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Book review: <i>Gathering Prey</i> by John Sandford

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the cover of the book

Pilate and his gang of disciples have been wreaking havoc across California, and nobody’s noticed except a traveller named Skye. While rumours about Pilate fly thick and fast, Skye knows he’s genuinely bad news – can she get someone to take notice before Pilate goes on a cross-country rampage?

The story

Henry and Skye are travellers. They move around, looking out for each other, protecting each other, trying to make enough money to get by and get to the next destination. They’ve both heard the rumours about Pilate and come across him every so often. Skye thinks he’s the devil, but Henry is a little enamoured by him, hopes maybe he can help him get into the movie business. Sky and Henry are completely alone in the world, and when they meet a girl called Letty in San Francisco who offers to buy them lunch, they jump at the chance.

Skye and Letty get along at lunch, and Letty gives Skye her phone number for the possibility of the travellers finding themselves in Minnesota, Letty’s home state. For both, it was just a gesture, not really within the realms of possibility.

When Skye and Henry reach a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, Henry encounters one of Pilate’s disciples, and disappears. Skye is beside herself with fear, and calls Letty. Letty gets her father involved: Lucas Davenport, long time cop and employee of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He’s busy, running lots of cases, but none of them pique his interest the way Skye’s stories of Pilate do. He’s sure she’s sincere, so he starts digging.

Lucas calls in favours, follows the stories, but Skye disappears, chasing Pilate on her own. Lucas is convinced that Pilate and his band of disciples are a dangerous group, and is worried for Skye’s safety. Can Lucas apprehend the group before somebody gets hurt?

The style

If a book was ever written to seamlessly convert into a movie script, this is it. I am aware that John Sandford has written a lot of other books, so he’s clearly well practiced at this, but still. I could picture the whole thing in my head. Written in the third person and switching between various character groups, the suspense is expertly built as the reader knows where all the major players are located, and experiencing all the near misses and encounters. The showdown at the end of the story has the added hilarity of each of the major police players discussing who will play them in the film.

Gathering Prey hits all the marks of a well written thriller. It’s compelling, it moves fast, it sacrifices the right characters to keep the reader involved. The story line was original enough to be actually interesting, and the characters, while verging on stereotypical, have enough force behind them to be believable. It’s easy to read in a long sitting, and until you finish it you’ll keep going back for more.

Who is this book for?

Do you love a good page-turning thriller? This one is for you.

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John Sandford is PROLIFIC. I’ve never read anything else by him, but I’d certainly give a couple of his other books a shot.


In short

Title: Gathering Prey
Author: John Sandford
Publisher: G P Putman's Sons
ISBN: 978-0399168796
Year published: 2015
Pages: 416
Genre(s): Thriller, Fiction
Review Type: