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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.

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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