One of John Sandford’s most popular characters is the leading man in his longest-running series: The Lucas Davenport books in order. Lucas is a suave police officer who does things his own way in the pursuit of justice. He has impeccable fashion taste and despite being a mean, tough cop, he is beloved by fans.
Whether you’ve already read the Lucas Davenport books in order and are looking for a recap, or are looking to dive into this series for the very first time, this ultimate guide will have everything you need to enjoy these books.
Who is John Sandford?
Before he became an author and adopted the pseudonym of John Sandford, John Roswell Camp was an award-winning journalist. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for his reporting. However, for simplicity’s sake, we will refer to him as Sandford throughout the rest of this article.
Sandford has published more than 55 novels during his career as an author, but this guide will focus on his Lucas Davenport books. If you would like to learn more about his other works, you can read this article about all the John Sandford books in order.
His Lucas Davenport, Virgil Flowers, and Letty Davenport novels all take place within the same over-arching Prey universe, which is another name for his Lucas Davenport series.
Sandford was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He later attended the University of Iowa for his bachelor’s degree in American studies and his master’s degree in journalism.
He also served in the US Army for two years in Korea with the 4th US Army Missile Command. It was while he was in the Army that Sandford began his career as a newspaper reporter.
He then went on to work at The Miami Herald and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He also reported from the Iraq War and covered the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
In addition to a prestigious career as a journalist and an award-winning career as an author, Sandford enjoys archaeology, painting, and photography.
About Lucas Davenport
When John Sandford sat down to write the first Lucas Davenport book he never dreamed it would acquire the popularity or perseverance that it has. He had thoughts it would be a standalone book before he moved on to something else. His biggest intention was to write a character that people would like.
And readers love Lucas Davenport.
He is a police detective and war games designer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Lucas is willing to do whatever it takes in the pursuit of justice. Sandford describes him as a cross between a cop and a movie star, because he wanted Lucas to become a star.
Unlike most cops, Lucas is rich, drives a Porsche, and loves a new good-looking suit. Sandford wrote him as a mean, tough cop that women would like.
Sandford says most cops would be fired or imprisoned if they acted like Lucas. However, even though he is so unlike a realistic police officer, cops enjoy the character and series too.
Lucas Davenport Books in Order
Like most mystery thrillers, it is possible to read the Lucas Davenport books as standalones. However, if you read the books out of order, you will miss something from the series. The best way to enjoy the series is by reading the books in order of publication.
This is because this reading order will properly reveal character development. You will get to grow with Lucas and understand the peaks and valleys of his career, and his relationship with those around him. As well, there are recurring characters throughout the series.
The last two Lucas Davenport books in order are actually crossover works with another popular John Sandford character: Virgil Flowers. These books were written so that previous knowledge of the other series is not required. But prior knowledge will enhance your enjoyment of this crossover.
- Rules of Prey (1989)
- Shadow Prey (1990)
- Eyes of Prey (1991)
- Silent Prey (1992)
- Winter Prey (1993)
- Night Prey (1994)
- Mind Prey (1995)
- Sudden Prey (1996)
- Secret Prey (1998)
- Certain Prey (1999)
- Easy Prey (2000)
- Chosen Prey (2001)
- Mortal Prey (2002)
- Naked Prey (2003)
- Hidden Prey (2004)
- Broken Prey (2005)
- Invisible Prey (2007)
- Phantom Prey (2008)
- Wicked Prey (2009)
- Storm Prey (2010)
- Buried Prey (2011)
- Stolen Prey (2012)
- Silken Prey (2013)
- Field of Prey (2014)
- Gathering Prey (2015)
- Extreme Prey (2016)
- Golden Prey (2017)
- Twisted Prey (2018)
- Neon Prey (2019)
- Masked Prey (2020)
- Ocean Prey (2021) (Virgil Flowers Team-Up)
- Righteous Prey (Expected: October 4, 2022) (Virgil Flowers Team-Up)
Other Lucas Davenport Content
John Sandford has also published a Lucas Davenport short story within the FaceOff anthology.
Summary of the Lucas Davenport Books in Order
Now that you know about all the Lucas Davenport books in order, let’s take a closer look at what each book is about. If you have never read these books before, the below summaries will contain spoilers for character and plot development. However, these will be a helpful refresher if you’re preparing for a reread or trying to figure out where you left off last.
1. Rules of Prey
The “maddog” murderer who is terrorizing the Twin Cities is two things: Insane and extremely intelligent. He kills for the pleasure of it and thoroughly enjoys placing elaborate obstacles to keep the police befuddled.
Each clever move he makes is another point of pride. But when the brilliant Lieutenant Lucas Davenport, a dedicated cop and a serial killer’s worst nightmare, is brought in to take up the investigation, the murderer suddenly has an adversary worthy of his genius.
