Author: John Sandford
Rating: 3 Stars
Review By: Shana
I'm always looking for series of books to get into, especially older series that hold the promise of plenty of material to keep me engaged. In my quest for established mystery series, I finally picked up the first book in the nearly 30-year-old Lucas Davenport series (now clocking in at 20 books). While I'm interested enough to explore further books in the series, a reader of more contemporary mysteries will notice that some of the delivery and ideas in the book feel dated.
We meet Lieutenant Lucas Davenport, charming and rakish, brilliant and turbulent. He has worked mostly in vice, spending his spare time designing computer games (which have made him wealthy), keeping a network of street informants in line, and womanizing. He is astute and curious, but with an undercurrent of what seems to be sociopathy - ends justifying means, sometimes insensitive, and more than willing to go his own way. He works in 1989 Minneapolis and there is a serial killer on the loose. While the majority of the book is told from Davenport's point of view, other chapters relay other character's experiences, with intermittent entrances by our killer (who is known by the nickname "Maddog").
The action is well-paced and there is interesting interplay between the police and the media (author Sandford worked in journalism for many years and he peppers this novel with that knowledge), highlighted by Davenport's strategic leaking of information (and misinformation). In fact, much of the book showcases Davenport's ability to play different parties off of each other, to underscore the larger theme of gaming and who will be the winner and loser. Maddog has rules that he plays by in an effort to evade identification, and Davenport is generally fascinated by playing the odds and out-maneuvering others.
Where the book fall short are the aspects that place it clearly as a product of the late-80s, early-90s. It is less that it feels outdated than it sometimes strikes a modern reader as tone deaf and cringeworthy. From fairly casual sexist banter and discussions that feel decidedly un-PC, to underhanded police tactics and police brutality, it is jarring for a reader in 2018 with the recent Black Lives Matter movement and other advances in public and civil discourse. That said, I'm fairly sure the language is largely period appropriate, and I'll be interested to see how it morphs over time (Sandford has a new book in the series due out April 2019).
My love of reading was sparked in 3rd grade by the promise of personal pan pizzas via the BOOK IT! Program. Hmmmm... any chance that someone might give adults free food for reading? Asking for a friend...