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on June 1, 2004
I've read all of Sandford's previous PREY novels as well as his KIDD novels; at this point, the KIDD novels, particularly the last two offerings, are easily the better reads, in my opinion. While the PREY novels are noted for simple yet intriguing storylines, HIDDEN PREY goes the opposite direction. Sandford decides to take an improbable storyline, a rather complex one at that, and tones down our hero, Lucas Davenport. In the end, this makes for a very apathetic read, particularly if you've enjoyed the sharp edge of Davenport in novels past.
HIDDEN PREY begins with the murder of a Russian merchant marine, or so it seems. Soon thereafter, a homeless woman is garroted, the site extremely gruesome. What appears to be two unrelated murders turns into an apparent murder/cover-up and Lucas Davenport is called in to begin an investigation. Lucas is partnered with a Russian "police officer," sent over by Moscow to oversee the investigation of the murdered Russian. Lucas smells a rat immediately and, throughout the book, peppers the Russian officer for information and "why" she's truly there.
So as not to spoil the remaining plot...Sandford is obviously sending Davenport through middle age. He is mellowing Lucas and dulling his previously sharp edge. And, while this may follow the chronology of 15 previous PREY novels (i.e. Lucas aging), it is not why most people read fiction. Although there are bursts of brutality and violence, the vast majority of the book traces the witness/suspect interrogation lines and a painfully slow amalgamation of puzzle pieces in an effort to solve the crimes. And, not to counteract the lack of suspense, even the climax fails to thrill.
Sandford laid his claim to fiction with the first few PREY novels; Spillaneish in their simplicity and Parkerish in their character builds. Davenport was a tough, no-nonsense cop who would tread on the imaginary line in the sand to catch the bad guy; almost no cost too great. Well, we now have a more retiring figure to deal with in Davenport. And, while this too can produce good storylines, it is something PREY fans will have to adjust to: not an easy transition, to be sure.
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on May 16, 2004
We're admittedly big Sandford fans, having enjoyed the entire preceeding set of "Prey" adventures (and his "Kidd" books as well) starring Lucas Davenport. Promoted to a position where he works on anything with political overtones at the behest of the Minnesota governor (no, not that one!), Lucas is soon embroiled with the murder of a Russian stranger down at the docks, and in escorting Nadya, an "investigator" (read, spy) sent over from Russia to look into the matter. Her presence adds both a great deal of suspense to the story, as we're never quite sure whether she's "legit" or not, as well as many funny lines as she puzzles over American colloquialisms.
We readers soon know the shooter is young Carl, grandson of Grandpa Walther, a communist spy who has been running a ring of families engaged in Russian "assistance" in northern Minnesota for some six decades!! A clever analyst and fearless assassin in his own right, he's teaching teenager Carl the tricks of the trade, including heartless executions. So while there's no doubt whodunit, not to mention some more murders along the way, the clues and hunches Lucas pursues to uncover the spy ring and the killer keep the novel moving at a fun pace. A slightly moralistic twist at the end even gives one pause for thought about truth and justice.
It's surprising Sandford can keep these characters and stories fresh after some 16 or so in this series. While Lucas has settled down with wife Weather, and young son and adopted daughter (who got barely more than a mention), he is still a smart and clever fellow and one whose success we care about. We thought the humor generated by the consternation of the Russian lady over various comical English sayings (like how does a foreigner translate something like "keep in under your hat"!) was a light-hearted touch, breaking up the contrasting horror of the various slayings and suicide populating the plot. Lastly, a sub-plot involving a "bag lady" who witnesses the first crime, was so interesting, we wish it had been expanded upon even further.
So kudos to Sandford on his latest "Prey" -- it's a book very well done and thus enjoyable entertainment!
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VINE VOICEon May 19, 2004
