Books by John Sandford

BLOODY GENIUS  by John Sandford
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 15, 2019

"Steadily absorbing revelations of all manner of malfeasance, beautifully handled, even if the final twist is less than the best."
Virgil Flowers' 12th appearance takes him into the homicidal heart of the University of Minnesota. Read full book review >
OAK LEAF by John Sandford
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 17, 2019

"It's pretty to look at, but it's too generic to be an essential addition to an autumnal-themed book collection. (Picture book. 5-7)"
Autumn's arrival sends an oak leaf on a windswept adventure against dappled, pointillist-style paintings. Read full book review >
NEON PREY  by John Sandford
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 13, 2019

"Professionally entertaining, with lots of realistically frustrating false hopes—though it's hard to worry very much about the leading question here: Will the franchise hero (Twisted Prey, 2018, etc.) succeed in bringing the crooks to justice before they wipe each other off the face of the Earth?"
Lucas Davenport goes west. Read full book review >
HOLY GHOST  by John Sandford
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 9, 2018

"It would be nice if the payoff were more closely linked to the amusing setup, but the detection, though often tediously routine, carries all the authenticity you'd expect from a pro like Sandford."
A drolly fraudulent plan to reverse the fortunes of a declining Minnesota town hits a snag in the form of a much more serious spate of felonies. Read full book review >
TWISTED PREY by John Sandford
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 24, 2018

"Sandford is as professional as the evildoers aren't. The result is lots of great setups but remarkably few follow-throughs."
Now that he's moved on from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to the elite U.S. Marshals Service, you might expect Lucas Davenport (Golden Prey, 2017, etc.) to deal with a distinctly higher class of lowlife. That's not how it works out. Read full book review >
DEEP FREEZE by John Sandford
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 17, 2017

"As so often in Sandford's small-town adventures (Escape Clause, 2016, etc.), the greatest pleasures here are incidental: clipped conversations, quietly loopy humor, locals mouthing off to and about each other. Pull up a seat, make yourself comfortable, and enjoy."
Virgil Flowers, of Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, works an altogether unremarkable murder and a surprisingly inventive case on the side. Read full book review >
THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2017  by John Sandford
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 3, 2017

"With its narrow take on what it means to be American, Sandford's collection seems determined to make the genre great again."
Sandford, creator of the action-packed Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers franchises, reprints 20 tales of murder and mayhem in the latest entry of this Penzler-curated series. Read full book review >
ESCAPE CLAUSE by John Sandford
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 4, 2016

"Perfect entertainment for readers whose hearts skip a beat when they worry that the hero won't be in time to rescue that remaining tiger from certain death."
Virgil Flowers, of Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, pivots from dognapping (Field of Prey, 2014, etc.) to a catnapping whose victims are really big cats. Read full book review >
EXTREME PREY by John Sandford
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 26, 2016

"An efficient and unremarkable treatment of a story that keeps threatening to leap the gap from paranoid fantasies to tomorrow's headlines."
Forget the Iowa caucuses. The real way to effect political change in the nation's heartland, according to Lucas Davenport's latest antagonist, is a carefully calibrated assassination. Read full book review >
SATURN RUN by John Sandford
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 6, 2015

"James Bond meets Tom Swift, with the last word reserved not for extraterrestrial encounters but for international piracy, state secrets, and a spot of satisfyingly underhanded political pressure."
Quite a departure for Sandford, who sets aside his Lucas Davenport crime franchise (Gathering Prey, 2015, etc.) and partners with photographer and sci-fi buff Ctein to leave Earth's gravitational field for the rings of Saturn. Read full book review >
GATHERING PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: April 28, 2015

"Fast, proficient, and utterly forgettable. Lucas' wife, Weather, says it best when she tells her husband: 'Don't get shot; it'd be really inconvenient for everybody.'"
Lucas Davenport, of Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, celebrates his 25th appearance by crossing state and jurisdictional lines in pursuit of a killer who's made the pursuit personal. Read full book review >
DEADLINE by John Sandford
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 7, 2014

"Exhilaratingly professional work by both Virgil and his creator that breaks no new ground but will keep the fans happy and add to their number."
Virgil Flowers, agreeing to check out the most minor crime imaginable in sleepy Trippton, Minnesota, finds himself in a steadily deepening pool of felonies. Read full book review >
STORM FRONT by John Sandford
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 8, 2013

"Quite a departure for Virgil and Lucas, but this is not a case that plays to their considerable strengths."
Virgil Flowers (Mad River, 2012, etc.) chases after a biblical relic that turns every person whose path it crosses into a criminal. Read full book review >
SILKEN PREY by John Sandford
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 7, 2013

"Sandford keeps every stage of the investigation clear, compelling and suspenseful while peeling back layer after layer of a world in which 'everybody was hot, everybody was rich.'"
Dirty political tricksters give Lucas Davenport his most satisfying case in years. Read full book review >
MAD RIVER by John Sandford
Released: Oct. 2, 2012

"None of these minor complications, though, are enough to raise Virgil's sixth (Shock Wave, 2011, etc.) much above the level of a highly competent but routine manhunt."
Virgil Flowers and the forces of Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension battle trigger-happy Bare County Sheriff Lewis Duke in pursuit of a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. Read full book review >
STOLEN PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 15, 2012

"Despite the high mortality rate, the procedural work is more grueling than fascinating, and the criminals are mostly as nondescript as their monikers. But the climactic gunfight is deeply satisfying, and the very last line of dialogue is perfect."
Lucas Davenport takes the scenic route toward a confrontation with the two practiced crooks who had the bad luck to rob him. Read full book review >
SHOCK WAVE by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Oct. 1, 2011

"The tale drags at times, but the mystification and detection are authentic and the solution surprisingly clever. Virgil fully deserves to have Willard Pye kiss his ass."
A methodical bomber gives Virgil Flowers a welcome chance to recover from his atypically bombastic last outing (Bad Blood, 2010, etc.). Read full book review >
BURIED PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 10, 2011

"Most interesting for its long look at the young Lucas, who's considerably more humorous, profane and loosely wrapped than the peerless agent of Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension he becomes."
A macabre discovery at a demolition site sends Lucas Davenport back to 1985, and his very first homicide. Read full book review >
BAD BLOOD by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Sept. 21, 2010

"Lurid and overscaled."
An open-and-shut case of murder leads Virgil Flowers, of Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (Rough Country, 2009, etc.), to a twisted, century-old conspiracy. Read full book review >
STORM PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 1, 2010

"Razor-sharp dialogue, a tautly controlled pace and enough homicides for a miniseries. What more could fans want?"
Despite its inaccurate, generic and dumb title—what's next, Murder Prey?—Lucas Davenport's 20th case is one of his best. Read full book review >
THE SNOWBALL EFFECT by Holly Nicole Hoxter
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: April 1, 2010

Whenever faced with a decision, 17-year-old Lainey Pike always chooses the chicken—selecting the safest option, so she knows exactly what she's going to get. However, when her mother commits suicide, Lainey begins rethinking her comfortable approach to life choices, especially her decision to commit to her long-term boyfriend, Riley. Playing heavily into her change of heart is her reunion with her estranged older sister, Vallery, and their new role in raising their younger brother, Collin, who has major behavioral issues and becomes the focus of many complicated and difficult decisions. Pushed out of her comfort zone, Lainey begins taking chances, sampling a variety of life experiences and subconsciously applying her mom's teachings from her former role as a life coach. Expertly weaving together quirky family stories, realistic characters and tough decisions, Hoxter presents a unique coming-of-age story, which highlights that teens need not just go with the flow but can and should control their own destinies. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
ROUGH COUNTRY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Oct. 1, 2009

"Readers may at first share the verdict of Virgil's fishing buddy—'I thought it would be interesting, but it's just nasty'—but following the trail to McDill's killer proves as interesting as hooking and landing a 40-pound musky. "
Virgil Flowers (Heat Lightning, 2008, etc.) emerges from the long shadow of mentor Lucas Davenport to solve the murder of an advertising executive that features some long shadows of its own. Read full book review >
WICKED PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 1, 2009

"The multiple plots are untidily stuck together, as if with mucilage, but Sandford keeps stepping up the pressure until it seems as if more than Randy Whitcomb is running on crank."
The 2008 Republican National Convention sweeps into the Twin Cities, bringing in its wake a world of trouble for Lucas Davenport's hometown. Read full book review >
RULES OF THE GAME by Marjorie Maddox
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2009

A singularly unattractive, cramped design does nothing to help this collection of baseball-themed poems. From "Balk" to "Grand Slam," 42 poems tackle seemingly every aspect of play, even including the defunct "Catch on Bound" rule that hasn't pertained for eons. Some of the imagery is nicely apt: from "Home Run," "Anything less is a slice. / Hungry, you want the whole pie. / With the ball out of sight past the wall, / you crave every last crumb of the run..." Internal rhymes and wordplay provide most of the energy that drives this particular engine, and at their best, they're good fun. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of poems—often four to a spread, all rendered in the same tightly leaded lines of type in a 13-point font—overwhelms readers. Sandford's pencil illustrations, some hyperrealistic, some more playful (a startled batter, Band-aid on his hand, jumps out of the path of a "Beanball"), are set on an unvaried pale-orange background; the relentless visual sameness of each spread combines with the mass of print on the page to strike this one out. (Picture book/poetry. 11-14)Read full book review >
HEAT LIGHTNING by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Oct. 7, 2008

"Although the prose sounds like Sandford, the plotting is a letdown: The trail to the last act is rich in incident, but not original, urgent or compelling. On the other hand, the very last surprise, climaxing a turf war between the BCA and the Department of Homeland Security, is a honey."
Sandford, who seems determined to keep Lucas Davenport's latest cases secret, allows him to be upstaged once more by his junior colleague Virgil Flowers, though this time there's no great honor in star billing. Read full book review >
PHANTOM PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 6, 2008

