reviewed by Andrew Smith
From the murky waters of the dark net surfaces a group of killers who claim to be cleaning America of the worst of society. They target those that they despise, people who don’t fit into their model of who deserves a place in this country.
First to die is a predatory street crawler who is dispatched mano a mano by one of the gang. A lengthy press release follows advising where the body is to be found and promising more of the same. They’re calling themselves ‘The Five’. And soon a further diatribe is released announcing a second killing. Each time a victim is dispatched the group say they will make a donation to a related charity, these donations being in the form of untraceable Bitcoin. The bodies are turning up at different locations across the country – victim three is found in Minnesota.
Virgil Flowers, an agent for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, receives an early morning call summoning him to the scene. On arrival he spots a big lump leaning against an SUV, it’s his ex-boss Lucas Davenport. These days Lucas is a U.S. Marshal with political connections and he’s been directed to add his practical skills and renowned crime solving nous to the mix. But there’s very little to go on, the perpetrators seem to be very adept at leaving nothing behind that will aid those looking to identify them. Where will this group strike next and given how little is known about them how can they possibly be stopped?
In Davenport and Flowers the author has two big, but very different, personalities who bounce off each other brilliantly. Their sharp and witty banter is one of the highlights of this book. As the hunt goes on the pair carry out a dance with the officers of the FBI, letting the special agents deal with the tiresome research while they knock on doors, sweat people and generally follow their noses. At heart they’re mavericks, enjoying the hunt and the adrenaline rush that goes with it. And something the author does very well here – it’s a trick he’s perfected over the years – is to tell the story throughout from the point of view of both the chasers and the chased. The result is that it feels like we, the reader, are often a step ahead of the law enforcement agencies as the action plays out. It’s a careful balance but Sandford pulls it off superbly. He really is master of his craft.
There are some interesting developments here for followers of the long running series of books featuring Davenport and Flowers, such as Virgil starting to develop a new career as a writer of novels – could this bring an end to his life as a lawman? Also there’s a dramatic ending to this story that, too, poses a few questions as to what happens next for this pair. I’m hoping there’s a good deal more to come from both of them, either individually or in tandem. Crime fiction just wouldn’t be the same without them.