What I’m Reading: Rules of Prey by John Sandford

Okay, we’re back, and what better way to return than with a book review? Don’t answer that. I’m returning with a book review.

“But, but, I wanted a handlebar-mustachioed strongman in a singlet riding a unicycle and juggling ponies…!”

Too bad! You get Lucas Davenport!

I started Rules of Prey on the 27th of November this year. It took until December 23rd to finish it. Why? Well, it might have had something to do with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or it could have been laziness. Or the whoosh of passing holidays. Or pitching articles to Cracked.com. Or the circus I didn’t go to, or overeating, or oversleeping, or caffeine overdoses or holiday stomachaches.

It’s none of those. The truth is, despite the fact that objectively and even subjectively, Rules of Prey was a great crime suspense novel, for some reason or other, I just couldn’t fall through into the world of Lucas Davenport and the maddog killer. I’d read a chapter, easily put the book down, and not come back to it for days or even weeks. Finally, realizing how badly this book was throwing my metrics (my normal cover-to-cover for a book I read is between 2-5 days), I just sat down and forced it out on the second day of my winter holiday.

And it was a great read. As a gamer, I love the touch that Lucas Davenport is a pen and paper game developer. The fact that he had a drafting table in his house reminded me that people at one point used drafting tables for game design. Can you imagine? I can’t. The 80s were a weird and magical place full of low-tech jobs, payphones and mullets. Sadly, I pictured Lucas Davenport with a mullet. I couldn’t help it. He’s a loose-cannon cop in the 80s.

The premise of the book, an intellectual killer who follows precise rules, is excellent and gripping. The plot is tight, suspenseful, and at times, humorous. Lucas Davenport and maddog are both interesting lenses through which to view the world. Other than cleverly capturing the feel and banter of a precinct office, the side characters felt weak — I particularly had trouble sympathizing with the female characters in the story, the ones whom we really get to know seeming mainly there to show the reader how fucking hottastic Lucas Davenport is. Other than that, they seem to have all the usefulness of a parka in Tahiti, and half the sense.

Prosewise, I actually like John Sandford’s use of the language, except for one tic. When he’s writing action sequences, it seems like he can’t ever put a period in there, and then he writes another action, and then another action, and it just gets jumbled and feels rushed and flowing together rather than feeling staccato and punchy, and it just really kind of gets to me is all. My personal preference with action is to take the long, flowy sentences and make them brief and biting. His way just didn’t work for me, but then again, I did finish the book, and I am giving it a good review, so how badly could that have affected me? Besides, as I’m perfectly happy to tell any language-nut, in popular fiction, it’s the story that counts, not tight attention to the mechanics of prose (prose-mindedness is a bonus, not a primary prerogative).

Anyways, if you’re more of a crime suspense reader than me, read this. It’s a great book, and definitely outstanding from its genre. Even if the genre isn’t your normal stomping grounds, you’ll probably enjoy it. I mean, I’m no crime suspense reader, and I liked it well enough. I’m giving this a biased-downward 6/10, on the basis that I don’t read this genre ever.

Get Rules of Prey here.

3 thoughts on “What I’m Reading: Rules of Prey by John Sandford

  1. Thanks for the insightful review. I used to read Sandford but had sort of forgotten about him, for some reason. Probably because I’ve been focused on Urban Fantasy lately, due to the major glut of it currently available. Your comments make me want to read Sandford again, and this book in particular. Isn’t it funny to revisit a decade not that far back and see it for the odd and interesting time it was? I’ve always enjoyed Sue Grafton’s Alphabet mysteries for light reading, and one of the reasons is that it is set in the 70’s, which of course, I remember very clearly. But you forget things like living without cell phones and computers. The constant search for a pay phone when in an emergency, for instance. Not to mention a million trips to the library to gather information or use the cross reference books for tracking down addresses and phone numbers. I think I’ll add this to my Want To Read list. Great post!

    1. Some friends from my last job and I were doing research on the 90s for our Seattle-based Dresden RPG. Imagine that. Researching the 90s. All of us had lived through it, of course, but it was the little details that we’d continually forget:
      Dial-up Modems. Big brick cell-phones. 90s fashion. The different political climate. It’s unbelievable how much has changed in a spare two decades, let alone going further back. Maybe because we lived through them, is why it’s so surreal to do the research. 🙂

      1. I think you’re right, Greg. When I read something set in recently bygone decades, I find myself constantly going, “Oh, yeeeeah. I forgot about THAT.” Sometimes in a good way, sometimes making me feel nostalgic for things that have changed for the worse. It’s funny, though…reading a NEW book set in a past decade is WAY different from reading one actually written during that time. Language, writing style, political correctness…all manner of things impact a newer book, and clue you in to the fact that it wasn’t really written back then.

        We are an interesting species, aren’t we? Why, I remember when chasing one white dot around a blank, black tv screen was state of the art entertainment. (Hey, truth to tell, I remember when most homes didn’t even HAVE a tv, let alone one you could play games on!)

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