Dead Run by P. J. Tracy

2005. 324 pages. Hardcover. G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

From: the public library

For the challenge: Thriller & Suspense

In a nutshell:

This is the third book in the Monkeewrench series, authored by a mother-daughter writing team that goes under the name P. J. Tracy.  The series is set in the Twin Cities mostly, with forays into Wisconsin.  The Monkeewrench gang consists of a team of odd tech wizards, led by the tough, wary Grace MacBride.  In the first book, the gang got tangled up with a police investigation of a serial murderer.  This brought in Minneapolis detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth, Wisconsin sheriff Mike Halloran, his deputies Bonar Carlson, and Sharon Mueller.  While the Wisconsin crew was absent for the events of the second book Live Bait (and they were missed!) they return in this third thriller.

In Dead Run, the Monkeewrench team has been traveling the country, donating the use of a profiling software to police departments.  Sharon Mueller, now working with the FBI, has called in a favor with the team to help out with a case in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  While Sharon, Grace, and Annie (one of the Monkeewrench people) are traveling in Wisconsin, they get stranded in a remote part of the state.  They walk into the village of Four Corners, but all the residents are eerily missing.  Something has gone very wrong, and the three women soon find themselves in survival mode.  Meanwhile, their colleagues and friends, a couple of whom have romantic attachments to the women, are desperately trying to find them.


Dead Run is definitely an intense thriller from the beginning, when the reader is given an unsettling snapshot of Four Corners’ quick transformation into a ghost town.  The creepy atmosphere and danger faced by Grace, Annie and Sharon pulled me right in.

There’s an interesting dynamic to the book as all the main female characters are together and all the main male characters band together to search for them.  The authors are definitely aware of this dynamic and emphasize that this is not a damsels-in-distress story.  The women are not perfect, but they are highly resourceful and pool together their strengths and intelligence to try and stay alive and figure out what’s going on. When the guys do arrive, it’s not so much a rescue as a reuniting of a team for the purpose of defeating an impending disaster.

I really enjoy the tone and style of P. J. Tracy.  They manage to have a wicked sense of humor even while being quite capable of ratcheting up the suspense.  (For a sample of their humor, Exhibit A is the first page of Live Bait.)

I find the characters immensely likable.  I was especially happy to see Mike Halloran and Sharon Mueller back as they were my favorites from the first book.  Still, I can’t say that character development is the series’ strong suit.  I didn’t walk away from Dead Run feeling like I knew the characters much better.  I did appreciate seeing the enigmatic Grace through the eyes of Sharon and Annie as that did give some nuance to her.

There was a Goodreads reviewer who gave the book one star because she was annoyed by how all the female characters had some traumatic backstory and also how the bad guys constantly underestimate the women because they are women.  I bring up this review because I noticed these two things as well.  I did find the women’s flashbacks jarring and they took me out of the story.  I also thought the authors included a few too many instances where men (both good and bad) make snide, snap judgments about the women’s abilities and motivations.  In some instances it worked quite well, but in others it seemed less natural and more like the authors were trying too hard to make a point.  However, unlike the other reviewer, for me these were minor distractions from what was overall a worthy, exciting thriller.  I am definitely looking forward to reading the next book in the series.


Filed under Mysteries & Thrillers

4 responses to “Dead Run by P. J. Tracy

  1. Grace MacBride? That’s another “Waking Up in Vegas” name for me and my friends… 🙂

    I find that any sort of open-ended series- usually thrillers and murder mysteries- don’t go too far beyond the character development of the first novel. I would quite honestly prefer it, but they’re usually meant to be read in any order.

    • Lit Omnivore – it’s true that mystery series aren’t known for their character development and the publishers probably want the books to be able to be stand-alone. I wouldn’t recommend reading this series out of order though. There are too many references to past events. I did enjoy Dead Run quite a bit, but was trying to figure out how to say that I liked the characters but they’re not highly developed for all that.

  2. Jason

    Well, I just finished this third book, and apparently the fifth book has just come out, so I’ll have two more to look forward to! I’ve enjoyed how P.J. Tracy has (have) created three unique mystery plots already, and thought this book was excellent. Like you, I’ve noticed the character development hasn’t changed too much, but I think the action/thriller genre is more plot-driven than character-driven anyways. I’m glad I’ve been to Minnesota and Wisconsin, since it’s a lot of fun to recognize locations referenced in the books. Thanks for putting me onto this series!

    • I didn’t realize a fifth book had just come out. I knew of the fourth. And I’m happy with the books as long as the mystery plots stay as good as they have been. And I really do like that they’re set in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

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