2. Shadow Prey
Never get involved with a cop, that’s what Lieutenant Lucas Davenport has been warning women for years. But now he finds himself on dangerous ground with a policewoman named Lily Rothenburg, on assignment from New York to help investigate the murders.
Both have previous commitments, but neither can stop, and as their affair grows more intense, so too does the mayhem surrounding them, until the combined passion and violence threaten to spin out of control and engulf them both.
Together, Lucas and Lily must stalk the drugged-out, desperate world of the city’s meanest streets to flush out Shadow Love — not knowing they are now the objects of his deadliest desires.
3. Eyes of Prey
Lieutenant Davenport’s sanity was nearly shattered by two murder investigations. Now he faces something worse.
Two killers, one hideously scarred, the other strikingly handsome, a master manipulator fascinated with all aspects of death. We are looking into the dark mirror of Davenport’s soul.
This is the case that will bring Davenport back to life. Or push him over the edge.
4. Silent Prey
His guards slain, the brilliant, insane pathologist from Eyes of Prey flees to New York to continue his research into aspects of death. Carefully, Michael Bekker conducts his experiments, searching the eyes of his dying victims for what they can reveal. But the mounting body count is causing an uproar in the city.
In desperation, the police reach out to the man who knew Bekker best. But when Lucas arrives, he finds unexpected danger as well. For Lily Rothenburg, the policewoman whose intense affair with Lucas has never completely faded, is there too.
Now, consumed with her own investigation of a group of rogue killers who could be inside the police department, she draws Lucas into her orbit again, until their hunts merge, their twin obsessions driving them ever closer to the edge…and then over.
5. Winter Prey
It is winter in the remote, dark Wisconsin woods. But the chill in the local sheriff’s bones has nothing to do with the weather. The extravagance of the crime is new to him.
The murdered man, woman, and child; the machete-like knife through the man’s head; the ashes of the fire-consumed house spread over the ice and snow.
In desperation, the sheriff turns for help to the reclusive lawman he’d heard had a cabin up here, and with reluctance Davenport agrees, but it is a decision he will soon have reason to regret. For this is a kind of criminal new to him too.
As he sifts through the ashes of the case itself, other crimes, shocking to his carefully hardened shell emerge, and it becomes clear that there is an evil in these woods. An evil at once alien to him and closer than he can imagine…and against which even his skills may not prevail.
6. Night Prey
After a two-year break, Minneapolis detective Lucas Davenport is back on the force. This time as Deputy Chief.
His first problem is acerbic state investigator Meagan Connell, who is determined to prove a link between several particularly brutal attacks on women. The more Davenport looks into it, the more he suspects that Meagan is right to fear the worst.
Somewhere out there, spying on his unknowing victims at their most intimate moments, lurks a killer of unusual skill and savagery — and he’s only just getting warmed up.
7. Mind Prey
It was raining when psychiatrist Andi Manette left the parent-teacher conference with her two young daughters. She was distracted and barely noticed the red van parked beside her, barely noticed the van door slide open as they dashed up to their car. But she did notice the hand reaching out for her and the voice from out of the past.
And then the Manette family was gone.
Hours later, Deputy Chief Lucas Davenport stood in the parking lot, a blood-stained shoe in his hand, the ground stained pink around him, and knew that this would be one of the worst cases he’d ever been on.
With an urgency born of dread, he presses the attack.
Meanwhile, in an isolated farmhouse, Andi Manette does the same, summoning all her skills to battle an obsessed captor. She knows the man who has taken her and her daughters, knows there is a chink in his armor if only she can find it. But for both her and Davenport, time is running out.
8. Sudden Prey
It begins with a death and ends with one.
For months, Lucas Davenport’s men have been tracking a vicious woman bank robber named Candy, and when they finally catch up with her, she does not go quietly. In the ensuing shoot-out, she dies — and Davenport’s nightmare begins.
For her associates are even worse than she was, particularly her husband, a deeply violent man who swears an appropriate revenge: First he will find the names of those responsible; then he will kill those nearest and dearest to them, just the way they did Candy.
So it begins.
The husband of one officer is shot and killed. The wife of another is ambushed at work. When a third attack is thwarted, the pattern becomes clear to Davenport, and with an urgency born of rage and terror, he presses the hunt, desperately trying to track down the killers before they can strike again, before they can reach out for Davenport’s own loved ones. But in this effort, he may already be too late.
9. Secret Prey
The company chairman lay dead in the woods, his orange hunting jacket punctured by a bullet at close range. Around him stood the four executives with whom he had been hunting, each with a reason not to be sorry about the man’s death.
A classic murder mystery, it would seem: The kind where the detective gathers everyone together at the end and solves the case. But Lucas Davenport knows it’s not going to be that easy.
