RULES OF PREY/John Sandford (Lucas Davenport #1)

Lucas Davenport, a Minneapolis detective, is on the hunt for a murderer who leaves notes on the bodies of his victims. Never have a motive. Never kill anyone you know. Never carry a weapon after it has been used. Never follow a discernible pattern. This brilliant murderer who calls himself the “maddog” seems to evade capture as he religiously follows a set of rules. But Lieutenant Davenport is brilliant too. And he doesn’t play by the rules.

This is the first book in a series of 21, the latest, Buried Prey, is to be released on 2011.

I had already read at least 7 books in the series, all in no particular order, before I finally got hold of this first book. John Sandford is the pseudonym of Pulitzer prize winner and journalist, John Camp. Aside from the Prey novels, Sandford has also written the Kidd series and the Virgil Flower series.

Rules of Prey introduces Lucas Davenport, a detective who drives a Porsche to work and invents computer games during his free time. How he manages to look for a serial killer and at the same time formulate computer games is beyond me, but John Sandford is skilful at making this heroic feat seem possible.

Lucas Davenport as a police detective is immediately likeable, for Sandford has created him to be human – with a long ugly scar on his face, the story of which will be revealed in the succeeding books in the series, and his apparently womanizing tendencies.

The maddog, who is in routine life, lawyer Louis Vullion, is a psychopath with delusions of being smart and brilliant, despite his not so excellent skills as a lawyer. My naming of the antagonist is not a spoiler as John Sandford already reveals him in the first chapters of the book. Unlike other crime and mystery novels where the revelation of the identity of the antagonist is the climax of the story, the thrill and suspense in Rules of Prey builds up amazingly well into how Davenport will eventually capture the killer. John Sandford has brilliantly provided enough background of the maddog’s life — enough to depict him as someone who does not just go around killing people without any reason whatsoever.

The politics behind and between police affairs and the media has helped the plot’s attempt to depict real life. And though I do not entirely agree with the morality that Lucas Davenport depicts, particularly his random affairs with different women, I can still somewhat agree with how he uses his wit and street smart skills to capture the ever elusive killer.

There is enough suspense in every chapter and the heart-thumping pace has kept me reading well past my bedtime. The “just one more chapter” promise didn’t work as I couldn’t put the book down until I reached the last page.

Advisory: The violence on how the killings are made and the affairs of Lucas Davenport with different women are not for those with faint sensibilities.

4 stars.

Book cover image is from Amazon.

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