Saturday, February 8, 2014

REVIEW: WANT TO PLAY? (Monkeewrench, #1) by P.J. Tracy

Title: Want to Play?
Series: Monkeewrench, #1
Authors: P.J. Tracy
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Publication Date: August 7, 2003
Genres: Suspense, Murder Mystery
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 5/5


In this electrifying debut, the slaying of an old couple in small town America looks like one-off act of brutal retribution. But at the same time, in Minneapolis, teams of detectives scramble to stop a sickeningly inventive serial killer striking again in a city paralysed by fear.

When the two separate investigations converge on an isolated catholic boarding school, decades old secrets begin to fall away. It seems an old killer has resurfaced. Yet still the killer's real identity remains dangerously out of reach ...


Forget whatever book you’re planning on reading next. Want to Play by P.J. Tracy is what you should be reading next. If it was a movie, it would’ve been a blockbuster for sure. At the risk of sounding like my mother, I’m just going to straight out declare that this is what I miss about books from them “good ol’ days”. Remember those books we read in the eighties and nineties where authors, publishers, and their editorial teams actually still took the time to create exceptional characters and intricately woven plot twists that leave you shocked and surprised with the outcome? You do? Well, this is one of those books where the reader is smack-dab in the centre of old-school gritty detective work that goes into solving a crime. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then add this to your to-read list right this minute.

Each and every character, no matter how big or small, has a significantly tangible personality; so much so, I couldn’t help but get emotionally invested and wrapped-up in the lives of just about all of them. A good example of one such a character is the nine-year-old black foster kid, Jackson, who unknowingly is a saving a grace by offering salvation with childlike sincerity. Like many of the other characters – and there are more than a handful of them to keep track of – he found a spot in my heart in the first five minutes I got to know him. But the one character who rises above the rest is without a doubt Grace’s dog, Charlie, who has a pathological fear of everything that breathes, but who all together is a genuinely adorable bundle of doggy-love! Even if you enjoy nothing else about this book, he will be the one thing you’ll remember fondly.

He was a mess of a dog, a concoction slapped together by a blind Frankenstein. The size and bulk of a shepherd, the wiry coat of a terrier, the long, floppy ears of a hound, and a totally hairless stump of a tail that something had chewed off long before she’d met him. Charlie was a survivor, too.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this story is about one lone detective on a solo mission to solve a serial murder case. No, this is a whole bunch of detectives and their crews, whom you’ll indisputably come to adore, from two different states working together to find a serial killer. The plot was constructed brilliantly and I was super impressed by how everything came together so smoothly. No leaps in logic, no expecting the reader to fill in the blanks. Just a straightforward murder mystery / thriller. And up until the end where it is revealed who murdered all those people, I’ve suspected so many characters of being the villain, and still I was wrong.

The dialogue is saturated with enough humor to give the reader a moment’s reprieve from the relentless heart stopping suspense. Yet the strangest thing is that there is hardly any romance to be found in this murder mystery. Now that’s not so strange, but what is, is that I WANTED there to be romance. I wanted Grace and Detective Magozzi, the two most unlikely characters to fall in love, to hit it off romantically. Now why is that so strange? Because I don’t care for romance in books and in the one book in which there’s only a tiny bit of romance, I actually wanted there to be more. Much more. That alone should be a clear indicator of what to expect regarding character development in this amazingly magnificent novel!

Here’s a little something to pique your curiosity. The theory Detective Magozzi shares with Grace about martyrs and dead lovers being the most powerful people in the world? Very interesting. I never thought about it that way. Some good stuff right there, people.

Want to Play might mislead potential readers with its unremarkable book cover and non-descript book summary, but I assure you it is an entertaining thrill ride in every way imaginable! Who will enjoy it? Anyone who’s into murder mysteries, detective- and suspense novels, and the Women’s Murder Club series by James Patterson. Fans of Karen Rose might also want to check this out.



PJ Tracy is the pseudonym of mother-daughter writing duo P.J. and Traci Lambrecht, winners of the Anthony, Barry, Gumshoe, and Minnesota Book Awards. Their first three novels, MONKEEWRENCH, LIVE BAIT and DEAD RUN, have become national and international bestsellers.

P.J. Lambrecht is a college dropout with one of the largest collections of sweatpants in the world. She was raised in an upper-middle class family of very nice people, and turned to writing to escape the hardships of such a life. She had her first short story published in The Saturday Evening Post when Traci was eight, still mercifully oblivious to her mother’s plans to eventually trick her into joining the family business. She has been a moderately successfully free-lance writer ever since, although she has absolutely no qualifications for such a profession, except a penchant for lying. 

Traci Lambrecht spent most of her childhood riding and showing horses. She graduated with a Russian Studies major from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where she also studied voice. Her aspirations of becoming a spy were dashed when the Cold War ended, so she instead attempted briefly and unsuccessfully to import Eastern European folk art. She began writing to finance her annoying habits of travel and singing in rock bands, and much to her mother’s relief, finally realized that the written word was her true calling. They have been writing together ever since. Traci now lives in Southern California and divides her time between there, Minneapolis and Aspen.

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