Monkeewrench Is Back: Off the Grid by P.J. Tracy

Cover image of Off the GridThe mother-daughter team writing under the name P.J. Tracy have done it again, reuniting the loyal Monkeewrench gang of computer geeks with Minneapolis police detective partners Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth in a suspenseful, wide-ranging story with a plot line that puts many innocent lives at stake and requires the members of Monkeewrench, a small but lethal gaming software company, to use all its skills – shooting, hacking, and secrecy – to help the Minneapolis police solve this crime in the days leading up to Halloween.

I got so excited when I saw my hold on Off the Grid had come in at the library that a volunteer who was working in the back asked what it was, because she was looking for something good to read. She took home the first two books in the Monkeewrench series (Monkeewrench and Live Bait) and in just over a week had also polished off Dead Run, Snow Blind, and Shoot to Thrill, and was waiting for her own copy of Off the Grid to come in.

Although the Monkeewrench computer geniuses are all way above average in intelligence, the novels don’t get into the details of computer hacking, and you don’t have to know anything about computer gaming to enjoy them. They are suspenseful enough to be called page-turners, but have crackling dialogue, a crisp writing style, and a sense of humor that you don’t usually find in the average serial-killer thriller. Each novel in the sequence has a self-contained plot with a beginning and end, but more of the characters’ backgrounds and personalities are revealed in each one, so they are definitely better read in order.

I’m not going to describe the plot because I don’t want to give anything away, but you can read an excerpt from the beginning of the book here to see what you think. The Monkeewrench books aren’t cozies. There is quite a lot of violence in them and there is often a serial killer involved, but they don’t creep you out by making you muck around inside the killers’ heads too much. There aren’t long, drawn-out descriptions of the pleasure a killer takes in killing that linger over the details making me feel, as a reader, as if I’ve just vicariously murdered somebody. I don’t want to experience or imagine that, thank you!

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9 thoughts on “Monkeewrench Is Back: Off the Grid by P.J. Tracy”

  1. Books that are a series but can be read as a standalone are good, but it is nice when there is an added bonus to reading them in order. I like the sound of the series, and your description is making me think twice about books I’ve read that have a similar theme!

    1. It’s the novels that get into the sick minds of the killers that I have a hard time with, and even then, it’s OK as long as we’re clear that as readers we’re not complicit, but some books make me get a little too close to the killer’s mind-set for comfort!

  2. Have you listened to the P.J. Tracy books in audio Laurie? That’s how I discovered them, now they are in my favorite listens category. Love this mother / daughter team.

    Buck Shirner’s.narration is spot on – his Gino is hilarious – as well as capturing the rest of the crew perfectly for me.

    1. No, I haven’t! I haven’t heard of Buck Shirner either, I don’t think. I am all caught up with the series already, but I might watch for the next one on audio. Thanks for the tip! My latest audio mystery fave is the Good Thief’s Guide series. I just finished The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris and hope to write a review soon.

      1. Hmm, Simon Vance narrating could pull me in. 🙂 Another light mystery series that is excellent in audio is The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Lisette Lecate brings Botswana to vivid life, the books are a delight to listen to.

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