Thursday, May 5, 2016

Two Book Reviews for You

When we left Lucas Davenport in 2015 in the book "Gathering Prey", after having had enough of bureaucratic b.s., he had resigned from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation with a classic two sentence letter of resignation.  (In the second sentence, he told his boss to "go _____ himself", and who among us hasn't dreamed of doing that?)  Anyway, who knew where John Sandford was going to take his creation in this latest book.

Turns out, Elmer Henderson, the Governor of Minnesota, is still a fan of Lucas, and he calls upon the now retired detective to help him out with a problem that he, the Governor, thinks he may have discovered as he runs for President in the run up to the Iowa Caucuses.  Governor Henderson, who we met in a previous book, is a colorful character (think Roger Sterling from "Mad Men"), and what he is really hoping is that the front running character Michaela Bowden (think "Hillary Clinton") will choose him to be her Vice President, has encountered a couple of odd characters who may be out to kill his rival, Bowden.  So Henderson reaches out to Davenport, who is busy remodeling his fishing cabin in the Minnesota woods, to investigate the matter.

We then watch Lucas work with the security forces of Bowden's campaign and the Iowa police, as they investigate some fringe political action groups in Iowa to see if, indeed, there really is a serious threat against candidate Bowden.  We also see the actions of the plotters themselves.  This, by the way, is not to be considered a spoiler.  There is such a plot, and we learn about it and meet the plotters themselves in the very first chapter.  The fun and excitement of the story is watching Lucas and the cops investigate the plan, learn who the bad guys are, and their efforts to stop the assassination attempt.  In the course of his investigation, Lucas also uncovers the solution to a long ago crime that has haunted and frustrated Iowa law enforcement for close to three decades.

This is the twenty-sixth Lucas Davenport novel from Sandford.  It isn't easy to sustain a series over that many years and that many books, and not all of the Prey novels are home runs, but I have to say that with "Extreme Prey", both Sandford and Davenport are both at the very top of their games.  And to make us all want for more, Sandford has given us a hint as to what awaits the still retired Lucas in future stories.  Can't wait 'til next Spring for the next one.

Four stars all the way for "Extreme Prey".


I heard "American Pharoah" author Joe Drape interviewed on the radio about this book a few weeks ago, and it prompted me to immediately order it.

The book opens with a rather detailed description of the encounter in a Kentucky horse farm breeding shed between a stallion named Pioneer of the Nile and a mare named Littleprincessemma in March 2011.  The result of that encounter was the birth of a colt on February 2, 2012.  The people who surrounded that colt saw, almost from the very beginning, that this horse was something special, and they were right, for that horse, American Pharoah became in 2015, the twelfth thoroughbred race horse, and the first one in thirty-seven years to win the Triple Crown of racing.

This book is not only the story of the horse, but also the story of owner Ahmed Zayat, trainer Bob Baffert, jockey Victor Espinoza, and the story of the various and sundry characters that populate the world of thoroughbred racing.  It is a strange world where everyone in it is fabulously wealthy, but where nobody seems to  make any money, and where wealthy owners always seem to miss making payments to the trainers to whom they entrust their valuable pieces of horseflesh.

Ultimately, though, it is the story of an amazing horse, American Pharoah.  When I read this week that during this Kentucky Derby Week of 2016, Baffert was looking forward to visiting the stud farm were American Pharoah, whom he has not seen since last October, I could understand how emotional he was in the reunion.

I am not a follower of the Sport of Kings, save for the five weeks every Spring when the Triple Crown is contested, so I found this book to be a fascinating look at a pretty much unknown world to me.  It was not a well written as Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit" of a few years back, but still, a pretty good read.

Two and on-half stars for "American Pharoah".

1 comment:

  1. Well done, I am always looking for new authors and subjects to read. I am going to start a book club for old salts interested in military history, stay tuned for you will be most welcome to join. John Sandford may be my new guy, I am locked in solid with Mickey Spillane. I look forward to ordering his books from the Carnegie Library. Thanks for the well written reviews.