Monkeewrench (aka Want To Play?), by PJ Tracy

>> Saturday, February 04, 2012

TITLE: Monkeewrench (aka Want To Play?)

PAGES: 432

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Mystery
SERIES: First in the Monkeewrench series

People are dying for the new computer game by the software company Monkeewrench. Literally. With Serial Killer Detective out in limited release, the real-life murders of a jogger and a young woman have already mimicked the first two scenarios in the game.

But Grace McBride and her eccentric Monkeewrench partners are caught in a vise. If they tell the Minneapolis police of the link between their game and the murders, they'll shine a spotlight on the past they thought they had erased-and the horror they thought they'd left behind. If they don't, eighteen more people will die...
I'd no idea what to expect of Monkeewrench. I knew the plot outlined in the back cover sounded interesting, and I'd heard great things about the mother-daughter team behind the PJ Tracy name, but that was it. Was it suspense? Was it romantic suspense? Should I expect all the characters I liked to be alive at the end? I had no idea.

The story starts out in rural Wisconsin, as an old couple is found dead in church, killed in a gruesomely ritualistic manner. Around the same time, a couple of bodies are found in Minneapolis, each killed exactly as detailed in a newly released videogame.

With the prospect of the killer continuing on and reenacting all 20 murder cases included in the game, the cops' attention is focused on the partners who own Monkeewrench, the company that developed it. It's quite clear there's something mysterious in their past, especially in Grace MacBride's. Why ever else would a woman live like a recluse, in a house as secure as bank vault?

The mystery develops little by little, with the authors doling out information very, very carefully and keeping the tension high. It's really intriguing, especially guessing how all the different threads might be connected, and the detective work is top notch. It was a pleasure to see these people work. I never felt like I was ahead of them, and yet, I never felt a deduction came out of nowhere. And when the final reveal happened, everything clicked together in the most satisfactorily manner. That's exactly what I want out of a mystery, and PJ Tracy delivered with style.

It wasn't just a fun, clever puzzle. I also really enjoyed the characters and cared about what happened to them. Grace and her partners at Monkeewrench are really fascinating, and I developed quite a few outlandish theories about what had happened in their past. The reality was better than anything I imagined. And I also really liked the cops. Det. Magozzi is our main character here, but he's supported by a fantastic and very real cast of characters, all of which play their role. And I had a bit of a soft spot for the detectives investigating the case in Wisconsin, and loved how it all came together.

There's even a little bit of romance, which was a nice touch. For once, I didn't want this part of the story to be more prominent; what I got was just enough for me.

I'm definitely going to be reading more in this series.



Darlynne,  4 February 2012 at 23:44  

I've really enjoyed this series from its beginning and was intrigued, as you were, by the characters. They fit no typical mold and generally behave in unexpected ways. I'd also like to think that the software they've developed could actually exist and be used to identify killers. That's been a satisfying and surprising aspect to these books also. Thanks for the review.

rosario001,  5 February 2012 at 08:27  

Darlynne: I'm very intrigued about the software now, I think that happens in book 2? I'm going to have to read the next one soon, then!  :)

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