"As usual, there are lots of moves by both good guys and bad, but this time the moves seem old and forced."
Lucas Davenport goes after a clever, ruthless killer hiding in plain sight. Read full book review >
DARK OF THE MOON by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Sept. 25, 2007

"A high-fatality, low-octane procedural that has its points but lacks the wow factor. Bring back Lucas Davenport. "
Virgil Flowers, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator introduced as a sidekick to Lucas Davenport in Invisible Prey (2007), gets a death-enriched case of his own. Read full book review >
INVISIBLE PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 15, 2007

"The villains are cartoon monsters, but Sandford unfolds his unlikely tale with a pro's command of pace, mixing his pitches like an All-Star."
Lucas Davenport goes up against a pair of antiques thieves who kill for love and money. Read full book review >
DEAD WATCH by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 9, 2006

"Not as tightly woven as Sandford's best, but reliable thrills with some unexpected political overtones from a pro's pro."
The disappearance of a high-profile politician lights the fuse in Sandford's latest high-octane, low-logic thriller. Read full book review >
THE TERRIBLE HODAG AND THE ANIMAL CATCHERS by Caroline Arnold
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 15, 2006

Arnold places upper-Midwestern tall-tale figures at the center of an original story about a group of loggers defending a friendly monster from a trio of inept collectors. The huge Hodag might have (as Arnold repeatedly notes) "the head of an ox, feet of a bear, back of a dinosaur and tail of an alligator," but it's actually a mild-mannered creature with a fondness for blueberries. In consequence, when zookeepers arrive to capture it, logger Olee Swenson and his crew carefully misdirect them, helping the Hodag to muddle its trails to boot. Sandford illustrates with strong-lined black and white caricatures that look like wood engravings, portraying the Hodag as described (more or less—he never does get the glowing eyes quite right). The loggers are appropriately burly and the hunters are citified fools, who are—ultimately—tricked into falling into their own Hodag trap and are suddenly eager to promise to go away and never return. The telling is a bit stiff, but this Hodag, unlike the ones in older yarns and doctored photographs, seems more friendly than fearsome, and tales about it are rare enough that it may be new to young readers. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
BROKEN PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 10, 2005

"A tale so fast-moving you won't even notice the unobtrusively expert detective work till the second time around."
Now that Lucas Davenport's gone up against a Russian spy ring (Hidden Prey, 2004), it's almost anticlimactic to ask him to catch a mere serial killer. But that's the only anticlimax here. Read full book review >
HIDDEN PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 11, 2004

"Deft, action-packed, and slyly funny. Just when you thought the silky smooth Sandford couldn't possibly get better, he does."
As the brilliant Prey series (Naked Prey, 2003, etc.) moves adroitly to number 15, Lucas Davenport discovers and exposes your basic family Soviet spy ring. Read full book review >
NAKED PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 12, 2003

"Nonstop drive, dialogue that amuses and surprises, deft characterizations. But most notable of what Sandford continues to do—better, perhaps, than anyone in crime fiction—is humanize his monsters: that makes for a special kind of creepiness."
By the time a series gets appreciably past its salad days, the signs of writer fatigue are usually unmistakable. Which is what makes this 14th outing from Sandford so remarkable: the brilliant Prey series goes bopping along, taking steps two at a time, acting like your basic spring chicken. Read full book review >
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! by Valrie M. Selkowe
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 30, 2001

A small rabbit awakens to the sunlight of an ordinary day. He yawns, stretches, sets aside his teddy bunny, and gets dressed to go check his mailbox, where he finds a key. Birds in human clothing point the way to the lock that the key opens: "the gate that led through the garden to the great pink house." The house looms palatial on the double-spread page, but its opened door is bunny-sized. It's a dollhouse sort of great house presented in pastel-soft, cake-sweet illustrations. From there, the cunningly contrived white-ribbon path, on which appears minimal, large-type text, continues into "the magical room," where animal toys and dolls dance, the small rabbit rides the rocking horse, the lion performs acrobatics, a monkey juggles, and the three little pigs squeal with delight at a cake with candles. Everyone sings the rabbit's favorite song, "Happy Birthday to Me," a sentiment echoed generically in the ultimate spread, which makes of this whole trip a handsome birthday card for the very youngest of celebrants. The magic here springs from a vision absolutely abandoned in fairy-cake fantasy, a complementary collaboration of dream-state text and the cuddliest of visuals. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
CHOSEN PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 7, 2001

"Sandford's legion of female readers may find this one hard to take. But spellbinding? You bet."
Twelfth in Sandford's wildly successful Deputy Chief Detective Lucas Davenport series (Certain Prey, 1999, etc.), all set in Minneapolis and many being New York Times #1 bellringers. (Sandford is the pen name for Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Camp.) Davenport drives a Porsche and dresses up to keep his car from blushing. His new nemesis is a historian, James Qatar, whose joy first is in secretly photographing naked women until he finds an even greater pleasure: the aesthetics of cool, clear strangulation, which Sandford describes in convulsively graphic prose. And the more Qatar kills, the wiser and more refined he becomes about it. But does Morris Ware, a pervert back out on the street with his Brownie, whose art book of photos, Little Woman on the Edge, about naked girls coming into puberty, have contact with Qatar? Read full book review >
MORTAL PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 1, 2001

