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Silken Prey
John Sandford

G.P. Putnam Sons
May 7, 2013 / ISBN 9780399159312

Reviewed by Elise Cooper

John Sandford's latest book, Silken Prey, is a fascinating insight into the world of politics. He has the ability to blend strong characterizations with a very powerful plot. His dialogue is very realistic and often times funny. For anyone who is disgusted with politics as usual this is a must read book.

The story begins when Lucas Davenport, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Agent (BAC) is asked by the state's Governor to investigate a campaign scandal. Senator Porter Smalls is running for re-election and is accused of having child pornography on his office computer. The trail leads to the disappearance of a political fixer, the involvement of the Minneapolis police department, and more troublingly to the dirty tricks of his opponent, Taryn Grant. She has hired as bodyguards two trained killers, who will protect her at any cost. This book is not a "who done it," but more in the tradition of Columbo, a "how done it."

Sandford states that he wrote it because, "In a nut shell I was fed up with both sides, Republican and Democrat. The problem with politicians is that they are stuck with ideology and can't get around it, which explains why nothing ever gets done. They can't seem to compromise for the better good. There is no longer any grey, only black and white. There is a take-no-prisoner attitude surrounding politics. Politics is no longer congenial, with the fighting both political and personal. They have no respect for each other on the other side of the aisle. People are spending a large amount of money and there are no limitations on what they will do to get elected, so I just pushed that to its natural conclusion."

He wrote the book to entertain but also to get his readers to think about politicians, how they have blind spots and are out of touch with the average working person as they live in their own Washington, DC world. This message is emphasized with his powerful character development.

Taryn Grant could give Machiavelli lessons with her ideas about the way the world should work through her use of money, ruthlessness, and desire. Grant has a narcissistic personality with an oversized ego, extravagant plans for her political future, and someone who wants one day to be the first woman elected President. She is a new type of politician: smart, attractive, ambitious, and very wealthy. Sandford is hoping that readers will find "Taryn likeable. I gave her qualities you would want in a politician: tough, independent, and smart; but she is also a killer. I tried to balance readers going from admiring to hating her."

Her opponent, Senator Porter Smalls, is an old-school politician who has a clear agenda. He is more of a supporting character with the main characters being the hero, Lucas Davenport and the antagonist, Grant. Davenport is a cool-headed investigative officer that is intelligent and sexy, a family man, someone who takes things to its limits and can connect the dots.

Sandford commented that he is pondering Davenport's future since he is very dependent on the good graces of Minnesota Governor Elmer Henderson. "I thought about what Davenport might do after he leaves the BAC. Maybe the current Governor will become Vice-President and the new Governor makes Lucas feel uncomfortable so he leaves his position. Thanks to the Vice-President he becomes a free lance US Marshall and is able to just take cases of his choice. He tracks down unsolved cases and can travel anywhere in the world."

Another character in the book, who makes a cameo appearance, is Virgil Flowers. Sandford intentionally puts him in the story to remind people of the Flowers series, and a new book is due out in the fall. He gsve a heads-up about the plot. It will be a comedic satire surrounding a Minnesota minister who steals a stone while on an archeological dig in Israel. A number of groups are trying to buy it, from the Turkish Government to Hezbollah, as Israel attempts to get it back. Lucas Davenport will also have a small role in this next book.

Since Silken Prey is his 23rd thriller featuring Lucas Davenport, how does he continually come up with such fascinating plots? Sandford responds, "Pay attention to the news. For example, the three girls kidnapped in Cleveland allows for a great crime scenario. I enjoy playing off of a story by taking an idea from the news and using it as an inspiration for a plot. Of course, it should not to be too specific so that it interferes with real peoples lives. You don't want them to think you are writing an entertainment book out of their misery. You put a riff on it which allows for the feeling of the plot being real without really being real."

Silken Prey is one of those plots that appear realistic. It is a very suspenseful book that combines murder and politicians. A riveting story that readers, regardless of party affiliation, will want to read if they are disgusted with today's politics and want a thriller with many twists and turns.

Reviewed 2013