RULES OF PREY by John Sandford


Email this review


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.
Pub Date: July 24th, 1989
ISBN: 0425205819
Page count: 353pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1989

Kirkus Interview
John Sandford
author of SATURN RUN
October 6, 2015

Saturn Run, John Sandford’s new novel, is quite a departure for the bestselling thriller writer, 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. The year is 2066. A Caltech intern inadvertently notices an anomaly from a space telescope—something is approaching Saturn, and decelerating. Space objects don’t decelerate; spaceships do. A flurry of top-level government meetings produces the inescapable conclusion: whatever built that ship is at least 100 years ahead in hard and soft technology, and whoever can get their hands on it exclusively and bring it back will have an advantage so large, no other nation can compete. A conclusion the Chinese definitely agree with when they find out. The race is on. “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,” our reviewer writes. View video >


FictionNEON PREY  by John Sandford
by John Sandford
MysteryHOLY GHOST  by John Sandford
by John Sandford
MysteryTWISTED PREY by John Sandford
by John Sandford


IndieThe Key To Justice by Dennis Carstens
by Dennis Carstens
IndieMIAMI MOON by Jorge Goyanes
by Jorge Goyanes