Dark Angel by John Sandford

hmishket's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous funny lighthearted mysterious tense fast-paced


kathydavie's review against another edition

Go to review page


Second in the Letty Davenport thriller series, a spin-off from Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series and revolving around his daughter. It begins in the summer of 2021 and spends most of the story in southern California.

My Take
Sandford caught my attention with the opening. I thought for sure it was Letty. Instead, it was a Letty-alike. I know, lol, they really are a pair. They think alike and act alike. And Barbara forwards in establishing Letty’s character; she also makes a good mentor. They do share the same sense of humor; “We’ll miss you when you’re gone.”

We do get quite a bit of back history on both Letty and Barbara. Didja know Letty can play drums? More back history, unrelated to our main characters, is the why of the silk scarves worn by WWI pilots. It does make sense.

Sandford is using third person global subjective point-of-view so we get the perspective, emotions, thoughts, and actions of a variety of characters, but the primary perspective is Letty’s.

Sandford continues with his comparisons of Letty’s and Lucas’ characters, and they do sound like a typical daughter and father. Well, at least in that they’re alike. Sandford is also playing with current events, i.e., Ukraine, terrorists crashing power grids, social media stirring up hate, Black inequality, the controversial use of street cameras, and the Russian and Ukrainian army corruption. It’s a useful type of “info dump” in that it provides the reader with a lot of background without Sandford having to go into it.

I do like the T-shirt with a picture of Karl Marx with the text “class dismissed”. I also had to laugh at Cartwright’s assessment of what it takes to sail a boat as well as her use of a gun on that Texas ranch, lol.

Never believe the bad guys when they say they’ll let you go if you cooperate. The scary bit is how everyday Standford made the bad guys seem, doing everyday stuff like watching basketball, needing a babysitter, doing yoga. Technically "our side" are not bad guys, but they are idiots. Too typically, law enforcement (even within their own agency) do not share. Can you imagine how much more effective they could be if they did cooperate? As for Leigh’s comment, when you think about it, law enforcement and private detectives are researchers.

There’s a bit of instruction on how to wash bitcoin, and Sue and Bob have a brilliant business idea. Lol, I did enjoy Sandford’s recap of the fate of some of the characters. An unexpected treat that made me laugh. As for Baxter . . . he went from anti-gun to owning a Beretta 92 and an enhanced reputation at NSA. George Hewitt and the Steps do rather well. Letty meets Jackson Nyberg.

Dark Angel is action-packed and character-driven, by oh so many characters. Most of them are stereotypes, except for Letty and Barbara. Those two are unique, lol, and I’m enjoying them very much.

Yeah, what he said . . . “America needs more lerts”, lol.

The Story
Terrorist groups, homegrown and Russian, are hacking away at America, and Letty must go undercover with an informant to find the truth.

The Characters
The very bright, twenty-five-year-old Letty Davenport (she has a master’s in economics from Stanford) is an investigator for the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security. She’ll also be Charlotte “Charlie” Snow. Billy Greet, a DHS exec, is a friend and the Washington liaison between Letty and the senator. John Kaiser, former Delta, is an investigator with DHS (The Investigator, 1). A former Minnesota cop and now a US Marshal, Lucas and Weather Davenport (a reconstructive surgeon) are her adoptive parents.

Angela Chavez is not her name. Barbara Cartwright — shhh, she’s CIA — is an excellent shot. Ray is the cousin with all the baby warnings. Celeres Services is the name Cartwright will call her security company.

Rod Baxter, a.k.a. “Paul Jims”, is a brilliant computer programmer forced into going undercover with Letty.

The Washington Ladies Peace-Maker Society is . . .
. . . a secret group of women — a combination of military and law enforcement with a few sociopaths — who love their guns. Elaine Shelton (won a silver in the Olympics) speaks at a meeting. A couple of the members are Jane Longstreet (ATF), and Patty Bunker, who does contract security, specializing in surveillance and technology.

US Senator Christopher Colles (Rep-Florida) is Letty’s real boss. Taking after her dad . . . He’s also the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Claudia Welp is his brutally efficient executive assistant. Janet seems to work there. Jason Goff, a.k.a. Jerk Goff, is the ineffective lawyer at the Justice Department.

