Monkeewrench – 2003, 384 pages, hardcover
Live Bait – 2005, 340 pages, hardcover
by P. J. Tracy
It was the summer of thrillers for me and it all started with the strangely named Monkeewrench. I loved first of all that the book took place in Wisconsin and Minnesota. It’s an offbeat setting for a serial killer mystery and the authors clearly have inside knowledge of what it’s like to live there. Oh yes – that was authors, plural. This series of thrillers is penned by a mother-daughter team that have spliced their names together to make P. J. Tracy. Not sure how that works – writing a book together – but it seems to be a winning formula. These two books deliver on likable characters, great dialogues, good humor, intriguing mysteries, page-turning suspense, and all sorts of other blurb-worthy cliches.
The first book follows two investigations: a shocking double homicide in a small Wisconsin town, and a series of murders in the Twin Cities that has the police baffled. Of course there is a connection and that connection may stem from a small software company called Monkeewrench. This team of friends and business partners have made a videogame about a serial killer investigation, of which a demo version has been released online. The Twin Cities murders copy each of the cases in order.
In Live Bait, many of the characters return for another serial killer mystery. This time the victims are all elderly and Jewish. Is it a hate crime or is some other motivation at work?
As may be apparent, I was quite engrossed in both novels. With both, I stayed up well into the night reading, reluctant to set them down.