Broken Prey is one of the best thrillers I have read of late. Serial killer books I have read recently have been pretty disappointing with weak twists and not enough action. They almost led me to think that the genre itself had run out of steam. I mean, how many interesting stories involving a deranged serial killer and a cop chasing after him, can authors possibly weave ? But John Sandford proves here that a well-constructed serial killer story can still get our pulses racing and end up being very satisfying.
The book starts off with two perverted but otherwise very dissimilar murders of a college girl and a widower(and his young son). Lucas Davenport, the investigator in Sandford's Prey series, is called in to assist with the investigation. Suspicion falls on Charlie Pope, who has recently been released from a psychiatric hospital and now works as a garbage-man and evidence found at the second murder scene confirms it. But Lucas is unable to find Charlie, who seems to have vanished from the face of the earth.
The basic techniques used by authors in this genre are all present here too. The good thing is that they work. Sandford uses a lot of misdirection and red herrings to keep us guessing about the identity of the murderer. But they are quite clever and sparingly used so that we aren't irritated about being misled when the final revelations are made. The twists are genuinely surprising but not so shocking that they become unbelievable. And there are segments of real suspense scattered throughout the book. One example is the section where Davenport tries to figure out how information is being conveyed to some inmates in the hospital. The sense of urgency in that section kept me turning the pages feverishly to find the answer.
Its pretty amazing that the book never lets the pace flag. Distractions are few and far between and mostly involve discussions about the 100 best rock songs of all time(Davenport recently got an iPod and a certificate to download 100 songs from iTunes and so wants to download the 100 best rock songs). There are also some places with real and unexpected humor, both macabre and otherwise(the description of the driving style of a friend had me in splits). That said, the book is really very bloody, violent and even a bit kinky and is definitely not for everyone.
Sandford is an author I read occasionally i.e only if I have finished reading all the latest books of my favorite authors! But Broken Prey has convinced me that I should start looking out for his new releases more religiously and get my hands on them as soon as they come out.