The Prey series follows Lucas Davenport, a maverick detective, who works for Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension as lead investigator. The stories revolve around Lucas’s investigations, which are rarely dealt with using conventional detective methods.
The protagonist is an efficient, sometimes arrogant, wealthy detective and womanizer. He works against some intelligent and cunning villains and must breach the boundaries of the rulebook in order to outsmart them.
John Sandford has written 32 books in his Prey series and an additional 12 in the similar, often overlapping Virgil Flowers series. These are the two series he is predominantly known for but as you will find out, he has written a plethora of other works too. This article will demonstrate how to read these series in their entirety, predominantly focusing on Prey but will first tell you a little more about Sandford himself.
About the Author
John Sandford is the pseudonym used by John Roswell Camp, who started off as a journalist and even won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for his contributions to journalism. He maintains his work in the field of journalism but having written 52 successful novels is now best known as an author.
All of his novels have appeared on the New York Times bestseller lists in some way or another – many of the Prey novels have made it to the #1 spot.
In addition to his fictional work, which predominantly centers around crime and investigative fiction, Sandford has written two non-fiction books, The Eye and the Heart: The Watercolors of John Stuart Ingle and Plastic Surgery: The Kindest Cut, which give you some insight into his interests outside of writing.
John Roswell Camp was born in 1944 in Iowa, the grandson of two Lithuanian immigrants. He attended public high schools and graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in 1966 and 1971 respectively.
After graduating he enlisted in the U.S. Army where he served for 2 years in Korea and first started journalist work as an Army reporter. After he left the military, he worked for the Cape Girardeau as a reporter and covered stories such as the race riots in Illinois and Cairo.
He continued journalistic work for numerous papers around the country and covered a variety of national and criminal events, including elements of the Iraq War. This is likely where he got a lot of his inspiration for his crime novels.
In 1966, he married Susan Lee Jones and together they had two children and three grandchildren. Sadly, she died of breast cancer in 2007, and in 2013, he remarried Michele Cook, whom he now lives with in Santa Fe. As a fellow journalist and screenwriter, Cook helps to edit his work before publication.
The Prey Series
The Prey books starring Lucas Davenport are chronological by publication date, so they’re easy to follow. Here’s a list of the Prey books in reading order, so you can make sure you’re keeping track.
Rules of Prey (1989)
A difficult and twisted investigation excellently introduces the readers to this complex and multidimensional character, Lucas Davenport.
Rules of Prey features an insane yet intelligent villain who pushed Davenport to his limits. This page-turner will keep you guessing and leave you desperate to read the next novel.
Shadow Prey (1990)
A string of homicides across the country has sparked an investigation into a serial killer. All victims are relatively influential and all have been killed using the same weapon. All fingers point to the man known as Shadow Love who has a knack for killing and cannot be controlled.
Shadow Prey sends Lucas on a mission with Lily Rothenburg, a New York City police officer, across the country tracking this dangerous killer.
Eyes of Prey (1991)
A fresh, intriguing investigation is what Lucas needs to help him concentrate on work and crawl out of his bad mental state.
Eyes of Prey follows as Lucas is sent to track down two killers following the brutal murder of a woman in her own home. But these two know what they’re doing and Lucas is faced with a nearly impossible case that begins with little evidence.
Silent Prey (1992)
Silent Prey plunges Lucas into his past as he is once again challenged with finding serial killer Mike Bekker who has escaped custody in New York.
Lucas had the opportunity to kill this dangerous man and refused to take it and now, he lives with the consequences.
Winter Prey (1993)
Winter Prey begins with a violent killer, known as The Iceman. He has just murdered a family and destroyed their home in the freezing depths of rural Wisconsin.
Lucas has traced killers across bustling cities but this will be a challenge like none other he’s previously faced. As the weather worsens and evidence grows thin, The Iceman continues to commit horrendous and twisted crimes, brutal enough to leave even Lucas speechless.
Night Prey (1994)
Night Prey starts just as Lucas returns after a two-year break from investigative work. However, his first challenge is not your typical investigation. His colleague, Meagan Connell struggles against male-oriented prejudice in the police force and as a result, the case she’s concerned about receives no attention.
A series of violent attacks on women have been identified up and down the country and only when Lucas gives Meagan a chance to speak up does it get looked into. Something dangerous is at play here and women across America are in grave danger unless someone can get there first.
Mind Prey (1995)
Lucas has solved many cases but this may be the first killer that can outsmart him. Mind Prey begins as psychiatrist Andi Manette and her two daughters are kidnapped.
Mind games, suspense, and heaps of twists are what you can expect from this brilliant novel.
Sudden Prey (1996)
After killing two bank robbers during a heist, Lucas Davenport is in great danger. Dick LaChaise, the father of one of the thieves, is after revenge and he’ll stop at nothing to get it.
Sudden Prey follows as Lucas tries to protect his family, who will be the victims of LaChaise’s revenge.
Secret Prey (1998)
After someone goes missing during a hunting trip, Lucas must unravel the web of secrets that the other hunters are hiding and determine the culprit of this violent crime.
Secret Prey gives Lucas a new challenge that will test his abilities. He knows it won’t be easy but he doesn’t know what’s in store for him.
Certain Prey (1999)
Clever and beautiful attorney Carmel Loan has fallen for a married barrister but Carmel won’t let another woman stand in the way of their potential relationship and instead, hires a professional hitwoman to remove the wife from the equation.
Certain Prey follows these two intelligent women as they attempt to cover up their crimes in any way they can, which includes getting rid of Lucas when he comes investigating…
Easy Prey (2000)
The death of a high-profile model triggers a media whirlwind that demands Lucas’s immediate intervention. But when a colleague is named as the primary suspect in this murder investigation, things become a lot more complicated for Lucas.
Easy Prey follows as Lucas unearths a pattern of strange deaths across the city and uncovers a new killer different from anyone Lucas has ever dealt with before.
Chosen Prey (2001)
Chosen Prey begins as the corpse of a woman is found and an erotic drawing of the victim is linked to the case.
Lucas must trace these drawings to their source and stop the brutal murderer in their tracks before anyone else falls victim.
Mortal Prey (2002)
Clara Rinker, the hitwoman hired in Certain Prey is back but for once, she’s the victim. Somene’s after her and her boyfriend in Mexico, where he works as a drug lord.
Despite Clara’s previous attempts to kill Lucas, he must now come to her aid but in doing so, he unravels a whole world of danger revolving around the drug industry.
Naked Prey (2003)
After a white woman and a black man are found hanging from a tree, locals presume a lynching has occurred. But as Lucas gets closer to the case and examines all the evidence, he realizes that these deaths aren’t what they seem.
Naked Prey is unlike any case Lucas has ever dealt with before and he’ll face a plethora of new challenges.
Hidden Prey (2004)
It has been recently confirmed that a KGB agent was shot at Lake Superior and now Lucas must delve into this man’s past with the assistance of a Russian investigator. But neither of them is prepared for what they find.
Hidden Prey is a story of identity and politics, and follows as Lucas gets sucked into the dangerous relations between the U.S. and Russia.
Broken Prey (2005)
Two violated bodies are found in a remote farmhouse. Charlie Pope, a convicted sex criminal is labeled as the culprit but Lucas knows Charlie well and these crimes don’t fit his style.
Broken Prey follows Lucas as he uncovers the truth behind the case with some help from three of the most dangerous and prolific serial killers behind bars.
Invisible Prey (2007)
Lucas is called to a robbery-turned-murder scene where he finds two women who have been beaten to death with a metal rod and their home emptied of possessions. The case seems fairly simple but as Lucas begins examining the evidence, he realizes that the stolen items may hold some clues.
Invisible Prey follows Lucas as he slowly discovers a pattern that will lead him to a terrifying new danger.
Phantom Prey (2008)
A rich widow returns back to her Minneapolis home to find her daughter has vanished and blood stained across the house. Her daughter has recently been involved with a mysterious goth group and she immediately suspects that this event is tied to it.
Phantom Prey uncovers the deaths or disappearances of more and more members of this group. Lucas is assigned the case and almost immediately, he recognizes that the clues don’t add up.
Wicked Prey (2009)
One of the most infamous robbers has returned to Minneapolis and now plans his next heist, perhaps the biggest one yet.
Not only does Wicked Prey confront Lucas with the prospect of a huge job but he’s also receiving some major problems in his private life. A known psychopath blames Lucas for his injuries that have left him in a wheelchair and now he’s out to seek revenge. But Lucas won’t take the brunt. Instead, his daughter Letty is at risk and Lucas is determined to keep her safe.
Storm Prey (2010)
After a gang strikes a hospital for a drug raid, many of the hospital’s staff are injured and many more face grave danger as witnesses, including Lucas’s wife, Weather Karkinnen.
Storm Prey follows as witnesses slowly start disappearing or turning up dead and Weather is exposed to new danger even her husband can’t protect her from.
Buried Prey (2011)
A Minneapolis block is torn down as part of a renovation project and during the process, the bodies of two girls are found.
Buried Prey dives into Davenport’s past as he recognizes the bodies almost immediately. He is plunged back to 1985 when he first joined the force and dealt with a kidnapping that involved two girls – a kidnapping that was never solved.
Stolen Prey (2012)
Stolen Prey presents Lucas Davenport with one of the worst murders he’s ever seen. An entire family has been slaughtered and evidence at the scene suggests the killings were linked to the drug industry.
Silken Prey (2013)
Silken Prey takes Lucas down a political spiral that will bring him face to face with scandal, espionage, murder, and blackmail. Lucas will be tested in new ways and will struggle to get out of this case alive.
Field of Prey (2014)
Field of Prey begins as Lucas is called out to a huge farmhouse to investigate the murder of a body found wedged down a cistern.
But as soon as the investigation begins it becomes clear that this is not the only body in the area. As bodies pile up, Lucas finds some disturbing evidence that changes the course of the investigation.
