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IN BRIEF

Fiction

June 02, 1996|ERIKA TAYLOR

SUDDEN PREY by John Sanford (Putnam: $23.95; 266 pp.). Most thrillers are designed to be read quickly. Yet that doesn't excuse the fact that so many seem as if they were written in a single weekend while the author was home with a stomach flu. In spite of occasional glimpses of intelligence and originality, "Sudden Prey," John Sanford's seventh novel, is so full of faulty premises and vague, sloppy writing that it is difficult to believe it is not a first draft that somehow got published by mistake.

When an amoral armed robber is killed in a police shootout, her sociopathic husband swears revenge. With the assistance of a corrupt cop, he obtains the names of the officers involved in the shooting and begins to systematically assassinate their loved ones.

In addition to the problems already mentioned, "Sudden Prey" has a tough time getting going. Not counting a few walk-ons, there are 23 characters introduced in the first 30 pages with almost no physical description. Even finding the protagonist is a little confusing. However, at least that is a distraction from the questions many readers may ask throughout the novel: Why doesn't she just pick up the phone? Wait a minute, whose wife is that? Would a cop really. . . . Oh, never mind.

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