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Monkeewrench    by P. J. Tracy order for
by P. J. Tracy
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio

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* * *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

A murderer has paralyzed Minneapolis. After two killings in as many days, the police are baffled by the lack of clues and puzzled by what evidence they find. The five owners of the software company Monkeewrench see frightening similarities between the serial killer computer game they are developing, and the murders. The game, available on the Internet, has had over five hundred players. Apparently, someone is copying the killings from the game, down to the smallest detail.

Grace MacBride, one of the owners of Monkeewrench, is on the run from her past, and has gone to great lengths to obliterate any record of it. She is heavily armed and her house is a fortress. The Minneapolis police, particularly Detective Leo Magozzi, wonder about the history of all five of the software developers. Magozzi is curious about why they are so anxious to help solve the murders and prevent more, yet refuse to answer any questions about their lives ten years earlier.

In rural Wisconsin, an elderly couple is shot while praying at church early in the morning. Sheriff Michael Halloran quickly fixes on a suspect, but the person's location cannot be traced. Are the two sets of corpses connected? Will the Minneapolis police find the Monkeewrench killer before the seventeen murders portrayed in the computer game are acted out?

In this spectacular debut novel, mother-daughter writing team P. J. Tracy has penned a winner. Monkeewrench is page-turning delight with superb character development, all wrapped together tightly with humor in just the right places to defuse tension when needed. I literally stayed up half the night reading this book. I could not put it down. The timing and pace are perfect, with just enough information given to keep the reader wondering exactly what will happen next.

Each character is well developed, and the authors avoid the extraneous characters, which often clutter plotlines. This allows the reader to carefully consider each person as the potential murderer, and not be disappointed in the end. I cannot recommend Monkeewrench highly enough, as a well-plotted thriller sure to please. I can't wait for their next book!

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