Picking up six months after "Naked Prey" the series continues with Lucas Davenport still with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BAC). Officially, he runs the Office of Regional Research within the BAC. Unofficially, he is the Governor's man for sticky problems where the worlds of politics and crime intersect. The murder of a Russian on the shores of Lake Superior has fast become a political problem and Davenport's talents are needed.
The dead man has finally been identified as Rodion Oleshev and he was shot three times-once in the heart and twice in the forehead. He died two weeks ago on a concrete slab next to a grain elevator on the shores of Lake Superior one night. The death of what apparently was at one time a KGB agent has become a major political problem. The dead man, not only was still a spy, but also was the son of a very high-ranking person in the Oil Ministry in Russia. The father has talked to Putin and the Russian Embassy has contacted the State Department. The ball has rolled downhill gathering steam and urgency and now Rose Marie Roux, Davenport's longtime boss, is handling the issue to Davenport. The Russians are sending someone to oversee the investigation and review it. Rose Marie wants Davenport to make sure that everything that could be done has been done and to make sure the Russian is happy. Send the Russian back home satisfied and make everyone look good, especially the BAC, because yet another budgetary cutback is in store for the new agency.
Davenport begins to investigate while awaiting the arrival of the Russian by talking to the Feds. The FBI is running the investigation, not as a homicide but as an intelligence operation trying to uncover possible Russian deep cover assets in the area. They have virtually nothing after two weeks and ask Davenport to share whatever information he uncovers in the course of his homicide investigation and not to blow their case. That is, if they can ever develop anything. With no leads and no suspects, a somewhat bored Davenport is thrilled with the prospects whether he wants to publicly admit it or not.
Despite political problems and other issues such as the real reasons the Russian has arrived, Davenport begins to make progress. Before long, Davenport is tearing up the countryside in search of suspects and John Sandford has this reader pulled deep into his view of the world once again. As in other novels of this series, almost everyone is back, a little older and a little wiser, and still very interested in getting all the bad guys no matter what. The case becomes more and more complex as secrets from before the cold war come to light.
This is another very good read from John Sandford and well worth your time. Most of the books in this series can't be read as stand alones. However, with just a couple of minor references to earlier novels in the series, this one certainly could be read as a stand alone and would serve as an excellent introduction to a strong series well worth reading.
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on May 26, 2004
This is an extremely disappointing book. The plot is boring and slow because Davenport doesn't do much but go from one murder scene to the other. He is more a crime scene tourist than a detective. Nothing he does moves to solve the case. Nothing! A passive hero is a classic writing 101 mistake.
The Russian intelligence officer is also a cliche. I suppose her "What is this ____? What is this ____?" is intended to be humorous but it gets old very fast.
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on July 7, 2005
I really enjoyed reading these Prey novels by Sanford early on in the series. But like any series of books that whips out one book after another without a major evolutionary shift in either plot structures or characters, these books eventually become silly caricatures of themselves. In one of the Sanford interviews that I read, he said that he is writing to make money. (Obviously I am paraphrasing here). I have nothing against that at all, most popular contemporary thriller/mystery writers follow a strict guide line and leave the reader with a sense of happy contentment. I think that when you find a good thriller, like one of the first Prey novels, it is because the author is introducing a new and unusual character to the reader. Now that Sanford is 15 or so Prey novels into his series, Davenport is familiar, and without new nuances... the story becomes drab because it is almost like the author is going through the motions.

