Quick Review: THE INVESTIGATOR by John Sandford (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

SandfordJ-LD1-InvestigatorUSHCLetty Davenport steps into the spotlight, and into danger, in this first novel in a great new spin-off series

By age twenty-four, Letty Davenport has seen more action and uncovered more secrets than many law enforcement professionals. Now a recent Stanford grad with a master’s in economics, she’s restless and bored in a desk job for U.S. Senator Colles. Letty’s ready to quit, but her skills have impressed Colles, and he offers her a carrot: feet-on-the-ground investigative work, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security.

Several oil companies in Texas have reported thefts of crude, Colles tells her.  He isn’t so much concerned with the oil as he is with the money: who is selling the oil, and what are they doing with the profits? Rumor has it that a fairly ugly militia group might be involved. Colles wants to know if the money is going to them, and if so, what they’re planning.

Letty is partnered with a DHS investigator, John Kaiser, and they head to Texas.  When the case quicky turns deadly, they know they’re on the track of something bigger.  The militia group has set in motion an explosive plan… and the clock is ticking down.

Letty is the adopted daughter of Lucas Davenport, the main character in Sandford’s bestselling Prey series. Letty first appeared in Naked Prey (2003), and had been slowly getting more page-time in the series as it progressed. Now, in The Investigator, she gets her first solo outing; and luckily, it’s a solid start to a new series, one that certainly justifies many more. I really enjoyed this.

Like all of Sandford’s series, this one takes tonal notes from the protagonist; the Prey, Virgil Flowers, and now the Letty Davenport novels all at once familiar to long-time readers of Sandford’s work, while simultaneously being distinct from the others. Letty brings her own perspective, opinions, and ambitions to the series, which provides plenty of distance between her and Lucas, and their style and approach to investigating. Sure, she shares certain characteristics with her adoptive father — she’s tough, very familiar with guns, and can be impulsive and bullish. Like all of Sandford’s heroes, she also chafes at the reins of authority. But this isn’t just a re-skinning of Lucas in a younger, female character.

When we first meet Letty, she’s just committed a break-in on behalf of a Senator, and is in the process of quitting. She is bored of congressional work, and wants more of a challenge. As it happens, Senator Colles, her boss, has a proposition: how about taking on the role of a Department of Homeland Security investigator? The work is higher stakes, potentially more dangerous, and far from boring. Initially sceptical, Letty goes along.

SandfordJ-Letty1-InvestigatorUKPaired with former special ops soldier John Kaiser, another DHS investigator (and another great new character), Letty sets out to Texas to investigate a series of suspicious oil thefts. Little do they know at the time, but these thefts are about far more than making an illicit profit. A group of American white supremacists/nationalists has been gaining support in the south. They’ve been experimenting with more extreme measures and tactics, and they have hatched an audacious, horrific new plan to gain attention and further their cause. (No spoilers, here!) As Letty and Kaiser investigate the oil theft, they stumble across evidence that this all might be part of something bigger, which eventually leads them to pick up the scent of this underground movement.

One of the real strengths of this series is the professional relationship between Letty and John. Each of them brings very different skills and experiences to the partnership, and each character ends up learning from the other over the course of the novel. Kaiser’s lessons, for example, help Letty temper the recklessness of her action-first tendencies, showing her how to stay safer and give herself the edge in certain situations. They make a great team, and I certainly hope they remain paired together in future books in the series.

If you’re a fan of John Sandford’s work already, then I’d be amazed if you haven’t already read The Investigator. If you haven’t, or if you are a thriller/crime fan and haven’t read Sandford’s novels yet, I would highly recommend you give it a try. Sandford includes plenty of Letty’s backstory to situate newcomers, and enough to remind long-time readers who may have forgotten some of the salient details of her introduction to his fiction (I admit, I’d forgotten some of it). This backstory also goes a long way to explaining Letty’s mind and character.

Written in Sandford’s typical, excellent style, the novel moves at a steady clip — it’s gripping, but not rushed. The characters are well-rounded and fully-realized on the page (Sandford has a real gift for achieving this quickly and very effectively). The plot is connected with a lot of contemporary political, social, and economic issues, and the author handles the issues rather well.

The next novel in the series, Dark Angel, is due to be published in April 2023. Luckily, I already have a review copy, and I’ll be reading it very soon.

*

John Sandford’s The Investigator is out now, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in North America, and Canello in the UK.

Also on CR: Reviews of Phantom Prey, Wicked Prey, Storm Prey, Buried Prey, Stolen Prey, Silken Prey, Field of Prey, Golden Prey, Neon Prey, Masked Prey, Righteous Prey, Dark of the Moon

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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