Book Review: Golden Prey

Roger Hainsworth enjoys John Sandford’s crime-fuelled thriller, Golden Prey, which sends Lucas Davenport down a fresh rabbit hole of drugs, heists and action.

Mighty hunter Lucas Davenport has been appointed a U.S. Federal Marshal, a member of an elite body with organisations in every state. Although still based in Minneapolis, Davenport, as a political appointee, takes his orders from Washington. He can follow evildoers’ trails wherever they lead, crossing state boundaries. This is not an easy role.

Davenport’s past success was often due to his state-wide network of contacts both inside and outside the law established during his years at the B.C.A., just as he had earlier across Minneapolis as a member of the city’s police force. Now he must work with strangers: local sheriffs or police chiefs, or other national agencies including the FBI. Since he was ‘dropped in at the top’ Davenport must also prove himself to fellow deputy marshals. Little wonder if he feels lonesome. At that point the Big Case happens and Lucas Davenport is swimming in a very deep pool, but he is back doing what he does best: hunting.

There are other hunters, although their prey tends more towards cash, preferably in used $100 bills. Sturgill Darling looks like a dumb country hick. Appearances can deceive. He has just spent nine months in a very dangerous hunt. He has followed yacht-loads of drugs (picked up at sea from Honduran fishing boats) to wholesalers across several southern states and from them to their retailers.

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Then Darling gently, stealthily, trailes the stream of money the drugs generated. The collectors of money are many but the trail is now in reverse: first following streams, then rivers, finally reaching an ocean of cash that Darling discovers at month’s end is temporarily stored in the basement of a ruined church in Biloxi. There three men count and pack the cash inside while one sits on guard outside. Stealing the money means killing four heavily armed men, so Darling enlists Garvin Poole, a stone-cold killer. Poole duly shoots all four and also a money-counter’s seven-year-old granddaughter. The two men stagger off with several heavy suitcases containing $7.8 million. Sturgill Darling is distressed about the girl but they could both retire rich, right? Well, not quite.

Coincidentally, Davenport has taken on the challenge of hunting down Poole, who has spent years on the Marshals’ ‘Most Wanted’ list without a sighting. Now drops of Poole’s blood are found in Biloxi.

This novel has uncomfortable resonances of the drug-money plot from Sandford’s 2012 novel Stolen Prey. Golden Prey exerts a python’s grip.

Author: John Sandford
Publisher: Putnam

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