Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A New Monkeewrench Novel! Off The Grid, by P.J. Tracy

I read a lot of mystery/thriller series.  I mean, A LOT!  And over the last couple of years I have had some painful break-ups with some of my favorites.   There are very few things as sad as watching a formerly great character fade into mediocrity.  And I can honestly say that THIS IS NOT ONE OF THOSE TIMES!    (See what I did there?)  The new P.J. Tracy book, Off the Grid (coming out August 2nd), is just as full of quirky, loveable characters as the other Monkeewrench books, and the story is just as different and suspenseful.

Off the Grid, the lastest installment in the Monkeewrench series by the mother/daughter writing team known as P.J. Tracy, begins with Grace MacBride sailing in the seas near Key West, spending her days laying in the sun wearing a sundress and sandals.  Anyone who has read any of the other Monkeewrench books knows that this is the most unexpected thing that she could be doing.  After a life of violence and paranoia, Grace has finally allowed herself to relax and feel safe.  But her sense of security is shattered when the violence she fears and expects finds her, even miles at sea.  Someone is trying to kill her friend and emotional savior, John Smith.  A thousand miles away in Minnesota, her former love interest and cop Leo Magozzi and his partner are investigating the deaths of four Somali's with ties to terrorism.  Neither Grace nor Leo know how these two events happening a continent apart will connect them once again.

Grace and her band of super-computing geniuses have been in some sticky situations in the past.  But never before have the stakes been so high.  Each of them is forced to confront something about themselves as they race to uncover a terrorist plot, and that is one of the things that I liked about this Monkeewrench book.  Grace is such a larger than life character that sometimes I feel like the other Monkeewrenchers don't get enough backstory, but that is not the case this time.  Truth be told there is not a ton of exposition in this novel, but the events of the story and the character's reactions to them provide glimpses into the chaotic, painful pasts of the main characters.  Much of the first part of the novel revolves around Magozzi and his partner Gino and their efforts to discover what is happening with the dead Somali's, but I was OK with the focus being off of Grace for a bit.

Other than revisiting these characters, who I love, the story was interesting and different than any thriller plot I've read before.  Sure, I've read stories about terrorism before, but this particular plot had a twist that was new, at least to me.  And the new characters who are introduced, a couple of old Viet Nam vets, are a good addition to the group.  I have no idea if they are going to make an appearance in any other P.J.Tracy books, but I could see them having a place in the off-kilter, gray area, sometimes shady world of Monkeewrench.  Or perhaps their own series.  Either way, I was pleased to meet them.  The book has an emotional punch that made me clench my fists, laugh out loud, and cry openly-quite a feat for a formula thriller.  But just like the cast of characters, the Monkeewrench books are unpredictable enough that you are never sure what you are going to get, other than a really good read.


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