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Ice Cold Heart by P J Tracy

One evening, Kelly Ramage leaves her home, telling her husband that she is going to visit a friend. She never returns. When her body is discovered, it is initially thought that her death is as the result of a sex game gone wrong, so detectives Gino and Magozzi think that if they find the lover, they will find the perpetrator. The killer, however, has done a good job in hiding his identity, leading the police to believe that he has done this before and that Kelly is certainly not going to be his last victim.

Ever since reading Want to Play?, the first of the Monkeewrench books, I have been a big fan of P. J. Tracy’s writing. Over the years, I have enjoyed seeing the character development, in particular Grace who, although still fearful of her past, is now a mother to young Elizabeth. Who would have thought at the start of the series that she would be capable of having a relationship, never mind having a child?!

In Ice Cold Heart, we see less of the Monkeewrench team and more of detectives Gino and Magozzi. The case is a particularly horrible one, with the killer seemingly basing his crimes on the work of the controversial artist Rado. The detectives know that the man they are looking for is incredibly disturbed, and when another woman goes missing, someone they have already had contact with, they know it is a race against time to find her before she becomes the next victim.

The case becomes even more complicated when Roadrunner, one of the Monkeewrench team, befriends one of his neighbours, Petra. As the story progresses, we see how strong Petra is, despite the circumstances we find her in at the start of the book. She is searching for a notorious Balkan war criminal, and it is not long before the two cases cross paths. With Monkeewrench also searching for a hacker who has undertaken a multi-million dollar theft, there is plenty for the reader to sink their teeth into. I enjoyed seeing all of these cases slowly come together, and I was pleasantly surprised with the conclusion.

With a plot involving murder, war crimes, BDSM and computer hacking, Ice Cold Heart is a fast-paced read with something happening on every page. As I said earlier, I have enjoyed this series from the start, and this has definitely been one of my favourites so far.

With thanks to Net Galley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for my copy.

Take a look at some of my other PJ Tracy reviews:

Cold Kill

Nothing Stays Buried

The Guilty Dead

 

The Guilty Dead by P J Tracy

When Gregory Norwood is found shot dead one year after his son’s overdose, it seems like a clear cut case of suicide. The only problem is, left-handed Norwood appears to have used his right hand to shoot himself and then has, somehow, managed to wipe the gun clean post mortem. After blood is found outside the house, Detectives Gino and Magozzi fear that there is a second victim waiting to be found.

Meanwhile, the Monkeewrench crew are working on a new program that will aid the police in tracking and locating potential terror plots. Little do they know that their work will soon cross paths with the murder case and that Minneapolis will become the centre of a bomb plot that could conceivably bring devastation to all those around.

They say ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, but if I hadn’t have been intrigued by the cover of the first book in the Monkeewrench series, Want to Play?, whilst shopping at the long-lamented Borders almost fifteen years ago, I’d never have discovered this fantastic series! Now, nine books in, The Guilty Dead is the latest in the Minneapolis-set books and is, once again, another brilliant read.

While a murder made to look like a suicide is not a novel plot, there is so much more to this story. As the investigation progresses, we find out who the guilty party is, but it is more a case of ‘whydunnit’ rather than ‘whodunnit’, as the two main plots begin to converge. Although the role of IT experts, Monkeewrench, is pivotal in solving the crimes, I felt that there was less page time devoted to them than in previous books and more given to the police investigation. Of course, they, once again, prove their worth but not before a catastrophic event threatens to tear them apart.

Throughout the series, we have been privy to the traumas of Grace, one of the Monkeewrench crew, and how and why she has found it hard to trust people. Now eight months pregnant, and about to embark on a new phase of her life, I am intrigued as to what further books in the series will see happening to her. She takes more of a back seat in this book, which is understandable, but in true Monkeewrench-style, trouble is never too far away…

This is a series that I continue to love and I am already looking forward to book ten!

With thanks to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and Net Galley for my copy.

Return of the Magi by P J Tracy

Emil Rice is a habitual thief, promising, each time he is caught, that he will never steal again. When he is arrested for the twenty-third time, he is ordered to carry out community service at a secure mental health facility, where he will have to live-in for a whole year. While he is there, he is befriended by two elderly female patients  who have been waiting for the arrival of Emil for a long time having convinced themselves that he is the third wise man and that he will help them to find the Christ Child.

This is not the sort of book I would usually read but, as a fan of P J Tracy’s Monkeewrench series, and as the festive season is approaching, I thought I would venture into the unknown. What I found was an easy to read, humerous, short story that restores your faith in human nature.

Despite Emil being a career criminal, it is impossible not to like him and his carefree attitude. We are aware from the start that he has not had the happiest of childhoods and so, for much of his life, has been devoid of a conventional family. In some ways, he finally finds this at the facility, even if his new family consists of two elderly women who think he is one of the Magi! Underneath all of his bravado, Emil is an extremely caring man, a trait we see in his dealing with Ralph, another of the patients, and also when he embarks on his journey to ‘the City of David’.

Edith and Gloria, the two elderly women provide a comic touch to the book and although they are clearly deluded, their resourcefulness is a lesson in not to underestimate the aged. The way they take Emil under their wing is a joy to read, even if Emil does not always share their enthusiasm!

If you are looking for a short, heartwarming read, then Return of the Magi is the book for you!

With thanks to Net Galley and Penguin UK Michael Joseph for the ARC.

 

Nothing Stays Buried by P. J. Tracy

Minneapolis has another serial killer for Gino and Magozzi to apprehend and this one shows no sign of ending his reign of terror. Leaving a playing card at the scene of every brutal murder, the detectives wonder whether his aim is to complete the deck. Meanwhile the Monkeewrench team have travelled to the countryside to help a father search for his daughter who has vanished without trace from the side of the road. When the two cases become entwined,  it is a race against time to stop the killer before even more lives are ruined.

Nothing Stays Buried is the eighth book in the Monkeewrench series and is a very welcome addition. For the uninitiated, this series of books is based around a team of computer experts who have, in the course of their work, developed a program that has become vital to the police in aiding their investigations. This program, and the expertise of the team, is the reason they are on the trail of Marla, the missing woman. As in other books, detectives Magozzi and Gino are working closely alongside the Monkeewrench team and it is inevitable that their cases will eventually collide.

One of the things I like most about this series is that each book is so different and this one  is certainly no exception. What looks like being a straightforward serial killer story was actually a multifaceted tale of murder, cartels and undercover investigations and I enjoyed how each of the plots linked together to provide a satisfying and suitable ending.

As in all of the books, the characterisation is brilliant and I loved the interaction between the Monkeewrench team. I also really liked the addition of Walt, the father of the missing woman and willed him to have some good news by the end of the book. Throughout the series, it has been particularly satisfying to see the development of Grace’s character and I can’t wait to see what any future installments bring.

I was saddened to read that this book was one of the last ones to be written by the mother and daughter team of P. J. Tracy due to the untimely death of P. J. Lambrecht and I hope that Traci can continue the series.

With thanks to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and Net Galley for the ARC.

Cold Kill by P. J. Tracy

When two men are killed in different parts of Minneapolis, detectives Gino and Magozzi soon discover that they knew each other and that their deaths appear to have been targeted attacks. With CCTV and other evidence mysteriously missing, they, again, have to rely upon Grace and the rest of her Monkeewrench team and their computing skills. As the body count rises, realisation sets in that this case dates back over sixty years – someone has to be stopped before even more lives are put in danger.

I’ve been a fan of the P. J. Tracy ‘Monkeewrench’ series since 2003 after reading the first book, Want to Play? It was with trepidation, however, that I read the latest instalment as I struggled with the previous novel Two Evils. Thankfully, Cold Kill (also known as The Sixth Idea in the US) is a return to form for the mother and daughter writing team.

The premise of the book is an interesting one, linking the production of the hydrogen bomb during World War Two to modern-day cyber attacks. Although there are lots of unrealistic elements to the book, it does pose interesting questions and makes you think about exactly what would happen if some sort of attack did destroy a country’s infrastructure.

Although this is the seventh book in the series, it is not essential to have read the previous six and it can be read as a standalone. Some back stories will be missed, however, such as the development of the relationship between Grace and Magozzi. The ending of Cold Kill was a huge surprise and would not have had the same effect if I had not read the other books.

An enjoyable and fast-paced read!

With thanks to Net Galley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for the advance copy.

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