Let Us Prey

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

LET US PREY begins in a burst of action, with brothers Mitch and Ram (short for Raymond, and far more appropriate) executing an ambush along a desert highway. Branon establishes the ruthlessness and professionalism of these killers for hire, then switches to other characters, setting various plot lines in motion. Unfortunately, he never settles on a primary character or plot line, leaving the reader wondering when the “real” story will begin.

Mitch and Ram receive more attention than do other characters, but they are at first involved only peripherally in the primary plot device, a plan to blow up offices of the Internal Revenue Service across the country. They contract for a high-priced assassination, but until late in the book they are unaware of the importance of the target. Their attention focuses on discovering the identity of their employer, so that they will be able to protect themselves.

Messages to and from the president of the United States are interjected at long intervals. These messages show that the government is aware of a grass-roots protest against the IRS and has made plans to quash it.

Suspense is thus established concerning Mitch and Ram’s target and employer, whether the plot to blow up the IRS service centers will succeed, and how the government might stop the plan. Branon unfortunately does not do much to build the suspense. Instead, each stage of the plot unfolds in matter-of-fact style, with the author apparently more intent on showing the logic and planning of a terrorist attack than on building to a climax.

Given the nature of the opening pages, it comes as little surprise that the plot succeeds. Branon supplies several pages of grisly but morbidly amusing scenes of destruction, with heads rolling into desk drawers and body parts flying in all directions. This apparent climax, however, is only the beginning of a second plot segment bringing together the major characters and showing how the operation winds down. Branon combines his various interests in demolitions, weaponry, surveillance, and gambling in his first novel. Readers can hope that in his next book, Branon will play on his strength of writing vivid action scenes and creating quirky characters while enlivening his descriptions of background planning.