Fresh Meat: Stolen Prey by John Sandford

Stolen Prey by John Sandford
Stolen Prey by John Sandford
Stolen Prey by John Sandford is the 22nd book of the Prey series, an edgy police procedural featuring Lucas Davenport (available May 15, 2012).

Is it just me, or has Lucas Davenport lost a little something off his fastball? In Stolen Prey, 22nd in John Sandford’s Prey series, Lucas has to puzzle out the connections between a horrific murder and the theft of millions of dollars. But he doesn’t seem up to the task. During his daily run, Lucas muses:

He was getting older, with almost as much gray hair as black at his temples, with the beginnings of what would someday be slashing lines beside his mouth, but right now, on this spring day, he could run five miles in a little less than thirty minutes, even on wet city streets; and at home, there were four people who loved him.

As much as he could have hoped for.

Maybe so, but this reader had hoped for more.

I loved, loved, loved this series until about maybe book 20, Storm Prey, in which Davenport’s surgeon wife, Weather, takes center stage. In a word—boring. Maybe it’s time for Lucas to retire or better still, kill off Weather; that would be fun. Lucas could then pack up the kids and start anew somewhere else.

But I digress. Stolen Prey is about a hunt for gold that is somehow linked to a Mexican drug cartel and the gruesome murder of an entire family—husband, wife, two daughters, dogs. Lucas figures one way to help unravel the mystery is to follow the money, twenty-two million dollars, which has been funneled through one of the biggest banks in Minneapolis and turned into gold. One of the savvy crooks explains why.

“Okay. Gold. All kinds of people buy it and move it around for their own reasons, a lot of them legitimate. Like making gold jewelry. Women in India keep their wealth hanging around their necks and wrists. People in the United States put it in their basement because they think the end of the world is coming. People in Russia put it in their basement because the end of world is already here. The thing about gold coins is they can’t be tracked. There’s no real paper trail, any more than there is for candy bars. Gold coins have no serial numbers. And, there are gold dealers all over the United States, and everyplace else. If you have the money, they give you the gold. They’re dealers, not banks.”

There’s too much information about turning cash into gold. I miss the quick-witted, snarky cop Lucas Davenport once was. That Lucas only occasionally shines through, as here when he tells Shaffer, the cop in charge of the case, to lie to the press as a way to get the killers’ attention.

Shaffer thinks it’s unethical, so Lucas does it for him.

Lucas watched tapes of his performance, with Shaffer standing next to him, and Shaffer said, “You lie really well.”

“If I have to,” Lucas said. “I figured it was too important to pussy out on.”

“I didn’t pussy out.”

“Yeah, you did, Bob. Pretty amazing—you’ve got no problem shooting it out with a Mexican hit man, but you puss out when it comes to lying to reporters. Listen: everything you see on TV news is bullshit,” Lucas said. “You would have added a teaspoon of bullshit to an ocean of it. Nobody would have noticed, and it’ll help catch a couple more killers. Go fuck your qualms, and your ethics.”

Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

Maybe I’ll go back to the earlier Prey novels and try to recapture the Lucas of old.


Susan Amper, author of How to Write About Edgar Allan Poe, still mourns the loss of her Nancy Drew collection.

Read all of Susan Amper’s posts for Criminal Element.


  1. DebbieH

    I agree that Weather is a drag on the series. Maybe Sandford needs to write more like Buried Prey. He gave us a pre-Weather Lucas and some of the fun was back.

  2. BeijingDom

    i agree….but i think it’s inevitable after twenty two books….that it should lose a little…..they always do.

    That’s why ,recently, i have much preferrred the Virgil Flowers books….freseher…newer characters…

  3. s.amper


    I “hate” the Virgil Flowers’ books. I find that character irritating and the mysteries not nearly as compelling as those in most Prey novels.

  4. mark max

    do not you think that the murders in stolen prey bear a remarkable similarity to the murder and fire in wahington DC on 5/16 2015

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