Brief reviews of recent releases: "Field of Prey," by John Sandford, and "Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line," by Michael Gibney.
Field of Prey
By John Sandford. (Putnam, 392 pages, $28.95.)
Even when criminal investigator Lucas Davenport phones it in, he still manages to nab his perp. The same might be said for his creator, John Sandford, whose stranglehold on his loyal readership will no doubt remain tight no matter how repetitive his plot devices or methodical his prose. In the 24th installment of Sandford’s bestselling, Minnesota-set “Prey” series, the discovery of an old farmyard cistern full of women’s bones near Red Wing sets off a hunt for a small-town serial killer who has operated undetected for years.
After the sudden, violent demise of a longtime sidekick, Davenport enlists the aid of his teenage daughter, Letty (who is perhaps being groomed to replace Our Hero one day or star in a spinoff series, like renegade Davenport pal Virgil Flowers), in the race to figure out who the mystery local is before he kills again.
The secret to Sandford’s enduring appeal is that despite a tedious tendency to provide too much unnecessary detail about his characters’ movements and not enough vivid description, damned if he doesn’t produce a page-turner every time. He makes it look easy, but he’s the only one who can do that thing he does.
Sandford events: 7 p.m. Wed., Once Upon a Crime, Mpls.; noon Thu., Barnes & Noble, Nicollet Mall; 7 p.m. Thu., Barnes & Noble, Roseville.
Kristin Tillotson, arts writer
Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line
By Michael Gibney (Random House, 212 pages, $25.)
There are lots of kitchen memoirs out there, whether from the perspective of a chef, line cook, pastry chef or grunt worker. Here’s the dish from the sous chef, the second-in-command, the skilled cook seeking to develop the leadership to run a kitchen, while toiling directly under the chef’s thumb. Gibney writes from his 15 years as sous chef for a number of fine New York restaurants. So the “24 hours” line must be taken with a grain of fleur de sel.
Right upfront, he says that his account is drawn from several restaurants over several periods. He’s modified names and places. Does this curdle the idea of memoir? He doesn’t care. His intent is to enable everyone from a diner to a master chef to reflect on the craft of cooking from “a slightly more mindful perspective.” Gibney succeeds here, mostly because he’s also a good writer. He’s able to keep his focus on a single 24-hour stretch, yet provide a sense of having gazed deeply into an incredibly intense atmosphere. Why are fish always on the lowest shelf? Do VIPs get better-marbled ribeyes? What does it mean when the chef says to “roll some tampons”? You’ll get the answers as they emerge from dawn to dawn. As beach-read season approaches, this memoir should have a spot on the menu.
Kim Ode, features writer