[Weather] said, “Look, whatever – I’m not talking about all of that. I’m talking about our daughter.”

“I know you are,” Lucas said. “And like I said, we’re all a little crazy, but basically, and overall, Letty’s okay.”

“How do you know?”

“Because she’s just like me,” Lucas said. “And I’m okay, mostly.”

I’ve praised John Sandford’s “Prey” novels, starring Minnesota state cop Lucas Davenport, more than once in this blog. It’s a pleasure to be able to report that Stolen Prey, the latest volume in paperback, maintains the high quality of a series that a lesser writer might have gotten lazy with.

My main complaint – though I think I understand his reasons – is that author Sandford starts the story off with a truly appalling crime – the torture and rape murders of a family of four in a suburban Minneapolis home. Gut-wrenching crimes have become an earmark of the Prey series, but I don’t think the story would have lost a lot if the kids had been left out of it. At least the family’s suffering is over by the time we arrive at the murder scene.

Having got past that, the rest of the ride is excellent. The police are convinced that this is the work of a Mexican drug gang, though they can’t figure out what the murdered father – an investment manager – could have had to do with that. The FBI and the DEA join in the investigation, along with a male/female Mexican police team.

Stolen Prey is a police procedural rather than a mystery – we know early on who did the murders and why – but there are still plenty of surprises neatly worked into the plot. An odd collection of American computer criminals, in above their heads, manage to be both comic, oddly endearing, and (mostly ) tragic.

There’s also a semicomic subplot about Lucas hunting – through his subordinate Virgil Flowers, hero of other Sandford novels – a couple of muggers who robbed him at an ATM and broke his arm. They are soon located buying large quantities of horse manure in southern Minnesota. Loud noises ensue.

The final showdown centers on Letty, Lucas’ adopted daughter, whose character and relationship with him have become part of what keeps this series fresh.

Another gratifying aspect of the story is that Sandford pauses, at a couple of points, to make comments on the mystery genre and his own characters that are rather illuminating.

Recommended, with cautions for language, violence, and disturbing content. There is also a religious character who may be troubling to some Christian readers, though I didn’t take his as a generalizable case.

Lars Walker is the author of several published fantasy novels, the latest of which is an e-book, Hailstone Mountain.