Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Book Review: Buried Prey by John Sandford

The distant past returns to haunt the life of Lucas Davenport, a homicide detective in Minneapolis, when some workers discover in the debris of a building they were about to wipe out of the face of the earth, the bodies of two girls that disappeared  a quarter of a century ago; the Buried Prey the title suggests. For their abduction and certain murder the cops arrested back then a homeless man that went by the name of Terry Scrape, now deceased, who from the very first moment protested his innocence.
     Lucas at the time was just a young patrol officer who harbored dreams of becoming a detective, and due to a string of coincidences he got involved with the case right from the beginning. And it was he who discovered Scrape’s hide out and orchestrated his arrest. However, apart from an eye witness who said that he was the one behind the crime, the police didn’t really have any evidence against him, so they just had to let him lose. A few days later he’d be dead and the case would slip into a cold status. Besides, everyone, apart from Lucas, was convinced that he was the perpetrator, and they no longer thought that they could find the girls alive. Lucas, despite his objections, did nothing to pursue the case, because he didn’t want to go head to head with his future boss, who had already made up his mind.
     Now, as the middle aged and experienced detective remembers those days, he cannot help but think that everything could have been different. If he didn’t back down, if he kept investigating, maybe he could have saved the lives of the girls after all; and prevented some other crimes from being committed as well. The way the killer buried the bodies told him a lot. He was a highly intelligent individual who really knew what he was about, unlike the homeless, kind of stupid and definitely schizophrenic Scrape.
     A big part of the story takes place in yesteryear in the streets of a city where crime was a way of life. At the time thefts, big or small, drug trafficking, murders and armed robberies were taking place on a daily basis, and the cops did everything they could to keep a fragile peace between the various gangs. They even investigated the killings of gang members, even though they knew that most of the time they had to do with revenge; most of the time, not always. It was while investigating one of those cases, the murder of a gangbanger, that Lucas caught a break in the case. As it seemed that murder was, in a way, connected with the kidnapping of the girls and, he just couldn’t for the life of him believe that Scrape was able to pull off something like that. But that wasn’t just it. It also had to do with a guy called John Fell, who tipped the police about Scrape in a roundabout way at the start, and now was nowhere to be found.
     Lucas, feeling guilty about the past, he decides to do everything he possibly can to close the case once and for all. However, in order to do so, and quite unintentionally, he starts drifting away from his family and friends, and draws himself into a world of solitude and quiet. It’s as if he’s trying to atone for his actions, or rather inaction, by punishing himself. His wife though, along with his adopted daughter and his buddies, will do everything they can to stop him from sliding into the dark.
     This book can be read as an adventure, but also as a psychological thriller. The author takes a good look into the psyches of his heroes, spots their powers and points out their weaknesses, and describes in full detail their inner worlds. This is a crime novel of high quality and a must for the fans of the genre.

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