"Vivid cast, bristling action, neat surprises—and it's funny. Probably the cop novel of the year."
Professional hit-woman Clara Rinker returns for another shot at Lucas Davenport as the brilliant Prey series reaches 13 with nary a sign of dross on its gloss. Read full book review >
THE DEVIL’S CODE by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Oct. 2, 2000

"Tailor-made for the potentially huge X-Men audience that can't be bothered scanning all those comic-book pictures or hiking out to the bijou. "
Sandford reaches back to the dim past before his fabulously popular Lucas Davenport thrillers (Easy Prey, p. 327, etc.) to resurrect his even pulpier hero, artist/hacker/design-thief Kidd (The Empress File, 1992, not reviewed), for this tale of computer skullduggery on an epic scale. Read full book review >
EASY PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 8, 2000

" Beneath the slime, there's a decent whodunit, but it takes real digging to unearth it. 'I don't know,' muses Davenport during the Grand Guignol of a climax, 'we might be missing the Russians or the Chinese, but that's about it.' Amen."
This well-regarded series of police procedurals (Certain Prey, 1999, etc.) continues as Lucas Davenport, deputy chief of the Minneapolis PD, hunts a double murderer whose brutal crime sparks a series of deaths that may or may not be revenge killings. Read full book review >
CERTAIN PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 10, 1999

After ten thrillers in his series about Minneapolis cop Lucas Davenport (Secret Prey, 1998, etc.), Pulitzer Prize—winning journalist John Camp, writing under his Sandford pen name, hits a home run over the curve of the earth as the brilliantly swift Certain Prey sinks a meat hook under the reader's jaw on page one and never lets up. In the opening scene, Clara Rinker, a 16-year-old runaway and nude dancer, is raped one night behind her St. Louie nudie bar and within two pages she has her revenge, battering her fat-trucker rapist's head in with a metal baseball bat. Her coolness about the murder leads her to become a hit woman for the Mafia. By age 20, reader-friendly Clara's making so much money as an assassin-for-hire that she goes to business school to figure out how best to use the cash she's been piling up under various names. When Minneapolis defense attorney Carmel Loan decides she wants a rival removed, she has a Mafia client hire Clara for her. Clara does the hit, killing Barbara Allen, but a cop witnesses the deed and is shot as well. Which draws in Lucas. Will the spiritedly attractive villain survive her encounter with Lucas and go on, like Hannibal Lecter, to enjoy an even greater feast of crimes? Top suspense. Read full book review >
TALE OF A TAIL by Judit Z. Bodn†r
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

Bodn†r (A Wagonload of Fish, 1996) demonstrates how false friends can still be helpful, despite their worst intentions. A fish-glutted fox has just scored a basketful of trout at the local fishing hole and repaired to his den to tuck in when his friend the bear materializes outside the door. The bear pleads for a portion, the greedy fox refuses, but, to be rid of the nuisance, tells the bear to catch his own by sticking his tail in the lake overnight. Unfortunately, the lake freezes over, and in the morning the bear must drag along the whole body of water as he struggles toward the fox's den to give him a piece of his mind; his rage is a source of strength. In the meantime, the sun is rising and the ice is thawing. On the bear toils until he gets stuck between two trees, and notices that the lake is slowly melting, forming a stream, and in it are plenty of fish. With the fox off the hook and the bear sated, the story grinds to a halt without a real turning point; the story is resolved simplistically despite the hints that it will take on epic, or at least tall-tale, proportions. Sandford's attractive illustrations have Jan Brett-like folkloric details, and work well within the restrictions of the story—the two main characters never meet, and the third character (the lake) is not assigned personality or substance. (Picture book/folklore. 3-8) Read full book review >
SECRET PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 11, 1998

Deputy chief of Minneapolis PD Lucas Davenport returns for Sandford's ninth outing in the well-received Prey procedurals (Sudden Prey, 1996, etc.). The cop ripostes herein are a brilliantly welcome routine and rival the richly characterized acid blackness of TV's Homicide show. Unique for the series is Davenport's bipolar disorder, with the gloom-ridden hero often on the verge of a total depressive breakdown, despite the heartening presence of fellow cop Sherrill, her statuesque figure drawing attention away from the chrome revolver in her shoulder holster. Sadly, the bloody violence of Davenport's LaChaise case has cost him his fiancÇe, Weather Karkinnen—they're both seeing a shrink about it. Ironically, Davenport's battle with depression turns out to be a help in the present case, when his disorder leads him to the Prozac clue that eventually solves a central group of murders. Five bank-company executives are on a hunt on opening day of deer season when the company's chairman takes a slug through the heart. Before novel's end, only two of the execs are left alive, which certainly cuts down on the suspects. Why was chairman Daniel S. Kresge shot? Because he has just bamboozled his wife into accepting an $8 million divorce settlement and is merging his 230 banks with a larger, a move that will net him $40 million after taxes? Yes, he'll lose his job, as will nearly all the execs on the deer hunt, but that's life. As is revenge. Lucas's clues pile up as an unknown woman keeps shipping them to him by mail and phone. But a perplexed Davenport soon has something else to solve: Someone, for reasons unknown, firebombs Weather's house. Are his cases related? Events from earlier Prey novels weave intriguingly through this one, inviting the reader to plunge into the entire series. Not a bad idea. Read full book review >
MOONSTICK by Eve Bunting
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 30, 1997

Bunting (The Pumpkin Fair, p. 947, etc.) turns a sensitive eye to Sioux culture, depicting it truthfully and realistically while incorporating into the book a heartening message to any child whose ancestral ways have passed (even temporarily) into obscurity. The father of the first-person narrator notches a moon-counting stick at the beginning of each of the 13 moons of the Sioux year, a way to mark the passing of the year. Sandford's appealing, unsentimental illustrations link the notches to the passing seasons, from the Moon of the Birth of Calves, through the Cherry-Ripening Moon when the men take part in the Sun Dance, and the Sore-Eyes Moon when snow so dazzles the narrator that his father reassures him that "changes come and will come again. It is so arranged." Soon it is time for a new moonstick, but, in a brief page, readers understand that many moonsticks have come and gone: The child is grown, his culture passed away, and the narrator's livelihood comes from the sale of his wife's beadwork and his own headdresses—"We do not hunt." That's the poignant clincher, so it's a relief that the narrator takes his small grandson to cut a stick, to pass on his father's wisdom, to note that changes will come again. Expertly and beautifully told. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
THE NIGHT CREW by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: April 7, 1997

The pseudonymous Sandford takes a break from his popular series featuring top Minneapolis cop Lucas Davenport (Sudden Prey, 1996, etc.) to offer a thriller whose gutsy heroine pursues the psychopath who's stalking her around the Los Angeles Basin. A midwestern farm girl whose musical talents proved insufficient to gain her a concert pianist's career, Anna Hatory (now nearing 40) works at an unusual trade. With partner Creek (a gentle giant who did time for running marijuana from Mexico), she heads a television camera crew that prowls L.A. County from midnight until dawn on the lookout for airworthy stories that can be sold to local stations or the networks. Soon after an eventful evening—the freelancers provided exclusive film coverage of the dramatic death of a teenager who jumped from a hotel ledge while high on speed—the body of Jason O'Brien, a part-time videocam operator for Anna who filmed the suicide, washes up on the Santa Monica beach. Anna meets Jake Harper, an ex-sheriff's deputy turned lawyer and the father of the boy who committed suicide. He believes that there's a connection between the deaths of Jason and his son and that Anna may be in danger. After her home is broken into and Creek badly wounded by a pistol-wielding assailant, she joins forces with Jake. Desperate to make a connection that could lead them to her anonymous pursuer, Anna (by now romantically involved with Jake) wonders whether her lost love, a composer who's back on the West Coast courtesy of a UCLA fellowship, might be the guilty party. Instead, a violent climactic confrontation that costs Anna dearly reveals that her manic nemesis is not from the daydreamy past but the nightside present. A credibly gallant woman on the trail of a notably demented weirdo in a host of after-hours venues—a winning and suspense-filled combination for the ultraprofessional Sandford. Read full book review >
SUDDEN PREY by John Sandford
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 1, 1996

The fine and chilling eighth in Sandford's series featuring top cop Lucas Davenport (Mind Prey, 1995, etc.), this pitting him against a trio of revenge-minded killers. At the climax of an afternoon stakeout in a mall crowded with Christmas shoppers, Davenport (deputy chief of the Minneapolis PD) and a handpicked crew of officers gun down Candy LaChaise and her sister-in-law Georgia just after they've robbed a credit union. Candy's hardcase husband Dick, midway through a nine-year jail sentence, is allowed to attend her funeral. With a little help from his friends—Bill Martin, a backwoodsman with a fondness for exotic weaponry, and Ansel Butters, a substance-abusing Tennessean—Dick murders his guard and melts into the countryside. Eager to exact retribution, however, the vindictive Martin and his confederates return to the Twin Cities, where, using IDs supplied by Andy Stadic (a crooked vice cop), they begin liquidating the loved ones of those involved in the credit-union shootout. With the public and press in an uproar, Davenport calls on the considerable resources at his command to stalk the homicidal threesome. Butters goes down, but with Stadic tipping them off via cellular phone, LaChaise and Martin manage to remain at large, albeit at no small cost in blood. Eventually, Sandy Darling (the ex-nurse they've blackmailed into treating their wounds) is able to betray them to the authorities. In near-blizzard conditions, then, a crossbow-wielding Martin is shot on a downtown street while Davenport closes with LaChaise in a hospital he's invaded in search of the doctor who's Davenport's live-in lover. Meanwhile, Darling flees Stadic through the stands of an empty Metrodome. Complete with gross cop humor and villains who, for all their vicious resolve, have credibly redemptive traits: another winner for the accomplished Sandford and his growing legion of fans. Read full book review >
MIND PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 11, 1995

