I’ve been a John Sandford fan since the Prey series started in the late 1980s. Back then, Lucas Davenport tracked down gruesomely grisly serial killers and brutally despatched them with grim efficiency – before falling onto bed with any attractive woman who could be extracted from her underwear.
Since then Lucas has aged almost gracefully into a seasoned manhunter with rather less graphic gore and rather more fidelity towards his spouse, and author Sandford has successfully spun off another character – Virgil Flowers – into his own series. The Prey books went seriously wobbly for a while but have recently improved – if that’s because Sandford now works with a writing partner (so the rumour goes) then I’m all for it.
But I never liked Sandford’s ventures into other territories – the hacker Kidd and the news team in The Night Crew fell flat. Likewise, his adopted daughter’s earlier appearance as an adolescent in Gathering Prey felt forced and fake. She wasn’t a real character, just an awkward plot device.
So I wouldn’t have bothered with The Investigator – the first book in a new series featuring that very daughter, Letty Davenport – unless it was on a seriously special offer. Which it was. So I grabbed it…
…and was entirely gratified by how great it is. Sandford has created a credible niche for Letty as a politician’s agent, and given her the credentials of Homeland Security and a broad-ranging brief. The story takes her directly into the present political turmoil, referencing online conspiracy networks, citizens’ militias and the dark undercurrent of insurrection which appears to be tugging at America’s soul. It couldn’t be more timely.
Some people may struggle with the youth and maturity of this hard-faced ‘strong female protagonist’. There’s no doubt that Letty looks and sounds a lot like the younger version of Lucas – but then, he’s her adopted father and her life’s role model, so why wouldn’t she? Similarly, she was forced into wielding weapons as a child and had to be self-sufficient before most teenagers hit puberty. No wonder she’s a badass.
Letty feels eminently believable to me – and I like the notion of an independent young woman who is a capable and competent as her male counterparts, and who does not need to fall back on feminine wiles to achieve her aims.
It helps that the plot barrels along at a rapid pace, without pausing for tedious domestic am-dram, and that Letty’s opponent is an equally interesting woman of strong will. Sandford also strategically fills in her back story for people who haven’t read the earlier books (and to remind me, because I had forgotten large lumps of it!) So I’m converted. Roll on the next one!
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Investigator by John Sandford is available at Amazon
If you enjoy no-nonsense investigators who employ their own ‘special methods’…
…grab FIRST CONTRACT, a quick thriller featuring an entirely unconventional contract killer