|P.J. Tracy: Monkeewrench|
Signet (Paperback), ISBN 0-451-21157-X
I heard good things about Monkeewrench through DorothyL, the mystery discussion and ideas list. Thus when a review copy of the paperback landed on my desk, I looked forward to testing the buzz for myself. To my delight, the list proved to be right on the money. I quickly found myself embracing the novel's not-too-light, not-too-heavy, just-right voice.
I love the beginning, funny and tongue-in-cheek, like a light vegetable appetizer before the introduction of a heavy, carb-laden meal. "The brandy had been absolutely essential. It always was on Sunday nights, when Sister Ignatius took it upon herself to cook and serve Father Newberry a 'proper meal.' In this part of Wisconsin, that usually translated to hamburger cooked in canned cream soup."
The dear Father, after spending the night on the couch in a stupor from multi-souped meatloaf and a goodly (not godly) dose of brandy, awoke to see his least favorite parishioner's car in the parking lot. Upon entering the sanctuary, he saw Mary and John Kleinfeldt kneeling in a middle pew. Father Newberry assumed they prayed for the eradication of suspected homosexuals in the congregation and said his own prayer, which veered in a totally different direction as he neared the couple. He found the husband and wife silent with "small, tidy bullet holes in the backs of their skulls."
Then the scene shifts, and we learn about a string of murders that copy a serial killer computer game called Monkeewrench. The makers of the game share a past and a few secrets. They also qualify as a rather motley assortment of humanity.
Readers know that somehow these murders must come together -- the couple praying in Wisconsin and the Monkeewrench copycat murders -- the how and why and wherefore take readers on a beautifully plotted mystery odyssey.
I haven't enjoyed a murder mystery puzzle or host of characters quite as much since the first Patricia Cornwell novel Homicide. Monkeywrench rejuvenates the mystery genre in much the same manner as Cornwell's medical examiner, with her innovative and macabre perspective.
But, what's with "P.J." and pseudonymous female duos? First P.J. Parrish, now P.J. Tracy? In this case, the name "P.J. Tracy" represents the mother-daughter writing team Patricia and Traci Lambrecht.
Pseudonyms aside, I can't wait to see the next novel produced by these imaginative and talented writers.
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