Gathering Prey (2015)
Lucas’s daughter Letty is involved with a traveler she met once in San Francisco. Now travelers are being targeted by an unknown killer and the Letty is in danger of edging closer to the target.
Gathering Prey is another novel that hits Lucas personally.
Extreme Prey (2016)
Extreme Prey depicts Lucas detached from the BCA, and now working with presidential campaign staff. But when a governor becomes the target of a dangerous new criminal, Lucas will need to refer back to his investigative skills.
Golden Prey (2017)
Lucas is now working with the U.S. Marshals Service, which allows him to pick and choose the cases he works on.
Golden Prey presents a whole new danger for Lucas, as he takes a drug-related case that merges theft, murder, and revenge.
Twisted Prey (2018)
Taryn Grant, a psychopath who has crossed paths with Davenport before, is now working for the U.S. Senate but Lucas is still convinced that she’s responsible for 3 murders.
Twisted Prey blends the psychological thriller with crime and politics to create an all-encompassing novel that you won’t be able to put down.
Neon Prey (2019)
Lucas is tasked with finding a missing criminal, one with dangerous and violent potential that must be stopped. Neon Prey follows Davenport on a manhunt for a prolific serial killer.
Masked Prey (2020)
Masked Prey hones in on the children of influential U.S. Senators who are exposed to new dangers through social media. A political criminal is now taking their radical stances to a new personal level and threatening those closest to American lawmakers.
Ocean Prey (2021)
A coast guardsman reports suspicious behavior on the water which prompts further guardsmen to investigate. However, when they are immediately shot dead the FBI gets involved.
Ocean Prey follows Lucas Davenport and brilliant detective Virgil Flowers who must pick up the case once the FBI stalls.
Righteous Prey (2022)
‘The Five’ is a group of vigilantes who are targeting rapists, murderers, and robbers to eliminate the worst members of society. But when Davenport and Flowers get involved they realize that their intentions aren’t what they promote. Righteous Prey is a murder mystery centering on morality.
Untitled New Release
An exciting new novel is expected in October 2023.
John Sandford additionally wrote a short story for this series called Rhymes With Prey: Lincoln Rhyme vs Lucas Davenport, which was published in 2014.
The Virgil Flower Series
If you’ve read the Prey series you may recognize Virgil Flower’s name. She appears as a key character in the 31st and 32nd novels in the Prey series and will likely appear in the 33rd too. Sandford cleverly interweaved this character into his more well-known novels to help guide fans to this series which is equally as interesting and compelling.
- Dark of the Moon (2004)
- Heat Lightning (2008)
- Rough Country (2009)
- Bad Blood (2010)
- Shock Wave (2011)
- Mad River (2012)
- Storm Front (2013)
- Deadline (2014)
- Escape Clause (2016)
- Deep Freeze (2017)
- Holy Ghost (2018)
- Bloody Genius (2019)
- Ocean Prey (2021)
- Righteous Prey (2022)
The Letty Davenport Series
This is a recent series that John Sandford has started writing and it follows the intriguing adopted daughter of Lucas Davenport who has recently graduated from Stanford and is eager to enter the investigative world just like her father.
The Singular Menace Books
This is a tense series written in collaboration with his second wife, Michele Cook. The books are political and crime thrillers that center around scientific experimentation.
The Kidd Series
This series delves into the minds of two con artists. It is a gripping and refreshing series that hones in on intelligence and psychology, yet maintains the baseline of Sandford’s crime genre. These are excellent books but they were overshadowed by the release of his Prey series which was published at the same time.
These novels are not linked to one another and can therefore be read in any order. Here they are listed in publication order.
John Sandford is a brilliant writer who specializes in crime plots. His characters are carefully constructed and frequently incorporate psychological twists. If you haven’t yet delved into John Sandford’s work, we recommend that you do and the Prey series is a fantastic place to start.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which John Sandford novel is coming out next?
The next publication to hit bookstores will be Dark Angel, the 2nd book in the Letty Davenport series. However, if you’re only interested in the Prey books, you only have to wait until October this year for the next release.
Is John Sandford dead?
A rumor began circulating that John Sandford had died following the death of Lawrence Sanders in 1997. Sanders wrote similar books and their names sparked confusion. John Sandford is currently 79 years old and continues to write.
Are there any movies based on the Prey novels?
Two have already been made. In 1998, actor Eriq LaSalle played Lucas Davenport in the TV movie Mind Prey, however, the ratings were average and fans weren’t happy with the on-screen portrayal.
However, in 2011, Mark Harmon took on the role of Lucas Davenport in the movie adaptation of Certain Prey and the ratings were much better.
Why did he pick ‘Sandford’ as his pseudonym?
‘Sandford’ is John’s paternal grandmother’s maiden name, so it wasn’t just plucked out of nowhere.
Do you need to read the Prey series in order?
The Prey series should be read in order so that readers can understand character growth and overarching plot development. If you read these novels in a random order you will not understand some of the references made and may feel detached from the characters.