Rules of Prey
By John Sandford
Reviewed by Dom
When John Sandford (a Minneapolis journalist whose real name is John Camp) first published this mystery/thriller twenty years ago, he introduced us to an interesting police detective who drives a Porsche and designs games. No, not video games, but role-playing games, including combat re-enactment stuff. In other words, not your typical tough-talking cop.
He also created a serial killer who is brutal, but is portrayed as intelligent and cunning. This killer, who goes by the tag “maddog,” leaves behind notes that contain his rules for a successful murder. For instance, one might say “never kill anyone you know.” Another insists “never carry a weapon after it has been used.” Our hero, Lieutenant Detect Lucas Davenport, is assigned the case, and everyone is breathing down his neck. The mayor is taking heat, the police chief is taking heat, along with everyone on the force. The media - painted by Sandford as conniving, cut-throat, morally-bankrupt snakes - are inflaming the fears of the good citizens of Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Of course, with any good crime/mystery/thriller, you’re watching to see if the bad guy makes a mistake, and if the detective is sharp enough to pounce. Rules of Prey offers loads of action, plenty of close calls, and a bad guy evil enough to keep you wishing for his demise.
A couple of things to note. If you’re bothered by gruesome crime details, this might not be for you. If you’re bothered by extremely sexist womanizing on the part of your protagonist, then you might not like Davenport. Impregnating one woman doesn’t stop him from sleeping with others.
The technology changes in the last two decades since the book was written make for a chuckle now and then. I loved it when Davenport had to find a pay phone, and when the killer uses his VCR.
There’s a reason that Sandford has sold a gazillion books. He’s around twenty or so Prey novels now, and they continue to do well. This story is very quick, the suspense is well-crafted, and the characters (although often slimy) are at least believable. I found myself wondering what happens to our soon-to-be-father detective by the end of this tale.
Rules of Prey is a good summer read, and a worthy addition to the Dom and Jane Book Club.