I think part of what made Hidden Prey grotesque in a way is that Sanford is really reaching here. His hidden communists are kind of laughable, and the whole story with the female KGB agent and the homeless lawyer lady are goofy. For me it wasn't even a pleasant way to spend a few hours in reading this book. It was more a painful reaction towards remembrances of a better past than a calm relaxation with a familiar other.

Pass this book by. Try Denis Lehane's Boston PI series.
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VINE VOICEon October 27, 2004
HIDDEN PREY, brings back Detective Lucas Davenport, who's still smart and street wise, but now a little calmer and not quite so testy. His wife and young son seem to have turned Lucas into a happier man. He's still a detective, but he now works for the state government and reports directly to the Governor of Minnesota.

When the murdered body of a Russian sailor is found on the docks of Duluth, Lucas is called in to supervise the investigation. Policewoman, Nadya Kalin is sent by the Russian government to assist Lucas. Nadya`s involvement complicates the investigation since Lucas doesn't trust her motives and believes that she's keeping information from him.

This is a very fast paced story with a host of quirky characters, including a ring of Communist spies who have been living in Minnesota for decades. Their leader is a very determined former KGB colonel who happens to be 92-years old.

I listened to the recorded book that was well read by Richard Ferrone. He has become the voice of Lucas Davenport! As an added bonus, on the last tape, there's an interesting interview with the author.
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Back to a little recreational reading...
I finished Hidden Prey by John Sandford a couple of days ago. This is the latest in his Prey series with main character Lucas Davenport. While I enjoyed it, it wasn't as good as some of his previous installments...
A Russian from a docked freighter is murdered on the docks. The killer notices a homeless woman who has witnessed the crime and takes off after her (but doesn't find her). A couple of days later, a homeless lady is found strangled and everyone thinks it's a connection to the first murder. Davenport is called in to help investigate the crime when Russia sends over a female "police chief" to help with the case. She is not who or what she seems to be, and it starts to look more and more like an espionage ring is responsible for the killing. It's up to Davenport to not only figure out who the killer is, but why the killings took place.
I like Sandford's writing and characters, so from that perspective I liked the book. What I didn't care for is how the story is structured. Murder mysteries seem to be written in two main styles. Either you don't have a clue who the killer is (and the story is tracking down who dun it), or you know right up front who the killer is (and you watch the action unfold as s/he is brought to justice). This is a blend of the two. You know who did the killing, and you watch them being tracked down, but there's no clue as to why the Russian was killed or how the espionage angle (which is very big in the story) figures in. Since you don't learn the "why" until very close to the end, I tended to lose some interest in the whole story. I was getting close to a "who cares" point. I'd probably give this a 3.5 stars if I could do half ratings, but since I can't I'll error on the up side.
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on June 14, 2004
I kinda agree with the general feeling on this one...the plot is thick and slow and sluggish and the ending is a major let down.
The subtle hints that Davenport is looking into new careers and is tired of the politics hints that the series is winding down. Maybe, maybe not, but that's no excuse for sloppy and lazy writing. I love Sandford's other books (except for shadow prey, never could get interested enough in that one to finish it) and it's sad to see him turn out trash.
It does continue the story though, and for that I was thankful. It was nice to be back in Davenport's Minnesota and visit with him and Weather and Del and Andreno. It's like coming home.
This is nowhere near the caliber of Mind Prey (which is by far the best in the series, fighting for top spot with Mortal Prey) but it's a Davenport book nonetheless.
Enjoy...and if nothing else read this just because it continues the story.
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Lucas Davenport's life has changed dramatically. He's married his longtime girlfriend Weather and he has two kids. He's torn down his bachelor pad in St. Paul and built the "Big New House." He also now works for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
It is in this capacity that he is sent to Duluth to investigate the murder of a Russian sailor. A Russian police officer named Nadya Kalin joins him there. He suspects she's really an intelligence officer.
Sanford also gives us a first-hand look at the murderer, a fourth generation member of a Communist sleeper cell who's still in high school. Another pivotal character is a homeless person who witnesses the crime and decides to keep the money she finds in the victim's money belt and to lay low. Assorted FBI agents and Iron Range police officers meander in and out of the plot. The leader of the sleeper cell is a ninety-two year old great-grandfather who had been a member of the Cheka, forerunner of the KGB.
I've read most of the "prey" novels and have always been most impressed by the banter going on between the principals. In this one it starts with Lucas's home life. Weather, a surgeon with little patience for garage-door-openers, crashes into the garage. Lucas's first thought is that his Porsche may have been damaged. He then goes on to sooth her feelings, knowing better than to say what he really thinks. The same kind of teasing happens with Nadya. During some down time, she's watching "Legally Blonde" and is puzzled by the impractical plot. Lucas convinces her that it's a true story. She says, "You're joking me, right?" This becomes a standing motif throughout the rest of the book, Nadya not understanding American idioms and Lucas joking her, but the former lady's man can't do much more than that because he's now married.
The change of scenery is welcome. We get a good look at Minnesota's Iron Range, Duluth harbor, and the great north woods, but the ending leaves a bit to be desired. Sandford explains this by having Lucas say, "If he wanted neat endings, he was in the wrong business."
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on July 1, 2004
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the plot whether Lucas is married or not!! The russian police-woman doesn't make a difference! It is still a great book! Sandford still keeps me on the edge of my seat, like all his previous ones. I don't understand why all the negative feedbacks??
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