Monkeewrench (Monkeewrench #1), by P.J. Tracy

Eight starsAfter a long waiting period, I was nudged in the direction of this series, promised that it would be full of both excitement and strong writing. I was not disappointed and think I may have found a binge-worthy series to begin the summer months. The murder of an older couple as they pray in church has Wisconsin authorities baffled, with few leads and a police force scratching their heads. Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth have a new case that has the entire Homicide Squad baffled as well. When a young woman turns up murdered in a local cemetery, Magozzi and Rolseth can only wonder if a sick killer is on the loose. Enter five computer game creators, part of Monkeewrench, a gaming company. They reveal that two recent Minneapolis murders are identical to ones in a game they are about to send onto the market, right down to the smallest detail. The detectives learn that while the game has twenty odd murder scenes, those who have purchased the beta version have not been able to make it past the seventh killing. All eyes turn to the Monkeewrench folk as potential suspects, forcing Magozzi and Rolseth to split their time between investigating them and trying to prevent the next murder. After another victim is found, perfectly matching the game’s layout, it becomes apparent that someone is playing a sadistic game and it must be stopped. Armed with their gut and intuition, Magozzi and Rolseth dig deeper into these five Monkeewrench folks, while also trying to parse through the list of those who have access to the game, in hopes of turning up a strong lead. Back in Wisconsin, the investigation into the two slain parishioners takes an interesting twist and points to a church and boarding school in upstate New York. When Magozzi places a call to the same Mother Superior, begging for information about computer use, the two cases seemed tied together, though without any apparent similarities. Could the cases converge at this point, with a killer’s spree crossing state lines? P.J. Tracy proves a masterful writer in this debut thriller, sure to keep me guessing throughout series. I have a goal and the high quality of this series will help me reach it. Highly recommended to those who love a great police procedural/thriller outside the ‘big city’ feel of most American-based novels in the genre.While I had heard of P.J. Tracy and the Monkeewrench series before, I never had the inclination to start reading them. However, a curious publisher seeking my input on the yet to be released ninth novel and a few Goodreads friends who have been pushing through the novels in the middle of the series left me very curious. I am happy that I took the time to start, as I am hooked and need more very soon. Magozzi and Rolseth are wonderful protagonists in this opening novel, working well in a professional capacity while remaining intuitive. Their banter keeps the story moving well and the backstories offered give the reader a better connection to these men, sure to be the centre of future investigations. Other characters prove interesting, particularly those related to Monkeewrench, with their tragic pasts that have come to the surface once again. The Wisconsin storyline proved very interesting and while I was sure it would play into the central story early on, its reemergence allowed for more in-depth exploration of the facts pertaining to that case. The story moves well, constructed around some strong criminal matters and detailed exploration of medical phenomena. The narrative propelled the story forward and the well-crafted characters left the reader fully involved from the opening pages. Tracy, the amalgamation of a mother-daughter writing team, is surely a force to be reckoned with in the genre and I am eager to delve deeper to see what other mysteries come up in the numerous other cases.Kudos, P.J. Tracy, for a debut worthy of the literary awards you’ve won. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next novel and binge the summer away!A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: