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Neon Prey by John Sandford

Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on April 23, 2019

Neon Prey is the kind of book that John Sandford can write on auto-pilot and still entertain. The novel is filled with chase scenes and shootouts and banter. The plot has no substance to speak of, unless you count chase scenes and shootouts as a substantive plot, but Sandford does action scenes so well that the reader needs nothing more. At this point, Prey novels are just an excuse to check in with familiar characters to see how their lives are going. Suffice it to say that their lives are exciting.

Sandford’s Prey novels are light with patches of darkness. Neon Prey (Neon because much of the action is in Vegas) might be darker than most, simply because a fair number of characters (innocent and guilty alike) die, and characters who don’t die take a bullet. Even darker is the cannibal. Yes, there’s a cannibal and yes, that's been done before, in both fiction and the real world.

Lucas Davenport and Marshal buddies Bob and Rae are joined by an FBI agent who resembles a young Davenport, much to Rae’s delight. The plot involves a killer named Deese who is arrested after beating a man who refused to pay his debt to a loan shark. Deese is charged with furthering a racketeering conspiracy and is released on bail. Getting bail on a federal violent crime isn’t easy, but the judge gets a piece of the action so everyone’s happy. Everyone except Deese’s victims, because Deese is the aforementioned cannibal.

Deese cuts off his monitoring device in Louisiana. Federal Marshals Rae Givens and Bob Matees are searching Deese’s property when they find a bunch of buried bodies. The number and condition of the bodies and the contents of Deese’s grill are, to say the least, disturbing. Bob and Rae ask Lucas to use his clout to get the Marshals assigned to find Deese because they know the FBI isn’t good at finding people. For that matter, they don’t think FBI agents are good at anything.

From there, the story involves tracking Deese, who hooks up with a home invader and a young woman who is along for the ride (and the drugs). Deese and his accomplices go on a crime spree, staying a step ahead of the Marshals and FBI for much of the novel, but keeping them busy with shootouts and rising body counts and some clever schemes to avoid being captured.

The Prey stories are darkly amusing because of Davenport’s nonchalant joking with Bob and Rae in the face of mayhem. After 29 Prey novels, readers know what to expect, and Neon Prey is exactly what a series fan expects to read. There’s nothing new or different here, but the action, dialog, and skillful storytelling are enough to sweep the reader along, as they always are in a Sandford novel.


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