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Literary Glance: Masked Prey by John Sandford

April 27, 2020

Masked Prey by John Sandford starts off with two teens sexting each other.  It might not be the best way to start a book.  It kind of makes the author, not the characters, come across as a pervert.

John Sanford is an old guy; at least he’s older than I am, and he probably shouldn’t be writing a scene with teenagers sexting each other. I’m not saying he shouldn’t be allowed to do it.  I’m just saying it’s not a good idea.  He probably could have made the characters a little older… just because.

I haven’t been a fan of John Sanford’s books for a while.  I thought the old Prey series got tired in the late 1990s, but people keep buying his books, so he keeps writing them.  I think Masked Prey is his 30th Prey book.  I quit reading after Lettuce Prey because I couldn’t stomach a serial killer who was targeting religious vegetarians.  Plus, all of Sandford’s characters talk like tough guys, even the women.  I don’t mind tough talk in fictional characters, but somebody should talk like a normal person.

I have to warn you that this excerpt from Masked Prey might be seen as perverted.  Hey, I can’t help it if Sanford chose to put this scene on the first page of his new book.

Despite the teen sexting, I feel compelled to post this excerpt to demonstrate really bad writing, and most of that has nothing to do with the sexting (my comments are in parenthesis):

Audrey Coil and Blake Winston had been sexting each other for weeks.  Winston’s penis (at least his last name isn’t Coil), of which Coil had seen perhaps seven or eight iPhone views in a variety of penile moods (awkward phrase in a poorly-worded sentence) was not clearly different than the penises of a dozen other classmates that Coil had seen (Coil was a penis expert, I guess), circulated through the smartphones operated by girls in their final year at The Claridge School (another awkward phrase in an awkward sentence in a really awkward scene)- a school with a capital-T in “The,” so it wasn’t some Claridge School, (shouldn’t that comma be a semicolon or even a full colon?)it was The Claridge School of Reston, Virginia (how did editors let this sentence get through?).

And Coil suspected that images of her breasts wouldn’t exactly be breaking news among the selected males of The Claridge School’s senior class.  She was correct in that (awkward phrase).  Neither Coil nor Winston was a virgin, having dispensed with that handicap in the fifth form (awkward phrase), known in less snotty schools as eleventh grade.  They hadn’t yet fully engaged with each other, but were edging toward it (by sexting… for weeks?)… though, not yet.

All of that was neither here nor there (a high school senior wouldn’t talk/think “neither here nor there””… that’s an old man getting lazy writing about a high school senior).  Right now, Coil’s main preoccupation wasn’t with Winston’s junk (that term was more popular ten years ago), but with his totally erect (like…”totally” erect) Nikon Z6 camera.

This scene wouldn’t have been much better if a young author had written this, but Sandford’s age makes this a lot worse.  I’d expect a young writer, probably a male, to think it’s funny using the name Coil for a female character staring at male appendage pictures.  Reading old people writing about teens is like listening to kids use profanity for the first time; they know the words but not the context and the inflection is always wrong.  Anyway, this scene feels off.

I normally would try to ignore a bestselling novel with such a stupid (and maybe perverted) beginning, but Masked Prey has been pretty successful.  Even though a lot of authors are postponing releases of their books because of temporary store closures, Sandford went ahead with his, and it’s seemed to pay off.  The reviews are mixed, but the sales good.  It probably didn’t hurt that the word “mask” was in the title.  I’m guessing there’s a 75% chance Sandford changed the title within the last two months to cash in on the current situation.

If you want to read an old guy write about high school seniors sexting, then  Masked Prey might be the book for you.  If not, at least you have 29 other Prey mystery novels to choose from.


What do you think?  Was this a well-written scene?  Was this the best way to start off a best-seller?  Am I a prude?  Is it possible that I am a prude AND John Sandford is a pervert?  Or are neither true?


  1. I have to say that it’s really hard to judge a scene with so many of your comments in parentheses. 🙂

  2. John Coleman permalink

    I’m an old guy, and I didn’t mind the sexting scene, though I didn’t do you breathy word-by-word analysis.

    The title Masked Prey” was chosen at least a year ago.

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