Dead Run (Monkeewrench #3), by P.J. Tracy

Eight stars

Continuing with the work of P.J. Tracy, I ventured into the third novel of the Monkeewrench series, which spins things a little and provides the reader with a new approach. Sheriff Michael Halloran is keeping an eye on his rural Wisconsin county when three bodies are pulled from the water, degraded enough that they cannot be easily identified. Might there be another killer on the loose or could someone be using this as a dumping ground? Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, FBI profiler—and former sheriff’s deputy to Halloran—Sharon Mueller has been called to Green Bay to assist with the hunt for a potential serial killer. She reaches out to Monkeewrench co-founders, Grace MacBride and Annie Belinsky, to come along for the ride, where they might be able to use some of their new top-notch software to assist with the case. During the drive to Green Bay, they run into vehicle trouble, conveniently out of cellphone range. Walking the short distance to the closest town, MacBride and the others come upon Four Corners, apparently devoid of people and with its telephones wires severed. As they press onwards, all three women witness of double murder at the hands of an apparent militia, which only further concerns them. What’s going on in Four Corners and who are these camouflaged men? When Grace fails to check in on time, Minneapolis Homicide Detection Leo Magozzi gets worried, which is only expounded when the male half of Monkeewrench pile on their own concern. A call from Halloran sends a male contingent to Wisconsin, both to investigate the three aforementioned bodies and to search for the others, who have fallen off the radar without a trace. Facing additional danger, Four Corners could be the last place Grace and her group ever see, unless they can neutralise whatever’s turned this community into a barren wasteland. P.J. Tracy continues to impress with this series, turning the focus to the female characters of the series. Those who have enjoyed the first two books will surely find something here to keep their attention. New fans can still get hooked, though it is recommended they start with the opening novel, if only to preserve character development.

I’m bingeing P.J. Tracy’s work, which began with the chilling Monkeewrench. The plots have been engrossing and I cannot say enough about these characters, many of whom continue to evolve. Magozzi and Rolseth take a backseat in this one, allowing the reader to learn much more about Grace MacBride and her ‘sisters in crime’. MacBride has evolved from the head of Monkeewrench and an almost-victim into a well-rounded crime fighter whose instincts keep her one step ahead of those seeking to silence her for good. The reader is able to learn a little more about her and the sentiments she has for Leo Magozzi, though much of the time it is her emotional stability in the face of danger that makes waves. Annie Belinsky does receive some character development as well, though she parallels Gino Rolseth in this piece as she provides much needed banter to keep the story from getting too serious. While there are a handful of key secondary characters, all of whom fit nicely into the story, it is the ‘protagonist rotation’ that kept me most intrigued. Tracy is able to seamlessly move away from the Magozzi-Rolseth focus and push it onto the others, which offers new angles and glimpses at those the reader knows well from the past two novels. Injecting some old faces from the series debut is sure to give the reader the sentiment that there will often be a Minneapolis-Wisconsin connection and offers up some great geographic options to place the subsequent novels. The narrative kept the story feeling fresh and evolving without getting too far-fetched. Moving away from the traditional police procedural, P.J. Tracy entertains the reader with strong storylines, perfect for a vacation or summer binge. I am eager to keep racing through these books to see what other mysteries come up in the numerous cases that follow.

Kudos, P.J. Tracy, for another wonderful piece. I am so happy to have found this series and hope the rest of the series is as entertaining!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: