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Monkeewrench (Monkeewrench Series #1)

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Overview

People are dying for the new computer game by the software company Monkeewrench. Literally. With Serial Killer Detective out in limited release, the real-life murders of a jogger and a young woman have already mimicked the first two scenarios in the game.

But Grace McBride and her eccentric Monkeewrench partners are caught in a vise. If they tell the Minneapolis police of the link between their game and the murders, they'll shine a spotlight on the past they thought they had ...

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Monkeewrench (Monkeewrench Series #1)

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Overview

People are dying for the new computer game by the software company Monkeewrench. Literally. With Serial Killer Detective out in limited release, the real-life murders of a jogger and a young woman have already mimicked the first two scenarios in the game.

But Grace McBride and her eccentric Monkeewrench partners are caught in a vise. If they tell the Minneapolis police of the link between their game and the murders, they'll shine a spotlight on the past they thought they had erased-and the horror they thought they'd left behind. If they don't, eighteen more people will die...

Winner of the 2004 Anthony Award for First Novel

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
An intricately plotted, edge-of-your-seat page-turner with memorable characters and dialogue so sharp it makes you want to read it aloud, this remarkable debut thriller is the story of two sets of murders connected by unimaginable secrets. In a small town in Wisconsin, a narrow-minded elderly couple is murdered execution-style in a local church. Evidence is scarce—and what little there is raises even more questions. Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, the software design company Monkeewrench has just introduced a new game that's nothing like the educational software and children's games it's produced in the past. "Serial Killer Detective" is bigger, bolder...and bloodier—and, the design team soon realizes, someone's inspiration for a series of very real murders based on the game. With a menu of 20 death scenarios already programmed into the game for the killer to emulate—and public fears mounting even faster than the bodies -- the police must work fast to stop the software's real-life replication. Mother-daughter writing team P. J. Tracy have crafted a wild, enthralling first novel that will leave you eager for their next endeavor. Sue Stone
USA Today
The Minneapolis setting of Monkeewrench and the expertly rendered search for a serial killer are reminiscent of the fine work of best-selling author John Sandford, whose fans definitely will want to pick this one up. — David Montgomery
Harlan Coben
Fast, fresh, funny and outrageously suspenseful... The debut thriller of the year.
People
Sizzling... A killer read.
Publishers Weekly
A mother-daughter writing team pens a soundly plotted thriller that fires on all cylinders. Tracy (the authors' pseudonym) seamlessly weaves together three distinct subplots converging on a Minneapolis software company, Monkeewrench, run by eclectic misfits and founded by the beautiful, bitchy, haunted Grace MacBride, an enigmatic recluse. The slaying of an elderly couple in a Wisconsin church draws Sheriff Michael Halloran and his amorous deputy, Sharon Mueller, into an investigation that brings unprecedented scrutiny to their conservative rural town. At the same time, a string of baffling murders in Minneapolis are driving homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth bonkers. Then the folks at Monkeewrench figure out what's going on: a killer is staging a series of exotic murders that duplicate those in their grisly new video game, Serial Killer Detective. Desperate to prevent additional murders (the game has 20), the programmers study the victims to figure out who might be next. Meanwhile, Magozzi's investigation reveals that MacBride and her colleagues created entirely new identities for themselves years earlier, for reasons the FBI won't reveal, but which, Magozzi slowly finds, are connected to another series of murders a decade earlier in Atlanta. Tracy covers all the bases in this debut thriller: an accelerating, unpredictable plot that combines police procedural with techno-geek-speak, an array of well-drawn characters and, most importantly, witty repartee. Audio rights to Brilliance; foreign rights sold in France, Germany and the U.K. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Someone is playing with Grace and other employees of the software company Monkeewrench through a game they created, which is now horrifyingly replicated in real life with several murders. Can Grace find the murderer and shake off her own demons of the past? Set in rural Wisconsin and Minneapolis, P.J. Tracy's MONKEEWRENCH (Putnam. 2003. ISBN 0-399-14978-3. $23.95; pap. Signet. 2004. ISBN 0-451-21157-X. $6.99) is a satisfying debut thriller by a pseudonymous mother-daughter writing team. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Where will all those violent computer games end? With a copycat series of real-life homicides, in a preposterous, entertaining nailbiter that marks a pseudonymous mother-and-daughter team's first effort. Not content with the millions they've already made, the five misfits who comprise Monkeewrench Software Development have outdone themselves in their Serial Killer Detective (SKUD) game, whose 20 levels provide 20 different crime scenes. When they put the software online, however, the response is more enthusiastic than they'd expected. Among the 500-odd users who've signed on to test-drive the game, one of them has begun to re-create the crimes in loving detail. A seminary student shot to death as he jogs along the river, a novice hooker posed atop a stone angel, a sensation-seeking marketing rep whose discovery in an indelicate position interrupts a society wedding reception aboard a paddlewheel steamer-they're all taken chapter and verse from SKUD. As Minneapolis Detective Leo Magozzi sorts through leads and tussles with Grace MacBride and her cop-hating, gun-toting Monkeewrench confrères, Sheriff Michael Halloran, miles from everywhere in Kingsford County, Wisconsin, is confronted with the shootings of a homophobic old couple in their parish church and the fatal booby-trap in the house they won't be returning to. The root of all this evil is pretty clearly a hermaphrodite killer and a bloodbath at the University of Georgia ten years ago, but will Magozzi and Halloran put the pieces together, or even join forces with each other, in time to prevent the murder the fourth level prescribes for the Mall of America? And as the noose tightens around Monkeewrench, which of the fivepartners-flamboyant clotheshorse Annie Belinsky, techno-weenie Roadrunner, wine and hog connoisseur Harley Davidson, straitlaced Mitchell Cross, or paranoid Grace herself-will hold the key to the puzzle? Late-night alert: Don't settle down with this wacky, supercharged maiden voyage at your bedside till you've cleared your schedule for the following morning. Agent: Ellen Geiger/Curtis Brown
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451211576
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/6/2004
  • Series: Monkeewrench Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 291,818
  • Product dimensions: 4.24 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

