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Thursday, 28 August 2014

FFB - Want to Play?

P J Tracy is a mother and daughter writing team, Patricia and Traci Lambrecht, the authors of this debut novel (2003). To avoid awkward sentences I’ll refer to them as one author. The title of this book in the US is Monkeewrench. 

Tracy has a marvellous grasp of crackling dialogue, some great characters and some very moving scenes. Set in Minneapolis, it introduces us to Grace MacBride, a beautiful yet strangely damaged games-creator and local detectives Magozzi and Rolseth. 

Grace discovers that two recent murders are exact copies of those in a game she’s designing – the prototype is already out there on the web.  And as the game has twenty differing levels, that’s a total of twenty murders.  The trouble is, she and her computer-whiz team are also in the frame for the murders.  Her company was called Monkeewrench – which was the book’s title in the US.

Somebody from their past seems to be putting a spanner in their company’s works – but it’s something Grace and the team won’t talk about.  Whatever it was, now Grace never goes anywhere without carrying a weapon, preferably two.

But the stars of the books are undoubtedly Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth.  The detectives’ banter and slant on life make for some great laughs and also some sombre moments. The cops are dedicated and cool and sound real; whether that’s Chief Malcherson (who wears a suit to reflect the mood) or several essential patrolmen, they all have a distinctive voice and attitude to life.  Grace’s team have aliases – Roadrunner, Harley Davidson and so on - and according to traceable records they didn’t exist prior to ten years ago.

Somehow the Monkeewrench game copycat murders seem linked to the death of an old couple in the church of a little Wisconsin town.  It needs patient detective work and Grace’s computer wizardry to get to the bottom of the case – before the deaths mount up into double figures.  The ending is fast-paced and poignant.

Due to her traumatic past, Grace hasn’t allowed anyone close to her for over ten years.  So Magozzi’s relationship with her is tentative at best, but he can’t resist her.  He too is one of the walking wounded, a divorced cop.

Powerful writing when it comes to death and loss and regrets. 
There will be confusion about this book’s title and some other P.J. Tracy books.
The titles are:

Live Bait (2004)
Dead Run (2005)
Snow Blind (2006)
Shoot to Thrill (UK title, Play to Kill) (2010)
Off the Grid (UK title, Two Evils) (2012)

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