Sandford's talent for conveying the quotidian horrors, tedium, and heavy-handed humor of urban police procedure is as sure as ever in streetwise hero Lucas Davenport's seventh outing (Night Prey, 1994, etc.). Andi Manette, a carriage-trade psychiatrist, and her two young daughters are the victims of a violent daylight abduction. Because Manette is the daughter of an influential Minnesota poi and the estranged wife of a wealthy developer, Davenport, deputy chief of the Minneapolis PD, winds up in charge of the high-profile case. The kidnapper, a vicious but resourceful psychopath named John Mail, was once a patient of Manette's while confined in a state institution for the criminally insane. Before the abductor's identity becomes apparent, however, Davenport needs to check out several suspects who might stand to gain from Manette's death. A computer-game freak, Mail soon begins phoning Davenport (an off-duty entrepreneur who launched his own simulation software company) to taunt him with clues. The detective eventually realizes his quarry is getting inside information from someone in Manette's family circle, which includes her partner — a nasty piece of work who has been bedding down with the septuagenarian paterfamilias. The suspense and dread build steadily as Davenport closes in on Mail, who has been beating and raping Manette in a farmhouse well beyond the Twin Cities limits. Will Davenport (who's been lured into a couple of near-fatal traps by his crafty adversary) be able to engineer an endgame before the madman kills his three captives? And what can Manette and her children do to help save themselves from mortal peril? A shocking but credible climax provides most of the answers, and Davenport ties up the last loose ends in a satisfying postlude. Nonstop action, an offbeat milieu (the wide, weird world of computer gamesters), and a host of three-dimensional characters — all make for one of the best Preys yet. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

Nonagenarian Sanford, who most recently memorialized his wife, Maggie (Maggie: A Love Story, 1993), recalls his childhood in Harlem in a memoir that is also a bittersweet apology to his father. In 1904, the year in which Sanford was born, Harlem was "still an out-of-the-way community on the island of Manhattan and almost suburban in its quiet, with frame houses—farmhouses some of them—standing alongside newcome neighbors of brick and yellowstone." He lovingly recalls the childhood landmarks of the place (Reid's Drug Store, Nick Stano Shoe Repair, and Bachrach's Ice Cream Parlor), as well as the apartment houses he lived in: the grand Gainsboro overlooking Mt. Morris Square when the family was flush, the much more modest Cabonak that became home after the Panic of 1907 bankrupted his father, and the apartment on West 117th Street, a place that reflected his grandfather's "unadorned life," where Sanford later lived with his grandparents. These recollections, interspersed with vignettes that anticipate his eventual meeting with Maggie, are secondary to the main theme, which is atonement for a thoughtless youthful act that irreparably hurt his father. Sanford's father was a Russian Jew who came to the US at the age of five. He became a lawyer, and though his practice was only intermittently successful, he was always the most affectionate and generous of fathers. Sanford's mother died when he was ten and thereafter Sanford and his father moved in with her parents. But when his father remarried in 1920, his grandfather and his mother's sister turned so against his stepmother that the boy refused to live with his father in his new home. This act of defiance ultimately broke up the marriage, and he understood too late the "sorrow of a wise father for a foolish and wilful son." The past in soft sepia tones, except for the sorrow Sanford caused, which still remains hard-edged and raw. Quiet but affecting. Read full book review >
NIGHT PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 25, 1994

Sandford's sixth entry in his bestselling series (Winter Prey, 1993, etc.) is another fast-paced and convincing thriller starring detective Lucas Davenport. State Investigator Meagan Connell believes that Minneapolis has a serial killer on its hands, a killer who has stepped up the frequency of his attacks. Connell is dying of cancer and is determined to catch the killer in the few weeks she has left, but Minneapolis police are skeptical. A new police chief with her eye on the Senate passes both the case and Connell on to Deputy Chief Lucas Davenport. Recently returned to the force after a two-year hiatus, Davenport agrees to work with the abrasive state investigator. A body is found in a dumpster, and then another in a park, and then there are some seemingly unrelated attacks. Cat burglar Robert Koop, a bodybuilder and former prison guard, has indeed stepped up his gruesome and deadly attacks on women. He has become obsessed with burglary victim Sara Jensen. She is unaware that Koop is watching her from the roof of the building across the street and spending time in her bed when she's not at home until she spends the night with a man. Koop, who had been leaving her initials on his victims, becomes both sloppy and even more deadly. Solid police work and good luck lead Davenport to Koop, but he needs Jensen to act as a decoy. Will Davenport be able to catch the monster before he kills again? And can they catch him before Connell's cancer kills her? A hair-raising and shocking ending provides the answers, and Davenport will be able to concentrate again on his beautiful live-in love, but there's that TV reporter who keeps inviting him for coffee... Strong on atmosphere and suspense, with a vivid cast of major and minor characters, this is a potent and compelling addition to the series. Read full book review >
WINTER PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: March 24, 1993

