Sandford, John. Certain Prey (1999)
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 339 pages, $24.95 hardcover
ISBN 0 399 14496 X
In his latest Lucas Davenport thriller John Sandford does something different: he focuses on the villain as much as on the hero. And what a villain it is: Clara Rinker, the best hit woman (or hit man) around. When Rinker does a job in Minnesota and, for the first time in her career, makes a tiny mistake, she and Lucas engage in an intellectual cat-and-mouse game.
I suspect Sandford has given us Clara Rinker because of criticism that he can’t create a dynamic female character. Most of his other female characters—even the more fully developed ones like Lily Rothenberg, a police lieutenant from New York City—exist mainly to hop into bed with Davenport. But in Clara Rinker, Davenport seems to have met his match in intellect, intuitiveness, coldness, and cunning.
There’s even a second female major character in this novel. But she’s portrayed as so over-the-top that it’s impossible to take her seriously; she’s more a caricature than a character. In fact, the contrast between the two female characters makes Clara look even more formidable than she would on her own.
Keeping a long series fresh is a challenge for any author, but it looks as if John Sandford has started out in a promising new direction here.
© 1999 by Mary Daniels Brown