Book Review: The Investigator by John Sandford
By Doreen SheridanApril 12, 2022
Letty Davenport is very much the daughter of John Sandford’s regular series hero, US Marshall Lucas Davenport: tough, smart, and more interested in justice than the law. She’s also a bored 24-year-old working as a researcher for Senator Christopher Colles. When she tries to hand in her resignation after a routine (for her) look into missing campaign funds, the senator offers her a position that actually piques her interest: investigator for the Department of Homeland Security. As chairman of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Senator Colles takes an interest in DHS operations, and has found to his dismay that most of their investigators are mere paper pushers. He wants someone a little more proactive, who’ll answer directly to him as his DHS liaison. Letty, with her somewhat flexible interpretation of legality, strikes him as the perfect candidate.
More importantly to Letty, the position comes with both her own, if tiny, office, and the possibility of a carry permit once she’s demonstrated proficiency with firearms. As a self-proclaimed gun nut, Letty is all about that. John Kaiser, a 47-year-old DHS agent and ex-Army master sergeant, is assigned to check her proficiency and to subsequently partner her. Their relationship starts out rocky, but as they each discover that she isn’t just an “office chick” and he isn’t just an “overmuscled hulk”, their mutual respect grows, especially as their first assignment lands them in serious danger, with no one to count on but each other. In the aftermath, Letty reflects on what she’s learning, and what she still has to learn:
First: she had to pay more attention to Kaiser. He knew things that were valuable to her, but he was not an instinctive teacher. That valuable information remained dormant until something occurred to bring it up.
[…]Kaiser hadn’t panicked or argued when she’d told him to drive away from the metal building without her. He hadn’t called her when she was being shot at. He could pick locks with silent manual picks. He knew a lot about a lot of guns, she knew a lot about a few.
This first assignment of theirs has Letty and Kaiser digging into a case of missing Texas oil. Someone has been siphoning off amounts small enough to barely register as a loss in the ledgers of the multibillion-dollar industry, but still significant enough to pad the coffers of wrongdoers. After Letty and Kaiser come across the corpses of people who discovered too much about the thefts, they deduce that they’re up against a dangerous militia that won’t hesitate to kill in order to further its sinister plans. Our heroes must race against time to uncover exactly what those plans are and to foil the militia before anyone else gets hurt.
Fans of the Lucas Davenport series will find much to like in the adventures of his adopted daughter. Letty often reads like a younger version of Lucas, albeit one whose sharp edges haven’t yet been sanded off with experience. Even Weather, Lucas’ wife and Letty’s adopted mom, is struck by their similarity, though she probably worries more about Letty’s psychological health and make-up than anyone else in their family:
“You think I’m a psychopath?” Letty asked.
“No, of course not. You’re exactly like Lucas, and I <i>know</i> he’s not a psychopath,” Weather said. “And I know you’re not. You’re just…”
Letty grinned at her: “A high-functioning sociopath, maybe?”
“I’m trying to be serious, here,” Weather said. “I’m saying that you make very cold judgments about people, about their worth. You don’t cut them any slack for being…human.”
Letty had shrugged. “People are what they are.[”]
I found Letty quite sympathetic, myself. Her disinterest in people doesn’t make her incapable of empathy or kindness, but she also refuses to waste time and energy on being a people pleaser. Her efforts are far better spent on getting to the bottom of mysteries and foiling bad guys. If that includes shooting murderers and not feeling any guilt about it, then so be it.
Like the book overall, Letty is perhaps strangely apolitical, a point of view I can appreciate from a young woman of her particular background. But, as she proves from the evolution of her own relationship with Kaiser, she is capable of growth. I’m hoping that The Investigator is only the first in a series featuring her, so we can follow along as she continues to mature and learn and entertainingly kick the butts of deserving bad guys.
It was great, really. But it was just another Lucas book. Letty WAS Lucas in this book. She was too much like him. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed it and will read the next one as soon as Sanford writes it.
Disappointing that Sanford gaslighted what antifa and blm are actually up to. Definitely fiction.
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