'Phantom Prey' by John Sandford

Twin cities. You don't have to go there yourself. Here's another Lucas Davenport novel by the estimable John Sandford, Pulitzer Prize-winning St. Paul journalist turned thriller writer -- No. 18 in his "Prey" series, of which I've read every one.

I remember my introduction to them some years ago on, of course, a transcontinental plane flight. This was one of the early books -- "Silent Prey" or "Eyes of Prey"? -- and after the first two paragraphs I knew I'd made a mistake at the airport bookshop. What to do? Oh, well, turn the page. . . . Six hours later I'm landing in Boston in a state of perfect literary bliss.

"Literary" might be the wrong word. You have to have a secret taste for serial ice-pick killers with cunning, twisted brains (encountered not in the sallow flesh, that is, but on the page). Why not? Who cares? You're on a plane, anyway -- so you may never see your high-toned friends again.

"Phantom Prey" (Putnam: 374 pp., $26.95) will not disappoint, although this time Sandford veers a little too close to the metaphysical. Still, here's intrepid, tall, attractively scarred Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Davenport discussing the latest mayhem with his wife, Weather (What a name! But I guess it's reasonable, if you live up there), in their kitchen:

"He looked in the sack of groceries. . . . Cinnamon rolls. The small, tasty, piecrust kind. He took one out and popped it in his mouth. 'Could have been a little bit of blood, but widely smeared.'

" 'But no viscera or skin,' Weather said. 'Just blood.' "

Uh-huh. And plenty more to come, as you racket up and down the Twin Cities' freeways with Lucas in his Porsche, back and forth across the Mississippi, as the corpses multiply and spring finally comes creeping across that chilly landscape.

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sara.lippincott@latimes.com Sara Lippincott is an assistant editor of Book Review.

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