Monday 14 May 2012

P.J. Tracy Want To Play? Review

An elderly pair of religious bigots shot and mutilated in a church in rural Wisconsin. Two murders in Minneapolis. A motley crew of software developers feels an icy wind and wonders how to tell the police that they wrote the blueprint for the Minneapolis killings. Especially as it seems they've been running from the police for a decade.

In the meantime, the body count rises...

Monkeewrench is a company branching out into games: specifically the hunt for a serial killer. A few hundred copies of their new game have been downloaded and it looks like one of their customers is following the killing patterns. Or is it Monkeewrench themselves? A very odd crew, investigation into their past comes to an abrupt halt ten years previously. Not only that, but a sneaky attempt to trace the fingerprints of their most jumpy (and well-armed) member brings the FBI out in a flash. Just what did they do ten years ago?

The game gives the location of some of the murders: unfortunately those locations are almost impossible to police, certainly against a committed and very able murderer. A paddle steamer, a shopping mall, the next victim no location, just a profession - art teacher. Double shifts by every police officer in the city can't cover and the investigators are left with seeking help from the IT experts - Monkeewrench.

The hunt for the Wisconsin killer is proceeding and a sad and grim history is uncovered. A medically-treatable condition condemned as an abomination by the fanatical parents, a tale of neglect and abandonment. At this point the Wisconsin and Minneapolis paths intersect; the sheriff and two of his staff head for the city to complete the tracking of the now-grown abandoned child. This puts the elements in place for an admirably plotted and protracted denouement with a fine sting in the tail. No more lest I spoil it, but you will enjoy it.

High marks then for a first novel: ambitious but the writing matches the ambition. If you like your crime fiction tense and bloody, this is one for you. Characters are well done - recognisable police types without too much stereotyping, IT experts odd but sympathetic. Highly recommended.


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