"Field of Prey" by award-winning author John Sanford (Putnam $28.95) is a gripping, gritty, powerful tale of death and deception.
It's the 24th in his exceptionally popular series starring Lucas Davenport, who's in charge of Minnesota's elite Bureau of Criminal Apprehension unit.
This time, Davenport's crew is called in to investigate a complicated case - dead bodies of at least 15 women have been discovered in a hidden cistern on a rural farm.
The murders seem to date back over 20 years; Davenport's wondering why there's been no connection between the cases of the missing women.
The nasty killer and his unusual accomplice are introduced early in the book; there's an abundance of blood-spattered violence.
This is a solid police procedural with many unexpected twists and turns; there are few useful leads, making it more challenging for Davenport and his crew.
As the investigators work to figure out who's behind the series of murders, the body count increases; more skeletons and bones are discovered.
Davenport believes that the main suspect lives in one of the small rural towns; he just can't come up with the right piece of the puzzle. The wily serial killer makes devious plans to shift attention elsewhere.
Even Davenport's adopted daughter Letty gets involved in the search, coming up with useful, relevant insights. It's likely that she may soon have a nifty spin off series of her own.
Intense media coverage doesn't help the situation, instead adding additional problems. The killer changes his plans, stalking a new, unsuspecting victim, increasing his violent efforts.
Sandford's compelling page-turner showcases strong characterization with many familiar faces, even if they aren't always in the forefront. The dialogue flows smoothly; the convoluted, skillfully crafted plot has some real surprises.
While it's always best to start at the beginning of a crime series, following the character's growth, you really can't go wrong with any of the "Prey" books.
If you're a longtime Sandford fan, this is a tale you won't want to miss. He and co-author Michele Cook have written "Uncaged", a new young adult thriller, scheduled for release in July.
Sandford is the pseudonym for John Camp, a Pulitzer Prize winning former journalist, who's written over a dozen other books.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop,
has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.
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This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on May 18, 2014.