P.J. Tracy is the pseudonym of Patricia J. Lambrecht and Traci Lambrecht, mother and daughter authors of the Grace MacBride series. Grace MacBride is the founder of Monkeewrench, a company in Minneapolis that creates software for games.
MONKEEWRENCH, the first book in the series, introduces Grace and her fellow creators of computer puzzles that stretch the mind and the patience of those who take on the games of this sophisticated company.
“John and Mary Kleinfeldt were kneeling in a middle pew, heads resting on folded hands, utterly still in a devotion the Father had always thought almost obsessive. It was not unusual for the aging couple to visit the church during off-hours-sometimes he thought they preferred solitude to the company of fellow parishioners they believed corrupt with sin. But to the best of his knowledge, they had never come so early.
It did not bode well for a rapid return to the cozy rectory, and Father Newberry was loath to ask what trouble had brought them here this time, since he already knew the answer.
He sighed and moved slowly down the aisle, reluctantly propelled by a sense of duty and a good heart. “Good morning, John. Good morning, Mary,” he would say. “What troubles you today?” And then they would tell him they had discovered yet another homosexual in his congregation-a man whose lashes were too long or a woman whose voice was too deep, for this was proof enough for them.
It wasn’t simply homophobia; it was a zealous crusade against what they called the “abhorrent, unnatural offense to God’s eye,” and listening to their self-righteous accusations always left him feeling sad and somehow soiled.
Please let it be something else this time, Lord, he prayed as he drew near the middle pew. I have, after all, already endured the penance of good Sister Ignatius’s meat loaf.
And indeed it was something else. What was troubling John and Mary Kleinfeldt this morning was not the suspected presence of homosexuals in the parish, but the indisputable presence of small, tidy bullet holes in the backs of their skulls.”
The very conservative and out-spoken Kleinfeldts weren’t the most popular people even in very conservative rural Wisconsin. Sheriff Halloran knew his first problem would be determining a motive.
In very urban Minneapolis, detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are assigned to investigate some bizarre murders that have occurred in their city. When the police realize that the murders have followed exactly those in a Monkeewrench video game, Serial Killer Detective, the programmers become the detectives best hope in finding the killer. Three killings have been staged; there are twenty killings in the game. When the programmers predict the identity of the next victim, they become the primary suspects.
Magozzi discovers that the identities of the Monkeewrench crew are new and sanctioned by the FBI. Although the FBI refuses to cooperate in the investigation, Magozzi learns that the programmers are connected to another series of murders in Atlanta years before.
MONKEEWRENCH is one of those books that reviewers find fantastic or hate deeply. It has been awhile since I read the book, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and the four books that have been published. Grace MacBride is a difficult character to like; she is aloof to the point of misanthropy. Grace trusts her team but something has made Grace determined to keep the rest of the world on the opposite side of the moat.
MONKEEWRENCH won the Anthony and Barry Awards for Best First Novel in 2004. Awards do not necessarily prove that a book is worth reading. Some books should win awards and do not. SHOOTERS AND CHASERS is an example of that mistake. MONKEEWRENCH is good enough to deserve the awards it won.