Phantom Prey, by John Sandford

Alyssa returns home and realises something is wrong. No-one's in the house, but there's some blood on the wallpaper, and it soon turns out that her daughter Frances is missing. Lucas gets involved as a favour to Weather, who's a friend of Alyssa. And then other people who knew Frances start getting murdered, so it looks like there's a serial killer on the loose.

What an absolute treat to be back in the hands of Sandford, a crime writer who can really write. I see it's about nine months since I last read a Prey novel, and this one - especially after the dull Naked in Death was a breath of fresh air.

The plot in this one was maybe not one of the best, but it was pretty good - there was also a parallel subplot about a stake-out on a drugs dealer who'd skipped bail, and it all fitted pretty well I thought.

But the most striking thing was the quality of the writing, it's just so tight. The asides give you the feeling that you're getting the inside deal on how things really work, e.g. (just picking something from page 2):

She'd shot the eyes out of the gun-instructor's bad-guy target. He'd been mildly impressed, but only mildly. A cop for most of his life, he'd told her that every shooting he'd ever seen had been a screwup.

"The question is not whether you can hit something at seven yards. The question is whether you can sort out all the problems, when you've got a loaded gun in your hand," he said, in a rehearsed speech that might have been written on a 3x5 card. "You have no time, but you have to figure out what's happening - what's going on. To shoot or not to shoot: it all comes down to a tenth of a second, in the dark. You don't want to shoot your kid or a neighbor. You don't want to not shoot a junkie with a butcher knife coming for your throat."

When Lucas is trying to keep up with the killer, but loses them:
The phone rang, and they both turned to look at it: late for a phone call, and that was hardly ever good. Lucas picked it up and said, "Hello?"

Harold Anson, the Minneapolis homicide cop, said, "We got another one. I'm headed over there - down on the riverfront, two blocks from the last one."

"If you tell me it's a guy named Roy Carter, I'm gonna shoot myself."

There was five seconds' silence, then Anson said, "Step away from the gun, big guy"

Lucas is so believable as a character, and such a great hero - not without flaws - there is a witness in this story who Lucas is interviewing
Her dark eyes caught Lucas's eyes as she dug in a peanut butter jar with the knife. Lucas felt a little thrum and it didn't have anything to do with the murder.
and then, later, at a bar, Lucas sees her again
Two of the women were none other than Leigh Price, the fairy girl who'd twanged Lucas's magic twanger, and her roommate...
that "twang" is quite good, I think.

There's a new one out (Wicked Prey, in hardback only at the moment) so even after finishing this one I've not done the complete series, but I think it might be time to start the project of reading them all again in sequence.

Completed : 22-Jun-2009

Re-read (or listened to the audiobook anyway) in 2014

I don't think I was particularly keen on the "phantom" bit of the plot, but the book was a great read.

I made a note of the "shoot myself" quote to put in here, but see that I mentioned it last time through. I'd also remembered the "twang" being in this book, but had assumed it would be more of a running theme than it actually was.

Another phrase I liked here was the way the SWAT team was described as "boiling out" of their van.

Completed : 19-Dec-2014

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