Gathering Prey is John Sandford’s twenty fifth novel featuring Lucas Davenport, the handsome well-dressed investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension with a spectacular case solved rate and a history of pissing off his superiors. In this latest book all of Lucas’ deep seated misgivings with the agency seem to fester as he quarrels with his boss over case assignments and side steps bureaucracy to join the multi-state manhunt for his latest prey, a murderous traveler calling himself Pilate.
While in college at Stamford, Lucas’ adopted daughter, Letty befriends Henry and Skye, a young man and woman who call themselves travelers. Free in spirit, they travel around the country with a larger group in broken down old cars, panhandling for food and peddling dope for gas money. Now home in Minneapolis for the summer, Letty gets a distress call from Skye. She is in Sturgis, North Dakota at the annual motorcycle rally and is terrified. Henry has disappeared and Skye thinks the traveler’s leader, Pilate has murdered him. Letty advises Skye to board a bus for Minneapolis and gets Lucas involved. He contacts the Sturgis authorities and learns that Henry has indeed been murdered and through additional networking discovers this Pilate is wanted in connection with a similar murder in L.A.
Skye thinks the travelers are headed to a Juggalo gathering (a festival for fans of the Insane Clown Posse) in Wisconsin so she hitches a ride to the event and Letty follows. Before Lucas can arrive to save the day, Pilate manages to kidnap Skye, beat up Letty, and kill another victim. Pilate orders his troop to scatter and rendezvous in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at another Juggalo gathering the following week.
Lucas is out of his jurisdiction and his boss tells him to back off. But Lucas is personally invested now. Through cell phone use monitoring, he anticipates where the travelers are headed. He arrives at the isolated town near Sault Ste. Marie in time to organize the local law enforcement. He finds a competent sheriff but with mostly volunteer deputies. Can they outwit and overpower the elusive and now desperate Pilate before he kills again? Even if Lucas is successful, what will be the consequences of his insubordination when he returns to Minneapolis?
Gathering Prey is classic Lucas Davenport. He can play by the rules until they get in the way of protecting his family or getting his man... then they just don’t matter. But how much longer can Lucas survive in a bureaucracy when he has this attitude? We see a transition taking form in Gathering Prey. Lucas is evolving. He’s getting too old to chase down criminals… the part of the job he loves… and has nearly had his fill of the politics and the paperwork. So what’s next for this maverick? I can hardly wait to see.