Live Bait (Monkeewrench #2), by P.J. Tracy

Eight starsReturning to the second novel in the Monkeewrench series, I am eager to see what P.J. Tracy has in store for readers after an explosive debut. With the Monkeewrench killings complete, Minneapolis Homicide Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are in a lull. There have been no murders over the past months, leaving them happy to be able to relax and enjoy the weather. However, when a call comes in that an elderly man has been found outside his greenhouse, shot in the head, Magozzi and Rolseth make their way to the scene. Unnerved because the man’s wife has moved and cleaned the body, the detectives are sure they’ll have to try even harder to piece things together. However, Morey Gilbert seems to have been a model citizen; loved by many and respected by all. Who would want to kill such a wonderful man? At the same time, another elderly man is found tied to the train tracks with barbed wire, shot as well. Things have surely grown intense for Magozzi and Rolseth in short order, forcing them to sharpen their skills once again. When other elderly citizens turn up with similar gunshot wounds, the detectives are both baffled and worried about a spree killer. It would seem that Gilbert knew the other victims, tied together by the community of residence and a similar history. When Gilbert’s estranged son—an ambulance chasing, alcoholic lawyer—and son-in-law—a former Minneapolis cop—turn up, things get a little more interesting, though nothing could stop the news that some of the forensics has peeked the interest of INTERPOL. Magozzi cannot determine how to track down the killer or what motive might include this set of victims. Grace McBride, one of the founders of Monkeewrench Gaming has been working on a new forensic program that can synthesize minute facts in the blink of an eye. While she and Magozzi play their cat and mouse game of love, the system may have a lead that no one thought to explore beforehand, pulling McBride into the middle of the case as well. There’s still a killer on the loose and international police forces knocking on the door of Minneapolis Homicide, forcing Magozzi and Rolseth to double down. P.J. Tracy has crafted another stellar novel here and shows that the debut was no fluke. Recommended for those who loved the first novel and readers who enjoy a ‘smaller town’ police procedural.New to P.J. Tracy’s work, I devoured Monkeewrench and am happy that I have made this series my summer binge. I am hooked by the story and characters, hoping they will continue to evolve. Magozzi and Rolseth return as superior protagonists, working well in a professional capacity while remaining intuitive throughout this baffling case. Their banter is great, sometimes buried in story dialogue, forcing the reader to follow closely so as not to miss anything. This keeps the story moving well and helps flesh out the backstories for all characters, particularly these two detectives. Other characters help develop a stronger narrative and add depth in a fast-paced story. The story moves well, constructed around both criminal and historical matters that should hook the reader from the early stages. The narrative propelled the story forward and the well-crafted characters keep the reader committed from the early chapters. P.J. Tracy, the amalgamation of a mother-daughter writing team, is a great addition to the genre and I am eager to keep racing through these books to see what other mysteries come up in the numerous cases that followKudos, P.J. Tracy, for a second novel worthy of more literary awards. I am happy I have secured the entire series to date and can binge the summer—or at least a few weeks—away!A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: