Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: MONKEEWRENCH by P.J. Tracy

Forgotten Book Friday is upon us once again. Don't forget to check in at Patti Abbot's blog, PATTINASE to see what other forgotten books other bloggers are talking about today.

MONKEEWRENCH (2003) was the splashy debut novel of the mother/daughter writing team, P.J. Lambrecht and Traci Lambrecht, writing as P.J. Tracy.

It is still one of the best thrillers you may not have read. (Not to mention, one of the great dust jacket designs as well.) Any time I ask around about the Monkeewrench series, I get blank looks. Strange really, because great things were expected after this debut which everyone was buzzing about once upon a time.

The possibility is that none of the books in the rest of the series matches up to the wonderfulness of the MONKEEWRENCH debut, but that's not saying the books aren't each intriguing in their own right. Having read them all,  I'd say this is a remarkably good series of thrillers. Begin at the beginning and see what you think.

(The latest book, SHOOT TO THRILL (2009) shows that P.J. Tracy haven't lost their way. I wish, though, that they'd write just a little more quickly.)

Monkeewrench is a Minneapolis software company created and run by a bunch of brilliant, quirkier-than-most computer geeks, headed by the beautiful and oddly vulnerable Grace McBride.

McBride is a believer in basic black, in clothing, footwear and automobile - she drives a Range Rover and wears knee high black leather boots as her daily fashion statement.

Haunted by horrific events in her past, McBride lives alone, with dog, in a house equipped with the very latest electronic security wizardry. She packs a gun even while sipping coffee in her little fenced in yard. To say that she is not a trusting soul would not be an exaggeration.

In fact, each of the Monkeewrench crew has their own peculiar particulars, some hilarious, some less so. It's a great group of eccentrics who, oh by the way, are also millionaires from the fruits of their computer game labors.

When a particularly dreadful murder occurs, then another and another, it becomes clear that someone is using the latest Monkeewrench game as a model. The problem is that the game is not yet on the market. Nevertheless, the killing spree continues. The game is one in which the killer is always caught and punished, but the reality may turn out quite differently.

The case is assigned to two Minneapolis police detectives, Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolsteth, a wise-cracking duo of experienced murder hands. Much of the humor in this debut thriller comes from the hard-nosed chatter of these two likable cops as they ago about the business of trying to catch a bizarre killer whose motives remain unknown.

The police investigation eventually leads to a computer game outfit run by misfits. Magozzi and Rolsteth are at first bemused then suspicious of the Monkeewrench crew whose new game appears to be the killer's modus operandi. Magozzi is especially enthralled by the enigmatic Grace McBride.

The Monkeewrench crew and the cops must race against time to catch a killer who may be hiding in plain sight.

MONKEEWRENCH is an often funny, occasionally heartbreaking, always intriguing look at an area of the map we may not be familiar with - Minneapolis, Minnesota -  peopled with an unforgettable cast of characters whose quirks will make perfect sense once you get caught up in their world.

To see a list and brief synopsis of each Monkeewrench book, please use this link.


  1. Loved the book, love the series. Can't wait for the next one.

    And their website contains some good interviews and background on the two authors.

  2. Thanks for that tip, Kathy. I've always admired the duo.

    There's only one other mother/offspring writing team I've ever heard of - that I can remember anyway - and that's Charles Todd, writing the Inspector Rutledge mysteries.

    Do you know any more?

  3. Wasn't there another mystery with the same title? Or perhaps, now that I look at the spelling, it was MONKEYWRENCH, or MONKEY WRENCH.

  4. Richard: Possibly. I've never heard of it, but as we all know, there's very little new under the sun. :)

  5. Ricahrd maybe thinking of THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG by Edward Abbey. But it's not a mystery, it's a satire about some eco-terrorists trying to stop the damage to the envrionment of the Southwest by sabotaging construction sites and building projects. A cult novel classic.

    I have this buried in a box soemwhere. Picked it up at a book sale years ago, but the video game aspect of it has kept me away from it. I'm not a fan of techno-thrillers. Is it techno geeky? Lots of lectures on swoftware and what not?

  6. No. I don't know of more mother/offspring-writing teams.

    However, P.J. Parrish and Perri O'Shaughnessy are writing teams of two sisters.

    Nicci French is the writing name of two spouses who write thrillers together. (There are more of these teams out there.)

    Kudos to teams of relatives writing together.

  7. That yahoo mail was by me, Kathy.

    My email suddenly changed itself and everything it does, so I don't know how this happened. There are poltergeists in this system, I know.

  8. No, not at all, John. I'm the last person in the world to want to read some computer game rabid tale, believe me. Of course there's talk of computers and games, the Monkeewrench gang is central to the story, but nothing overdrawn or over-labored. Trust me.

    This is a great thriller. You shouldn't miss it. You will thank me for recommending it. I promise.

    This is one case in which the book lives up to its initial hype.

  9. Kathy: I kind of guessed it was you. :)

  10. This sounds like an intriguing book, Yvette. I never heard of a mother and daughter writing team either. That fact, in itself, is very interesting!

  11. Pat: It's terrific. The writing, by the way, is seamless.

  12. And the P.J. Tracy team has a sense of humor, too.

  13. Oh for sure, Kathy. Some of the dialogue is hilarious.

  14. Hi - I love this series and have the same complaint you do - they do not write fast enough.

  15. Dee: Yes, definitely. But I guess it's not easy working this way. I believe the mom lives in Minnesota and the daughter lives in California. Still, with computers and all, you'd think it wouldn't be all THAT hard. But I'm guessing.

    Writers have to work at their own pace or else we get inferior work.


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