Vastly entertaining fifth entry in Sandford's popular Prey series (Silent Prey, 1992, etc.). This time, ex-cop and master- gamesman Lucas Davenport takes on a crazed killer ravaging a small Wisconsin town. The killer, who calls himself "the Iceman" for his sang- froid, debuts in the creepy opening pages by stalking an isolated house, gunning down the woman inside, chopping up her husband, and torturing their daughter—all in a failed attempt to retrieve an incriminating photo that's fallen into the victims' hands. It's a gruesome start, but Sandford splatters the gore mostly off-page, relying on suspense—and there's plenty of it—to jangle readers' nerves. When the bodies are found, the local sheriff calls in Davenport to help. Arriving in town, Davenport, who's at loose ends in his life, finds himself facing two enemies: the Iceman, but also record cold and snow that's frozen the town into a death-trap. His investigation—which hinges on retrieving the photo before the Iceman does—stalls in the face of challenging puzzles centering on time-of-death and a seemingly reluctant witness, but it also butts him up against some marvelous characters, including a female M.D. with whom he falls eagerly in love. Meanwhile, the Iceman slays anyone who might know about the photo—which, it turns out, shows him having sex with a local boy, his first victim: The Iceman heads a child-porn ring. When Davenport—who's been revitalized by the case—at last recovers the photo, the Iceman's surprising identity is revealed, leading to a furious climactic chase on snowmobiles through dark woods and howling wind—and to Davenport and the Iceman each having a téte-a-téte with death. Crackling action, a clever mystery, and characters who breathe make this great fun: one of the best Preys yet and a must for thriller fans. Read full book review >
THE OLD RED ROCKING CHAIR by Phyllis Root
ADVENTURE
Released: May 8, 1992

In an amusing circular tale, a discarded chair serves four other people well before returning, unrecognized, to its first owner. Martha puts the chair out with the garbage because it doesn't match her new blue sofa; Sam adopts it until his dog Fergie breaks one of its arms; Sharifa removes the other arm and rocks happily until her cat destroys the seat. Finally, Agnes puts a lovely blue seat on what is now a footstool, and it's bought by Martha.... Sandford brings out the story's homely humor in illustrations with energetic perspectives and sturdy but lively figures that refuse to be confined by their borders. An entertaining choice for sharing, though some of the illustrations are so dark that they are hard to ``read'' from a distance. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
SILENT PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: March 30, 1992

Sandford's sixth thriller—including two under his real name of John Camp—since July 1989. It's no surprise, then, that this fourth in his bestselling Prey series shows some stretch and strain, bringing cop-hero Lucas Davenport away from Minneapolis to Manhattan to tangle again with the homicidal maniac of Eyes of Prey (1991). But it's not just drug-crazed pathologist Michael Bekker—infamous for cutting out his victims' eyelids as he torture-kills them to capture the moment of transition from life to death—that tests Davenport here. Weeks after Bekker escapes from a Minneapolis courthouse in the novel's fierce kickoff, Davenport is visited by old flame Lily Rothenberg of the NYPD (Rules of Prey). Not only is Bekker running amok in N.Y.C., Lily says, but so is a cabal of vigilante cops who've killed perhaps dozens of the Big Apple's most vicious worms. Will Davenport help snare Bekker and at the same time secretly sniff out the bad cops? Davenport's exploration of Gotham's mean streets dramatically points up the metropolis as an inferno of the damned—dealers, fences, junkies—as seen by a small-city cop; but Davenport himself seems less the appealingly brooding, game-playing genius of previous novels than a devious bully with a penchant for extralegal tactics, including intimidation and burglary. Meanwhile, Bekker pops pills and reaps victims under Davenport's nose until a major twist reveals why the killer remains invisible. As Davenport closes in, he also finds himself looking hard at friends old and new as possible vigilantes: Lily, her cop-lover, another top cop, and Davenport's own new bedmate, a feisty "cowgirl" cop named Barb Fell. The two cases close out in predictable but tense climaxes fraught with poetic justice. Solid cop-action with well-drawn minor characters, but lacking the high cleverness or suspense of some earlier Preys. And recycled villain Bekker is no Hannibal Lecter. Read full book review >
EYES OF PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: April 4, 1991

