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by John Sandford
Penguin Random House, April 2018
387 pages
ISBN: 0735217351

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Senator Porter Smalls and his mistress Cecily Whitehead are headed back to DC when they are run off the road and down a wooded hill. It's only Cecily's driving skills and some incredible luck that keep the accident from killing both of them. Cecily is not the lucky one. Porter Smalls is convinced, despite the absolute lack of evidence, that this was no accident - instead, someone deliberately tried to kill them both. The police are not inclined to believe him; there is no damage to the car that would indicate anyone hit it with another vehicle. Smalls calls in one large chip - Lucas Davenport.

Once Lucas hears what Smalls has to say, he's interested. Smalls believes that another Senator, Taryn Grant, is behind the attack. She wasn't driving - she's too smart to be that directly connected. Smalls believes she is using connections she's made through her work on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Taryn Grant wants to be POTUS some day, and sooner rather than later. Taryn Grant is also more than a little crazy, in a (for the most part) socially acceptable psychopath sort of way. She and Lucas have crossed paths before; it didn't end satisfactorily for either of them. Lucas would truly enjoy taking Taryn out of the picture. This blends well with Porter Smalls and his feelings about Taryn.

Lucas goes to work, pulling at loose ends and straws, hoping to find that one piece of information to make the whole mess fall apart. Lucas is very good at this, and has folks happy to help him. He keeps poking around and asking questions in unlikely places; eventually he does find a string worth pulling on. Of course, Taryn Grant is keeping an eye on her end of things, and is not happy to find out that Davenport is on her radar. She's confident that she can handle him, and would rather not have to deal with him. More people die; Taryn Grant has no compunctions about getting rid of people who pose a danger to her and/or her plans. Every time someone connected to the case is killed, Lucas is more and more convinced that she is behind it all. As before, the hard part is proving it to the authorities. Lucas finds an ace up his sleeve, one he doesn't hesitate to play when the opportunity presents itself.

This is the twenty-ninth Lucas Davenport novel. Sandford has refined his formula over the years, refined it as only a writer who seriously practices his craft can do. While no two Davenport novels are the same, readers know what to expect from one. Sandford is almost a comfort read for fans of the genre. As with Dick Francis, readers know there will be a good plot, lots of twists, decent sub-plots, and some knowledge imparted. The characters are reliable, mostly believable (apart from the occasional psychopath, and one can believe that in today's political climate without too much of a stretch), and fleshed out enough to stand on their own. If this is the first Davenport novel a reader picks up, it probably won't be the last.

I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I have been a preliminary judge for the Malice Domestic/St. Martin's Press Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest for at least 25 years. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs.

Reviewed by PJ Coldren, April 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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