P. J. Tracy is the pseudonym of the mother-daughter writing team of Patricia Lambrecht and Traci Lambrecht. Winners of the Anthony, Barry, Gumshoe, and Minnesota Book awards, they both live outside Minneapolis.
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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The brandy had been absolutely essential. It always was on Sunday nights, when Sister Ignatius took it upon herself to cook and serve Father Newberry a "proper meal." In this part of Wisconsin, that usually translated to hamburger cooked in canned cream soup.

The shape varied with the good sister's whims-sometimes meatballs, sometimes meat loaf, and on one memorable occasion, rolled tubes that looked disturbingly like a casserole of severed penises-but the basic ingredients and the resulting indigestion were always the same.

Father Newberry had learned long ago that antacids couldn't touch it. Only the brandy helped, blessing him with a quick sleep where he passed the time in happy oblivion while his stomach fought the demons of Sister Ignatius's kindness.

On this particular Sunday night the demons had been multiple. In some sort of aspiring gourmet fit the sister had baked meat loaf in God only knew how many different kinds of canned soups. When he'd asked her to name the ingredients of this daring culinary experiment, she'd tittered like a schoolgirl and locked her lips with an imaginary key.

"Ah, a secret recipe." He had smiled at her rosy face, greatly fearing that clam chowder lurked somewhere in the ocean of oily liquid in which the meat loaf had drowned.

And so it was that the juice glass had been filled with brandy for an unprecedented second time, and Father Newberry had fallen fast asleep in the recliner facing the television. When he next opened his eyes, the screen was a snowfield of jittery flakes hissing static, and the clock face read five a.m.

When he went to turn off the lamp by the window, he saw the frosty car in the church lot and recognized it immediately. It was a Ford Falcon of indeterminate age, dying slowly of the cancerous rust that devoured old cars in a state that salted roads as liberally as they salted food.

In a moment of weakness, he wished he could just sneak off to his warm bed and pretend he'd never seen it. His only sin was in the wish, however, for he was already moving toward the door, tugging his cardigan close around his abused belly before stepping out into the dark chill of an October morning.

The church was old and almost Protestant in its plainness, for these rural Wisconsin Catholics eyed all things magnificent with deep suspicion. The Blessed Virgin wore the gleam of plastic and bore an unsaintly resemblance to the mannequin in the window of Frieda's House of Fashion on Main Street, and the only stained glass window was oddly placed on the north side, where the sun could never set it afire with brilliant color that might offend.

A dour place in a dour parish in a dour state, thought Father Newberry, missing the California of his youth, nearly forty years gone now, speculating again that all bad priests were sent to Wisconsin.

John and Mary Kleinfeldt were kneeling in a middle pew, heads resting on folded hands, utterly still in a devotion the Father had always thought almost obsessive. It was not unusual for the aging couple to visit the church during off-hours-sometimes he thought they preferred solitude to the company of fellow parishioners they believed corrupt with sin. But to the best of his knowledge, they had never come so early.

It did not bode well for a rapid return to the cozy rectory, and Father Newberry was loath to ask what trouble had brought them here this time, since he already knew the answer.

He sighed and moved slowly down the aisle, reluctantly propelled by a sense of duty and a good heart. "Good morning, John. Good morning, Mary," he would say. "What troubles you today?" And then they would tell him they had discovered yet another homosexual in his congregation-a man whose lashes were too long or a woman whose voice was too deep, for this was proof enough for them.

It wasn't simply homophobia; it was a zealous crusade against what they called the "abhorrent, unnatural offense to God's eye," and listening to their self-righteous accusations always left him feeling sad and somehow soiled.

Please let it be something else this time, Lord, he prayed as he drew near the middle pew. I have, after all, already endured the penance of good Sister Ignatius's meat loaf.

And indeed it was something else. What was troubling John and Mary Kleinfeldt this morning was not the suspected presence of homosexuals in the parish, but the indisputable presence of small, tidy bullet holes in the backs of their skulls.

CHAPTER 2

It wasn't the first homicide in Kingsford County since Sheriff Michael Halloran had pinned on his star five years ago. Scatter a few thousand people over the northern Wisconsin countryside, arm a good half of them with hunting rifles and skinning knives, throw a hundred bars into the mix, and eventually some of them are going to end up killing each other. That's just the way it was.

It didn't happen very often, and for the most part they were the kind of killings people up here could get their heads around: bar fights, domestics, and the occasional suspicious hunting accident, like when Harry Patrowski said he shot his mother through the kitchen window because he thought she was a deer.

But an old couple gunned down in a church? Now that was something else, something senseless and evil that wasn't supposed to happen in a little town where kids played outside after dark, nobody locked their doors, and corn wagons still lumbered down Main Street on their way to the feed mill. Hell, half the people in the county thought smoking a joint meant lighting your elbow on fire, and you still had to drive ninety miles south and east to Green Bay just to see an "R" movie.

This murder was going to change everything.

Four of the five squad cars on third watch were already in St. Luke's parking lot by the time Halloran arrived at six a.m.

Great, he thought. I've got one car left on the road patrolling over eight hundred square miles of county. He saw Doc Hanson's ugly blue station wagon sandwiched between two of the squads, and off in a corner, an ancient Ford Falcon in an ominous rectangle of yellow crime-scene tape.

Deputy Bonar Carlson walked out of the church and waited on the top step, tugging at a belt that had no hope of ever again making it up to his belly button.

"Bonar, that holster hangs much lower you're going to have to kneel if you ever need to get at your weapon."

"And I'd still beat you at the draw," Bonar grinned, which was true. "Man, you're ugly this early. Good thing you don't work the third. You'd scare the other boys."

"Just tell me you've solved this already so I can go back home to bed."

"Way I figure, Father Newberry did it. Forty years of listening to confessions and sniffing incense and then one day, poor bastard just snaps and shoots two of his parishioners in the back of the head."

"I'm going to tell him you said that."

Bonar stuffed his fat hands into his jacket pockets and snorted a frosty exhale, serious now. "He didn't hear anything, didn't see anything. Fell asleep in front of the TV after dinner, didn't even know Kleinfeldts were here until he looked out the window at five a.m. and saw their car. Went over to see if he could help, found the bodies, dialed 911, end of story."

"Neighbors?"

"We're working on it."

"So what's your take on it?"

It wasn't an idle question. Bonar might look and talk and act like another good old Wisconsin boy, but there were some scary processing chips in that head of his. He could take one look at a crime scene and tell you things the state forensics boys would never find with all their fancy equipment.

He and Bonar had both done a year-long stint in Milwaukee right out of the academy before hustling back home and jumping into county uniforms. They'd seen a lot in that city they were still trying to forget, but they'd learned a lot, too.

Bonar sucked at the inside of his cheek for a minute, thick eyebrows working like a pair of caterpillars. "Actually, it looks like a hit, which makes about as much sense as the padre doing it. I don't know. My gut tells me psycho, but it seems too clean for that." He pushed open the heavy wooden doors.

A lifetime of conditioning made Halloran's hand twitch as he passed the font of holy water, but it was only a twitch, the last contraction of a dying thing.

Father Newberry was sitting in a back pew, motionless, tiny, old. Halloran touched his shoulder as he walked up the aisle, felt the answering brush of dry fingertips on his.

Two deputies were stringing yellow crime-scene tape from pew to pew in a terrible parody of the white satin ribbon draped for a wedding. Two others were on their hands and knees with flashlights, searching the floor.

Doc Hanson was crouched sideways in the narrow space between the Kleinfeldts and the pew in front of them, eyes and hands busy with the dead, oblivious to the living. Nobody talked. The church was absolutely silent.

Halloran circled the scene slowly, letting it imprint on his mind. There was something wrong with it; something a little off-kilter about the bodies, dancing at the edge of his consciousness, just out of reach.

"Just from the rigor, four hours, give or take," Doc Hanson said without being asked, without looking up. "I'll check the temps when I'm ready to move them. Harris, give me one of your bags. I got a hair here."

Long gone, Halloran thought, moving out of the way, back down the aisle toward Father Newberry. Whoever did this could be in New York by now, or California, or next door.

• *
• *

"So everybody hated them."

"I didn't say that, Mikey."

"Father, meaning no offense, but could you not call me Mikey when I'm on the job?"

"Sorry. It slipped out." Father Newberry smiled at the one man on this earth he could truly and freely admit he loved like a son in a very human way. Michael Vincent Halloran was broad and tall and very imposing indeed with a gun on his hip and a badge on his chest, but the priest still saw Mikey the altar boy, dark and intense in this land of bland and blond, tailing him through those years before puberty when the priesthood had still been a magnet.

"Okay, then who were their friends?"

The priest sighed. "They had no friends."

"You're not helping, Father."

"No, I suppose I'm not." Father Newberry frowned at the yellow crime-scene tape around the pews ahead, framing the centerpiece of John and Mary Kleinfeldt. Doc Hanson was rummaging in his bag now, bumping John Kleinfeldt's body, grabbing it by the shoulder when it started to tip over. Father Newberry closed his eyes.

Halloran tried again. "You said they tried to get several parishioners removed from the congregation because they believed they were homosexual. I'll need a list of those people."

"But none of them took it seriously. I can't think of one who was really upset, the accusations were so preposterous."

"So none of them are really gay?"

Father Newberry hesitated again. "Not to my knowledge."

"I'll need the list anyway, Father. You have a file on the Kleinfeldts? Next of kin, that sort of thing?"

"In the church office, but they had no family."

"No kids?"

Father Newberry looked down at his hands, at the shiny spots on the knees of his pants that marked him as a professional supplicant, thinking that this was the gray area; that dreaded place where the obligations to the secular and spiritual worlds clashed in a terrible way. He sorted through his memory for what he could say, setting aside what he could not. "I believe they had a child, but they refused to speak of him. Or her. I don't even know if the child was son or daughter."

"Still alive?"

"I don't know that either. I'm sorry."

"It's all right. Anything else you can tell me about them?"

The priest frowned, mentally ticking off the pathetically few scraps of information he possessed about the Kleinfeldts. "They were retired, of course, at their age. Both in their seventies, as I recall. Very devout, in their own way more than God's, I'm sorry to say. And very solitary. I don't think they trusted a living soul, including me, and I always thought that was very sad. I suppose that isn't an uncommon trait among the wealthy."

Halloran looked doubtfully at the shabbily dressed corpses. "Land poor?"

Father Newberry shook his head. "They tithed a precise ten percent. December thirty-first every year they'd send a check and a financial statement from their accountant to prove it was exactly ten percent, as if I would question it."

Halloran grunted. "Weird."

"They were . . . unusual people."

"So what were they worth?"

The priest looked up, found his memory on the ceiling. "Over seven million, I believe, but that was last year. It would be considerably more now."

Behind them the church door opened and closed and a wave of cold moved up the aisle, Bonar in its wake. He stopped next to Halloran. "We got nothing from the neighbors. State forensics is just pulling in." His eyes narrowed on Halloran's face. "What? You got something?"

"Motive, maybe. Father tells me they were worth millions."

Bonar glanced up the aisle at the bodies. "No way."

"It isn't exactly a motive, Mike," the priest interjected. "Unless you consider me a suspect. They left everything to the church."

Bonar elbowed Halloran. "I told you the padre did it."

Father Newberry almost smiled; stopped it just in time. "Lutherans," he muttered instead.

Up in the front of the church Doc Hanson stood abruptly. "Oh shit." He shot a quick, guilty glance back at Father Newberry. "Sorry, Father. Mike, you want to come and take a look at this?"

Beneath the black coat that Doc Hanson had started to unbutton, Mary Kleinfeldt's once-white blouse was saturated with the red-brown of coagulating blood. The smell of it filled the pew.

"She was shot in the chest, too?" Halloran asked.

Doc Hanson shook his head. "Not unless they brought along a cannon. Head hole looks like a .22, and this is way too much blood for anything that small." He unbuttoned the soggy blouse and opened it. The two deputies watching both took a quick step backward.

