By Heidi Simmons
by John Sandford
It is only weeks away until the citizens of this country will elect a new President. It has been a strange and wild campaign season and the craziness is not just about voting. In John Sandford’s 26th “Prey” installment, Extreme Prey (G.P. Putnam, 408 pages) dangerous politics reaches across the aisle.
Returning protagonist Lucas Davenport is enjoying building his cabin in the woods. He is no longer employed as a Minnesota lawman and he doesn’t care. But when the Governor calls to ask him to look into a possible death threat, Davenport is back on the job only this time as a private investigator.
Although unannounced, the Governor, Elmer Henderson, is planning a run for President or at the very least hopes to be considered for vice president. Officially running for the highest office in the land is his Democratic opponent Michaela Bowden. Some of Governor Henderson’s supporters have expressed extreme beliefs. He believes a woman and her son may be out to kill his Democratic rival Bowden.
Putting politics aside, the Governor wants to make sure the duo is all talk and no action. So Davenport is sent to work with Bowden’s security team as she campaigns in Iowa.
Davenport eventually discovers the mother belongs to a fringe political group filled with rage and hatred “of obvious injustice and the crushing of the small and helpless by the steel wheels of American plutocracy.” The group’s leader blames Jews for all that is wrong in the world. These are crazy folks!
Beside the death threats, others in the organization are murdered and it becomes clear that the mother and her son do indeed plan to kill Bowden and do it during the Iowa County Fair. Time is running out and Davenport does his best to prevent any further killing, but sometimes evil can’t be stopped.
This is a timely mystery since it’s election season in the novel and in reality. Extreme Prey was released in May and the author capitalizes on recent political headlines. It is easy to think about the Trump and Clinton campaigns. This makes the story more compelling than if it were not a general election year.
The narrative unfolds honestly and organically as Davenport is challenged to find the extremists. It’s exciting as he figures out who the bad guys are.
I was most intrigued by the extremist mother and her family. I wanted to understand and get some insight into these “crazy” people’s perspective. Why do they think Bowden is a threat to their lives and country? Their hatred doesn’t appear to be because she’s a woman. They are patriotic, pay their taxes and work hard.
Other’s in the weird political organization believe Bowden is the best candidate to represent their ideology. They identify more closely to the Democratic Party. Most of the organization’s complaints are thirty or more years old and stem from the farm crisis. So what is their beef?
Although Extreme Prey is set with a political backdrop, it stays away from politics.
I was disappointed that the author did not take the opportunity to deliver a psychological profile of extremism within the narrative. Nor did he take time to debate these people’s position and argue its merits or deficiencies. Just calling the mother insane is not enough. The mother is a hard working, strong woman who loves her family. What made her evil? Is she evil because she wants a different world? Where did she go off the rails and why was her extremism never addressed, argued or answered?
I am always looking for more meaning, understanding and ideas even if the story is a simple suspense thriller.
We all know people who are voting for the “other” candidate. They are not bad people, but it can be a mystery or hard to comprehend. It all seems extreme in this election.