The National Security Agency . . .
. . . is withholding the truth — “America’s crime family”. I know, shocking.Mary Johnson” , a.k.a. Delores Nowak, is one of Letty’s contacts. Richard Taylor.

The FBI in Los Angeles
Samuels is the assistant director in charge.

Ordinary People is . . .
. . . a.k.a. DarkVirus, is an American hacker group based in California, which is divided into factions. Their loose association of members include Loren Barron; Brianna Wolfe is his girlfriend; Benjamin Able; the OCD Craig Sovern, a whacko who lives on the Green Slash, his boat; Annie Bell, a sound engineer who sings and plays keyboard, is Daniel’s girlfriend; Daniel Delph; Jan is a bass player; Carl; Melody and William Orleans; Michele Obermath; Emilija “Emmy” is a Lithuanian who speaks perfect Russian and is an expert at spear fishing and the social engineering of Russian males; and, Jack, who works best at night. Justin is a coder as is Jaren who brought his wife and young daughter, Catrin, who brought her rescue dog, Spot. Manny is one of two trust-fund hippies who own the hotel.

Dr Eugene Harp is a computer science professor at Caltech with a penchant for sex with students. Hannah Baldwin and Ashley Klein are students. Sue, a.k.a. Sharon Pecker, and Bob, a.k.a. Wesley Bunne, are hackers who got caught. Raoul will be their lawyer, and he works for Step.

The Russian connection revolves . . .
. . . around Arseny Denisevich Stephashin, a.k.a. Mr Step, who represents the GRU in LA. Victoria is his equally brutal wife. I think she’s the brains behind the outfit. Mammuthus is stealing Intel computer chips. Dale Weston, a.k.a. George Hewitt, is a security guard there. Alan Greens, Richard, and Yvegeny work for Step. Volkov is Step’s boss, an old school Soviet Union thug. Vanya, Ilya, and Dima work for Volkov. The Aquarium is GRU headquarters.

Tom Boyadjian hasn't any morals and owns Boyadjian Surveys, which does work with cops, lawyers, crooks, political consultants, fixers and favor dealers. Barry, Artyom, and the hapless Greg Kirill work for Boyadjian. Leigh Lawrence is invisible; her partner, Barry Martin, is almost as invisible as her. They’re private detectives, licensed, who like to do research. They work for Boyadjian and are good at forgetting. Catherine Shofly, a former Dallas cop, is a Realtor from Texas.

Bogard and Holsum are freelance rednecks. Dupree is an officer worker in a government building. JuFen Industries is a Chinese company working on a new port in Chancay, Peru. DarkVenture is a Russian hacker group. Benillos is a pharmaceutical supply house. Jael had been a terrorist leader in The Investigator. Diego Garcia is a listening post in the Indian Ocean. SlapBack is yet another social media platform into stirring up hate. Poggers is a bar in Venice Beach. The Morning Glory is a bar-restaurant where Millie is a hostess. Carl the Dealer likes those Intel chips. Jeff Toski is a tattoo artist in Washington D.C. Jackson Nyberg is an archeologist who specializes in ancient Native American sites. Pastek Cybernetics, which makes machine control software, is owned by the vengeful Vernon Pastek and located in Sunnyvale, California.

The Cover and Title
The cover has a deep red gradated background with a spread wing of black feathers on the left side — Letty’s new tattoo. The text is on a slant starting with the author’s name in a light turquoise with an info blurb in white to the right of the first name. Beneath that is the series info in white, set off with a horizontal rule above and below it. Beneath that is the title, also in a light turquoise.

The title refers to Letty and that tattoo, for she is the Dark Angel.

rembrandt1881's review against another edition

Go to review page


Up until almost the end I thought this could be a solid 4 but as it wrapped up, and especially the unnecessary epilogue, it went down for me.

John Sandford can create some decent characters with some interesting style about them. A story can move from point to point without too much issue and the plots are nevertoo complicated from the few I have experienced. That's both the good thing and the flaw.

