Last week, I shared my review for Silent Prey, the sequel to Eyes of Prey. That was the first time I’d seen a repeating villain in any of Sandford’s books, but in this fifth book of the series, Davenport has moved on. This time, we’re going to experience the bitter cold of rural Wisconsin and this time, his foes may endanger his life in ways even the bloody Bekker didn’t…
For this week’s review, we’re featuring Winter Prey by John Sandford! Stay tuned!
Book Title: Winter Prey
Series: Prey/Lucas Davenport Series Book No. 5
Author: John Sandford
Length: 336 Pages (Paperback)
Published: 1 March 1994
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Mystery > Crime, Thriller, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural, Action
CW/TW: Blood, death, murder, arson & fire, mentions of torture, graphic violence, sexual abuse of minors, pedophilia, death of a child, alcohol abuse, attempted murder, hostage situation
The Iceman is Lucas Davenport’s most determined foe – a serial killer driven to cover his brutal tracks with blood. Sandford again creates almost unbearable suspense as we wait for the Iceman’s razor-sharp corn knife to strike again.
“Winter Prey” unfolds in the cold and driving snow of the north country. The wilds of rural Wisconsin are the perfect setting for the chilling terror caused by the Iceman, a killer who knows Lucas’ every move – a coldly brilliant madman who can’t be stopped. Turn up the heat and listen as Lucas Davenport faces his most dangerous challenge.
The fifth book in the Prey/Lucas Davenport series by John Sandford, this time, Lucas Davenport is taking a break from the Minneapolis police department, something he’d already done in the previous book, though he had been called over to New York as a consultant on a case instead. Here, we begin the book with a blistering and brutal winter, the coldest of blizzards, whipping through the pages, and you can almost feel the winter come alive, even as I sit here reading in the sweltering heat of August. This time, there’s no case to help in. This time, Davenport is just relaxing in his Wisconsin cabin and…he’s pretty bored. That is, until the local law enforcement hears about him staying up here and asks for his help on a homicide and arson case. Davenport is almost gleeful. Almost. Because this case gets disgusting pretty quick at the discovery of a photo of a man and an underage kid.
“‘Yeah. And now I’ve started writing simulation software for police crisis management, for training dispatch people. Most of that’s computers, dispatch is. And you get in a crisis situation, the dispatchers are virtually running things for a while. This software lets them simulate it, and scores them. It’s kind of taking off.’
‘If you’re not careful, you could get rich,’ Weather said.
‘I kind of am,’ Lucas said gloomily. ‘But goddamn, I’m bored. I don’t miss the bullshit part of PD, but I miss the movement.’“
Like all of Sandford’s books, I adore his writing, especially the ease with which he could portray a scene with just a few simple, but nicely picked sentences. The scenes are crisp in my mind and the action is never ending. The thrill and fears are always jolting, and some (deserving deaths) make the endings just so darn satisfying. I love the way Sandford writes, scenes and dialogue, but I love his characters more. In fact, I think I live for his characters more than the plot, even if there’s equal attention to both.
In Winter Prey, we are introduced to a new recurrent character, Weather Karkinnen, someone who became and remains a very important person in Davenport’s life as she shows up again and again, and even cross series. My first introduction to her was in the spin-off/parallel series, Virgil Flowers, and there, I don’t know much about Weather other than her relationship with Davenport. It’s so fleeting and impersonal, small mentions here and there, a drop in on their home now and again, and so on. Getting to know Weather more (and yes, that’s her actual name), was just as fun as getting to know younger Davenport. Both are so much more wild in their earlier days, and that, of course, makes sense since this is the main series and Weather is more involved with Davenport here rather than just giving off the “a friend of a friend” vibes like in Virgil’s story. I rather enjoyed her character and interaction with Davenport.
As we often see in the other Virgil Flowers and Prey books, we get to see the story from the perspective of the villains in the book, and they are absolutely awful people; rotten to the core. This was a hard book to read because of the disturbing series of events, though it’s not the first time I’ve read a Sandford book with criminals involved in sexual abuse against minors. That would be Bad Blood over in the Virgil Flowers series as he investigates a sex cult (and it was just as bad…). Just as the antagonists in that book were dirtbag levels of vile, so are the group in this book, particularly the main antagonist, who seemed to be the leader of the sex ring, the “Iceman.” They lack all signs of empathy and humanity. There are plenty of sad folks between both series, some bad guys I even feel kind of sorry for, but here, I felt none of that. I hated them from the moment I got to know them, and cheered at every success that Davenport came across.
The book begins with the Iceman and though, through his perspective, we know who the other people in the ring are, we don’t ever know who the Iceman is and what his true identity is until nearly the end when things take off with insane speed and this time, Lucas may end up in more danger than he’s ever been so far, and that’s including his two encounters with a serial killer that has a thing for poking out eyes as his signature.
I thought this was a pretty good read. It started somewhere medium paced with Davenport and his team just finding clues only to meet with wall after walls as their leads either turn up empty or evidence and clues unusable due to damage. Things eventually work out and I kind of liked how it ended (minus the several terrible deaths). Another wonderful and gripping thriller. I can’t wait for the next Davenport adventure.