Certain Prey, by John Sandford

Carmel, a high-powered defence attourney, is obsessed by another attourney who works for her firm, but he's married. With the help of an ex-client drug-dealer, who she once got acquitted, she is put in touch with a professional hitman, who turns out to be a woman, Clara Rinker, and hires her to kill the wife. Seems to go pretty smooth. But then the drug-dealer says he's going to go to the police unless she pays him $25,000. Carmel gets back in touch with Clara, and the two of them have to decide what they're going to do to make sure that neither of them gets caught.

A pretty exciting read, and it turns out there are a whole load of "Prey" books by Sandford: his hero is Lucas Davenport, the police investigator who in this story suspects Carmel from the start and spends most of the book trying to prove she had something to do with the murder.

The weakness of the story was the downright implausibility of the whole thing. Clara Rinker is meant to be a professional hitman with 30-odd kills under her belt, who's never left so much as a hint to the FBI of her identity. Carmel is the leading defence lawyer in town, and has a better than 50% success rate at getting acquittals for criminals that everyone knows are guilty. But its as if at the start of the book, the real Carmel and Clara completely alter their characters, becoming unprofessional and inept. A lot of the time I was thinking "as if!". E.g. after the wife is killed, and the drug-dealer threatens Carmel, there's no real danger that Clara is going to be implicated. But she comes back, and together with Carmel hatches a pretty bizarre plan to get rid of their problem. Which involves, incidentally, Carmel drilling out the guy's kneecaps with a power-drill. Pretty gripping reading, but...as if!

What I was quite impressed with was that on a few occasions, there were coincidences which either helped or thwarted the investigation, and these were sufficiently odd as to seem quite believable. E.g. at one stage Davenport gets a list of phone records in order to work out who Carmel has been calling. One of the companies she calls is an answering service called "Tenex". By coincidence, he's just been practising in the shooting range and talking about a guy who is so good he can shoot ten shots inside the "X" section of a target. This makes him realise that "Tenex" must be a front for the assassin. And sure enough, that is the name of the company that Clara uses. This seems a bit far-fetched, but we later on find that Clara used the name "Tenex" for a totally different reason, so Davenport was luckier than he'd realised. Clara can't work out how Davenport broke the "Tenex" cover, and Davenport never realises that his guess was based on a mistake. But this is the sort of thing that does seem like it could have happened. And there were similar cases where luck worked against Davenport.

All in all it was a very entertaining read, and I'll be looking for more.


Re-read this in 2014 as part of the project to listen to all the audiobooks in sequence - I probably wouldn't otherwise have re-read it so soon (2 years) after the previous time. BUT it was still gripping. I think this is one of my favourites.

Completed : 25-Jun-2005 (audiobook, read by Richard Ferrone)

Completed : 02-May-2012 (audiobook, read by Richard Ferrone)

Completed : 29-Jul-2014 (audiobook, read by Richard Ferrone)

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