Another predictable run for Sandford's Davenport

May 14, 2008 10:07:26 AM PDT
We've become friends with Lucas Davenport in Sandford's 18-novel series about the rough-and-tumble ex-jock who dispatches headline-level criminals in the Twin Cities.

And just as with old friends, we have the tendency to overlook the flaws in Davenport's personality.

In Sandford's latest, "Phantom Prey," we are once again lured in by Davenport's quick wit and friendly banter. We love Sandford's breezy style and gift for character descriptions. We are impressed by the endless supply of smart - but not smarter than Davenport - criminals with no conscience.

After a while, though, we tire of our friend's ability to make everything look so easy. Then there's Sandford's habit of showing us his hole card a little too early in the hand. And we roll our eyes and wonder: Would Davenport really talk designer socks with the governor?

In "Phantom Prey," Davenport wades into the Twin Cities' Goth scene to find the killer of Frances Austin, the daughter of a well-connected businesswoman who begs Davenport to help unravel the mystery of her disappearance and likely death (there's blood on the walls, after all).

Davenport, as we've come to expect, reluctantly lets himself get dragged into the investigation and, as we've come to expect, his insights, effort, assumptions, occasionally uneducated guesses and twists of dumb luck blaze a trail that a cadre of investigators failed to find.

Midway through the novel, Davenport is investigating four connected murders, the disappearance of $50,000 and his own shooting, all the while spending significant time on an unrelated surveillance operation.

At the heart of Davenport's investigation is a diminutive Goth chick who's been eviscerating people who might have been involved with Frances' disappearance.

By the time it's over, Davenport smooth-talks confessions from everyone involved and solves a half-dozen crimes.

Predictable? Sure. But we can forgive Davenport for telling us the same story over and over. That's what friends are for.