing animals in the dump in her quest for survival.
Gathering Prey is an immersion into counter-culture. Lucas and Letty encounter a cult leader reminiscent of Charles Manson. His name is Pilate and he is brutally manipulative and on the move, taking the story across the country to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Sandford’s rich descriptions of the wilds of this reviewer’s home state read as a love letter to nature in stark contrast to the Pilate and his sadistic gang of followers.
We get a hint of the early Lucas in this twenty-fifth work in that he throws caution to the wind to achieve justice. Lucas is warned against the case and is challenged by someone that could really have a heavy impact on his career. Despite the very real danger to everything he has worked for in law enforcement, Lucas wouldn’t be who he is if he abandoned the challenge. In Gathering Prey we see the return of many of his co-conspirators including his series-long partner, Del.
All of the Prey series of novels are extremely tightly written. They flow well and are fast reads. Were I on a blind date with the first part of Gathering Prey before Lucas is mentioned, I would recognize Sandford’s signature style. His villains and crimes may be mysterious but they are dark and imbued with a true evil and often a credible insanity. At 72 years old, Sandford remains at the top of his game.
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