There are currents running through this group, hints and whispers of something much greater than the murder of a single man. Some time soon, unless he can stop it, there will be other deaths — and Davenport can’t help but wonder if maybe the final death might be his own.
10. Certain Prey
Attorney Carmel Loan is beautiful, intelligent, ambitious — and used to getting what she wants. When she becomes infatuated with fellow barrister Hale Allen, she isn’t going to let a little thing like his being married get in the way.
So, through the contacts of an ex-client, she hired professional killer Clara Rinker to get rid of Allen’s wife. Smart, attractive Rinker is the best hitwoman in the business — but things go wrong, and the shooting of a witness, a cop, brings Lucas Davenport into the case.
Carmel Loan and Clara Rinker team up to clean up the loose ends — which includes getting Davenport off their backs by whatever means necessary.
11. Easy Prey
In life she was a high-profile model. In death she is the focus of a media firestorm that’s demanding action from Lucas Davenport. Especially as one of his own men is a suspect in her murder.
But when a series of bizarre, seemingly unrelated slayings rock the city, Davenport suspects a connection that runs deeper than anyone has imagined — one that leads to an ingenious killer more ruthless than anyone had feared.
12. Chosen Prey
An art history professor, writer, and cheerful pervert, James Qatar had a hobby: He took secret photographs of women and turned them into highly sexual drawings.
One day, he took the hobby a step further and…well, one thing led to another, and he had to kill her. A man in his position couldn’t be too careful, after all. And you know something? He liked it.
Already faced with a welter of confusion in his personal life, Deputy Chief Lucas Davenport decides to take this case himself, hoping that some straight-forward police work will clear his head. But as the trail begins to take some unexpected turns, it soon becomes clear that nothing is straight-forward about this killer.
The man is learning as he goes, Lucas realizes, taking great strides forward with each murder. He is becoming a monster — and Lucas may have no choice but to walk right into his lair.
13. Mortal Prey
Years ago, Lucas Davenport almost died at the hands of Clara Rinker, a pleasant, soft-spoken, low-key Southerner, and the best hitwoman in the business.
Now retired and living in Mexico, she nearly dies herself when a sniper kills her boyfriend, the son of a local druglord. While the boy’s father vows vengeance, Rinker knows something he doesn’t: The boy wasn’t the target — she was — and now she is going to have to disappear to find the killer herself.
The FBI and DEA draft Davenport to help track her down, and with his fiancée deep in wedding preparations, he’s really just as happy to go — but he has no idea what he’s getting into.
For Rinker is as unpredictable as ever, and between her, her old bosses in the St. Louis mob, the Mexican druglord, and the combined, sometimes warring, forces of US law enforcement, this is one case that will get more dangerous as it goes along. And when the crossfire comes, anyone standing in the middle won’t stand a chance.
14. Naked Prey
Lucas Davenport’s old boss, Rose Marie Roux, has moved up to the state level and taken Lucas with her. She’s created a special troubleshooter job for him on the cases that are too complicated or politically touchy for others to handle.
In addition, Lucas is married now, and a new father, all of which is fine with him: He doesn’t mind being a family man. But he is a little worried. For every bit of peace you get, you have to pay — and he’s waiting for the bill.
It comes in the form of two people found hanging from a tree in the woods of northern Minnesota. What makes the situation particularly sensitive is that the bodies are of a black man and a white woman, and they’re naked.
“Lynching” is the word that everybody’s trying not to say — but, as Lucas begins to discover, in fact the murders are nothing like what they appear to be, and they are not the end of it. There is worse to come — much, much worse.
15. Hidden Prey
Six months ago, Lucas Davenport tackled his first case as a statewide troubleshooter, and he thought that one was plenty strange enough. But that was before the Russian got killed.
On the shore of Lake Superior, a man named Rodion Oleshev is found shot dead, three holes in his head and his heart, and nobody knows why. But everybody — the local cops, the FBI, and the Russians themselves – has a theory. And when it turns out he had very high government connections, that’s when it hits the fan.
A Russian cop flies in from Moscow, Davenport flies in from Minneapolis, law enforcement and press types swarm the crime scene — and, in the middle of it all, there is another murder.
Is there a connection between the two? What is the Russian cop hiding from Davenport? Is she a cop at all? And why was the man shot with fifty-year-old bullets?
Before he can find the answers, Davenport will have to follow a trail back to another place, another time, and battle the shadows he discovers there — shadows that turn out to be both very real and very deadly.
Final thoughts on Lucas Davenport books in order
Now you know about all the Lucas Davenport books in order and the summaries for the first 15 books. These books are compelling mystery thrillers with a tough-as-nails, suave cop.
Sandford is known for writing books that contain surprising plot twists, captivating characters, and sharp prose. These attributes are all apparent in the Lucas Davenport series, making it a must-read for any thriller fan.
Looking for more books in order?
Check out this list of Virgil Flowers books in order.