Easy Prey Analysis
by John Sandford

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Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Point of view is very important in Easy Prey, as it is in all the books in the series. It is Lucas Davenport's series, and, except for the occasional experiment, the story is told from Davenport's third-person, limited point of view. The narrator is privy to Davenport's thoughts and impressions as they occur. There is never the sense that Davenport learns information the reader does not or that he is keeping thoughts secret. Where the text is not dialogue, which forms the bulk of the novel, it is Davenport's perception of the setting and events, and what he is doing and thinking, such as "Catrin. He didn't know what he thought about her, but she was on his mind . . . ." Most of the sentences in the book are short or medium length as in this example, keeping the pace fast and centered in the present, on what is being quickly said or described. The strong, highly inflected narrative voice adds to the intimate feeling of the point of view.

Having a strong sense of Davenport's personality is important because the "Prey" series is as much about Davenport's character as the crimes. As Sandford fuses together elements of the classic and hardboiled detective genres, one of the key elements he brings from the hard-boiled genre is the focus on the detective's character and on the culture more than on the crime itself.

In the larger plot, Easy Prey roughly follows the formula of the classical detective story by introducing the detective, presenting the crime, having the investigation, offering the solution, explaining the solution, and apprehending the criminal. Easy Prey does complicate the classical formula greatly by having the crime occur first, having the investigation focus on the wrong victim, presenting and explaining an incorrect solution, having a second murderer, and only apprehending one of the two murderers.

In many ways, Easy Prey is more of a hard-boiled detective novel than a classical one because of its focus on the cynical detective and the society. However, Easy Prey does not contain many minor characteristics of the traditional hard-boiled detective story such as the betrayer-lover and the intimidation of the detective, and it also differs in some of the major aspects. Whereas the hard-boiled detective pursues a quixotic sense of justice, Davenport's motivation is defeating the criminal. As the narrator says, Davenport "[f]elt the dark finger of hypocrisy stroking his soul. All for justice, he thought. Or something. Winning, maybe." Davenport pursues the threads of information, seeking to capture the criminals, because it is his job and because he likes to succeed, not out of a passion to see justice done. John Sandford shows an awareness of both the classical and hard-boiled traditions, forming a hybrid that contains aspects of the two, accompanied by new variations.

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The primary purpose of genre fiction is widely held to be to entertain the audience. Entertainment appears a priority in the "Prey" series: these books are full of murder and detection, sex and violence. However, even though these novels are doubtlessly meant as an entertaining sideline to the author, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Camp, they do contain pertinent commentary on our society in addition to the action. This commentary is particularly sharp in Easy Prey where Camp explores a topic he is an expert on, the media, within his detective story.

1. In what ways does the media appear decadent in Easy Prey? Are there ways that the media could be coerced to behave more morally that would cause more good than harm?

2. Do big cities foster moral corruption and then spread that corruption into small towns via the airwaves? Is smalltown life more moral than big-city life?

3. Is Lucas Davenport a sympathetic character? Does he seem a strong hero? Does he possess good morals?

4. How would Easy Prey be affected if it followed the classical detective formula more closely?

5. What do you think of the female characters in Easy Prey ? Are there any generalities that can be made...

(The entire section is 1,977 words.)