I am a huge Reacher fan and these books might be the closest except for there really isn't too much mystery to solve. The story moves from point to point and Letty and her associates are probably a bit too competent the entire time. Things just work out the right way constantly. She is able to charm her way through, shoot her way through and even when some minor roadblock pops up, use her connections so that everything works out.

I'm not the person who enjoys the modern world coming into these novels either but I guess some things make sense... I'd rather it be more background and this one gets current events embedded into the plot.

The final issue was the epilogue. It's not really but it happens after all of the main action and it just seems to serve as a gun ad. It is literally 5 little scenes or vignettes that serve to remind you that Letty likes guns and maybe to remind us that guns have a place. It's a tad excessive even though I expect guns to be in this kind of book. Gun ownership actually plays a part in the early set up as well and there are some other little things that make sense in the story, but taken with the ending are a little bit on the nose. I get it, I'm fine with her loving guns, but you don't need the last few paragraphs that are in the book.

Overall it's fine fodder. You don't ever have to really think about what's going on it just happens and that's fine when you just need something.

carrielucas's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No
Finished out of spite. Feels like John Sandford has never met a woman. Aggressively American. Do not recommend. 

lynguy1's review against another edition

Go to review page


John Sanford brings investigation, suspense, and plenty of action to the second book in the Letty Davenport series. Letty has had an unconventional, tragic, and violent childhood. Her adoption by Lucas Davenport, the protagonist in the author’s Prey series, has led to a much happier life. She’s now twenty-five, a graduate of Stanford, and an investigator for inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security. However, her real boss is Senator Christopher Colles.

The events in book one of the series has brought her to the attention of several branches of the U.S. government. A joint operation between the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency seems perfect. Along with a reluctant government computer programmer, Rod Baxter, Letty is asked to infiltrate a hacker group. While they work to uncover the plans of the hacker group, Letty and Rod believe they’ve been lied to about the mission.

Letty is smart and determined, with a somewhat warped sense of humor and a tendency to be rash at times. She also takes after Lucas in several ways including her proficiency and knowledge of guns and her love of fashion. Rod is somewhat stereotyped in the beginning of the novel. He’s characterized as cowardly, intelligent, and slovenly. However, he is the character who experiences the most dramatic changes in attitude and outlook as the story unfolds.

The story is part undercover investigation and part action thriller. The opening chapter is memorable, but it isn’t part of the main storyline. However, it does give some insight into the types of missions Letty has been given lately, and it gives some insight into her personal life. This personal insight is needed to make Letty more relatable. Additionally, it is a way to introduce some new characters into the series.

Sandford’s writing is always great. It is fluid and flows well, and his world-building is fantastic. There is a strong sense of place causing me to feel transported to California. He’s a superb storyteller who kept me on the edge of my seat as the undercover operation and action unfolded. The final action scenes are riveting and hauntingly memorable. It is very relevant and has a terrifying realism to it. I also liked the fact that Letty was learning from others during the course of the novel, which made her more realistic and slightly less of a larger-than-life over-the-top protagonist. Themes include violence, murder, espionage, hacking, theft, and much more. The novel also highlights the complexity of international and national politics and government activities.

Overall, this was suspenseful and action packed with compelling characters that kept me turning the pages. With exciting scenes and a fascinating story, it captivated me. I’m looking forward to reading more about Letty and her future assignments.

PENGUIN GROUP Putnam, G.P. Putnam's Sons and John Sandford provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. The publication date is currently set for April 11, 2023. This review was originally posted at Mystery and Suspense Magazine.
My 4.12 rounded to 4 stars review is coming soon.

tashasmama's review against another edition

Go to review page

I found it slow and a little lackluster. 

jgibowski's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous mysterious tense medium-paced


jencook29's review against another edition

Go to review page



stinkysteps's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous challenging mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


scott_a_miller's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous dark funny hopeful informative inspiring mysterious tense fast-paced


5 Stars. Sanford is just plain great. Never fails. Lucas is Lucas but Letty is definitely becoming a force of her own. This was a true thriller. The story was compelling. Feeling as though it could have been completely real. This crew is developing into one that can give Virgil and Lucas’ group all they can handle. I only wish Sanford started writing Letty stand alone’s sooner. I think the next Lucas book is actually a Lucas and Letty book. Inject it into my veins.