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Book Note: John Sandford, Rules of Prey

I read this book about 6-Feb-2010. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1989. This note was last modified Wednesday, 15-Jun-2016 14:00:31 PDT.

This is book 1 of the "Prey" series.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


"John Sandford" (John Camp)'s first venture into fiction, it sounds like, after a career in journalism before. This is a thriller or a police procedural or something. General genre is "mystery", but since we know who the killer is from the very beginning, mystery isn't quite the structure.

Set in Minneapolis, and the author is currently residing in St. Paul (his web site says he worked for the Pioneer Press as a journalist before he took to writing fiction). I'm trying his books because we overlap online through our interest in photography, and I'm pleased to say that I've enjoyed them very much.

Lucas Davenport is a police lieutenant with a past. He's apparently killed 5 men in the line of duty, and is currently being investigated by Internal Affairs over something or other. And we see him perform highly improper actions, clearly indicating he has well-established habits of exceeding the law. For example, he steals photos from crime scenes, and later plants them in the apartment of the killer. The killer finds them and burns them, and they end up with plenty of evidence without them, but Davenport was clearly prepared to use them if necessary. Also, at the end, he carefully sets things up to assassinate the killer. He ends up killing the guy in quite legitimate self-defense, but he had all the props and plans in place to fake it if necessary. So we see him being right, but being ethically rather flexible; if he took that attitude and was wrong, as he must in the real world pretty often, he'd be very dangerous. He does show considerable caution for the risk of being wrong; he hasn't just fastened on the right man by chance and pursued him to a conclusion.

He has more money than his job can account for (as an honest cop; he's not moral, but he's honest, he doesn't steal stuff for profit or take bribes), and it turns out that he earns this by his side job as a game designer. (He has a nice house by the river, and he drives a Porsche.) He's working on a tabletop wargame simulation of Gettysburg. This tells me enough to know that it's not actually a believable explanation for his income in 1989! But it's a nice character point.

His regular gaming group includes two nuns, a bookie, and a few college students. The feel of what little we see of it made me think of the gaming group in John M. Ford's The Scholars of Night, and the publication dates even make influence possible. Anyway it was a touch I enjoyed reading.

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David Dyer-Bennet