The first title in John Sandford's signature series only hints at the growth ahead - not only in the author but in Minneapolis cop Lucas Davenport. If you start in the middle (Secret Prey for me) and then bounce back to the beginning, you find a grimmer protagonist and an arguably "wordier" writing style. But no matter if Sandford's style hews towards Thomas Harris (early-Sandford) or Elmore Leonard (later-Sandford) your need for the best crime entertainment available gets met.
Lieutenant Lucas Davenport is determined to track down a diabolically clever serial killer who leads a double life, carefully picks out his female victims, and taunts the police with notes signed "Maddog." Reprint.