Why is Sandford's new Kidd-series novel, The Empress File (p. 120; written under his real name of John Camp), so frazzled? Maybe because this increasingly popular author is putting his finest energies into his best-selling Lucas Davenport series (Rules of Prey, 1989; Shadow Prey, 1990)—as evidenced by this strong and satisfying entry, in which the Minneapolis homicide cop tangles with two memorable psycho-killers. The killers are coldhearted burn-deformed actor Carlo Druze and handsome pill-crazed pathologist Michael Bekker, who lures Druze into a murder trade a la Strangers on a Train: Bekker's wife for Druze's boss. The novel opens with Druze sneaking into Bekker's house to slice Stephanie Bekker and (at Bekker's insistence) to mutilate her eyes—but it turns out that Stephanie has a lover, who sees Druze, then runs away. Who is he? And why the eye mutilation? These questions plague moody, perennially unhappy Davenport as he deals with the case, and with his own demons of depression. Though from the start suspecting Bekker (whose drug-soaked soliloquies, and hidden obsession with observing dying patients' eyes at the moment of death, cast him as an unusually fascinating villain), Davenport can't figure out the mad M.D.'s connection to the second victim, Druze's boss, also found with punched-out eyes. So when the mysterious eyewitness begins feeding anonymous clues about a deformed killer, and then a third victim—an innocent mistakenly identified by Druze as the eyewitness—surfaces, Davenport looks elsewhere. His search brings him to Druze's theater company and to sexy actress Cassie Lasch, who becomes Davenport's lover and (inevitably in Sandford's dark universe) Bekker's final victim—along with Druze, whom Bekker double-crosses. In a brutal finale, a semi-deranged Davenport, throwing his cop-career away, extracts a savage revenge upon Bekker—a revenge that leads to a last-page revelation of the eyewitness's surprising identity. Atmospheric, suspenseful, and gripping from start to finish. Read full book review >
SHADOW PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: June 28, 1990

A crackling sequel to Sandford's ingenious Rules of Prey (1989), in which Minneapolis homicide cop Lucas Davenport made his memorable debut tracking a serial killer. Here, Sandford (who last year under his real name of John Camp also published the fine seriocomic thriller The Fool's Run) pits Davenport against a murderous Indian cabal. The sly, convoluted plotting of Rules of Prey, predicated on Davenport's mastery at games (he's wealthy from inventing several computer games), takes back seat here to vigorous erotic and violent action, beginning with the opening flashback that sees racist young cop Lawrence Clay raping an Indian girl. Today, Clay is director of the FBI and is the ultimate target of vengeance by the aging, radical Crow brothers, who plan to draw him to Minneapolis by orchestrating a series of ritual killings by Indians of white enemies—a slumlord, a sadistic parole officer. Before Clay blusters on the scene, though, Davenport takes the case, partnered with gorgeous, married Lily Rothenberg—a cop from Manhattan (where one of the graphically detailed killings occurs) whose sexual tango with Davenport offers steamy relief from the icepick chills of their pursuit of the Crows. Davenport's dogged hunt through the shuttered alleys of Minneapolis' Indian slums eventually lands him, in an excruciatingly tense scene, as hostage at the wrong end of a shotgun; soon after Davenport escapes, Lily is gunned down by the Crows' psychotic young protégé, Shadow Love. The final 50 pages fly by as the Crows at last trap and blast Clay, and Davenport faces down Shadow Love in a bloody stalk-and-shoot in a cellar. Less brainy but more muscular than Sandford's first two: a double-pumped roundhouse of a thriller. Read full book review >
RULES OF PREY by John Sandford
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: July 24, 1989

First-rate cat-and-mouse thriller—cop vs. serial killer—that's the fiction debut of a pseudonymous Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Games are the name of the game here, from the "rules' that self-styled "maddog" rapist/killer Louis Vullion, an attorney, leaves for the police (e.g., "Never kill anyone you know") after each of his Minneapolis kills to the lucrative computer war-games that tough hero-cop Lucas Davenport designs in his spare time. As a "player," Davenport sets out to catch Vullion by outwitting him—mostly by releasing false and infuriating information (for instance, that the cops think Vullion is impotent) through a dumb TV reporter who makes perfect cheese for the trap Davenport's setting. As Vullion and Davenport make their moves—the killer snuffing a young whore, then a cripple, and the cop mixing inspiration with dogged footwork and handling an overzealous media—author Sandford colors in a deep background for each: the killer with bis lonely, sterile house and nerdy ways, Davenport with his old friend who's a nun, his pregnant reporter-girlfriend, and his new flame, Carla Ruiz, who survived an aborted attack by Vullion. And if the action sometimes breaks into arrhythmia (a red herring about the false arrest of a suspect) or cliché, the action shifts into high gear when the cop's mousetrap snaps shut but misses the killer. Realizing he's been made, Vullion designs an elaborate vengeance-puzzle (the "stroke") that features Carla as the prize even as Davenport counters with a set-up (the "coup") to ice Vullion cold-bloodedly and with impunity. Neither as psychologically astute as Ridley Pearson's Undercurrents (1988) nor as flat-out terrifying as Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs (1988), but for ingenuity and sheer entertainment Sandford's first far outclasses most other recent serial-killer novels, marking him a thriller writer to watch. Read full book review >