"Jesus," one of them whispered. "Looks like someone started a do-it-yourself autopsy."

Mary Kleinfeldt's slip and bra had been sliced in half and peeled to each side, exposing blue-veined skin that had never seen the sun. A vertical gash ran down the center of her chest, exposing the sternum. Another gash ran horizontally, so deep that the lower half of her breasts hung inside out.

Halloran stared at the old woman's chest and felt a new kind of fear he couldn't put a name to yet. "That's not an autopsy incision," he said softly. "It's a cross."

—from Monkeewrench: A Novel by P.J. Tracy, Copyright © 2003, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

CHAPTER 1
The brandy had been absolutely essential. It always was on Sunday nights, when Sister Ignatius took it upon herself to cook and serve Father Newberry a "proper meal." In this part of Wisconsin, that usually translated to hamburger cooked in canned cream soup.

The shape varied with the good sister's whims-sometimes meatballs, sometimes meat loaf, and on one memorable occasion, rolled tubes that looked disturbingly like a casserole of severed penises-but the basic ingredients and the resulting indigestion were always the same.

Father Newberry had learned long ago that antacids couldn't touch it. Only the brandy helped, blessing him with a quick sleep where he passed the time in happy oblivion while his stomach fought the demons of Sister Ignatius's kindness.

On this particular Sunday night the demons had been multiple. In some sort of aspiring gourmet fit the sister had baked meat loaf in God only knew how many different kinds of canned soups. When he'd asked her to name the ingredients of this daring culinary experiment, she'd tittered like a schoolgirl and locked her lips with an imaginary key.

"Ah, a secret recipe." He had smiled at her rosy face, greatly fearing that clam chowder lurked somewhere in the ocean of oily liquid in which the meat loaf had drowned.

And so it was that the juice glass had been filled with brandy for an unprecedented second time, and Father Newberry had fallen fast asleep in the recliner facing the television. When he next opened his eyes, the screen was a snowfield of jittery flakes hissing static, and the clock face read five a.m.

When he went to turn off the lamp by the window, he saw the frosty car in the church lot and recognized it immediately. It was a Ford Falcon of indeterminate age, dying slowly of the cancerous rust that devoured old cars in a state that salted roads as liberally as they salted food.

In a moment of weakness, he wished he could just sneak off to his warm bed and pretend he'd never seen it. His only sin was in the wish, however, for he was already moving toward the door, tugging his cardigan close around his abused belly before stepping out into the dark chill of an October morning.

The church was old and almost Protestant in its plainness, for these rural Wisconsin Catholics eyed all things magnificent with deep suspicion. The Blessed Virgin wore the gleam of plastic and bore an unsaintly resemblance to the mannequin in the window of Frieda's House of Fashion on Main Street, and the only stained glass window was oddly placed on the north side, where the sun could never set it afire with brilliant color that might offend.

A dour place in a dour parish in a dour state, thought Father Newberry, missing the California of his youth, nearly forty years gone now, speculating again that all bad priests were sent to Wisconsin.

John and Mary Kleinfeldt were kneeling in a middle pew, heads resting on folded hands, utterly still in a devotion the Father had always thought almost obsessive. It was not unusual for the aging couple to visit the church during off-hours-sometimes he thought they preferred solitude to the company of fellow parishioners they believed corrupt with sin. But to the best of his knowledge, they had never come so early.

It did not bode well for a rapid return to the cozy rectory, and Father Newberry was loath to ask what trouble had brought them here this time, since he already knew the answer.

He sighed and moved slowly down the aisle, reluctantly propelled by a sense of duty and a good heart. "Good morning, John. Good morning, Mary," he would say. "What troubles you today?" And then they would tell him they had discovered yet another homosexual in his congregation-a man whose lashes were too long or a woman whose voice was too deep, for this was proof enough for them.

It wasn't simply homophobia; it was a zealous crusade against what they called the "abhorrent, unnatural offense to God's eye," and listening to their self-righteous accusations always left him feeling sad and somehow soiled.

Please let it be something else this time, Lord, he prayed as he drew near the middle pew. I have, after all, already endured the penance of good Sister Ignatius's meat loaf.

And indeed it was something else. What was troubling John and Mary Kleinfeldt this morning was not the suspected presence of homosexuals in the parish, but the indisputable presence of small, tidy bullet holes in the backs of their skulls.

CHAPTER 2

It wasn't the first homicide in Kingsford County since Sheriff Michael Halloran had pinned on his star five years ago. Scatter a few thousand people over the northern Wisconsin countryside, arm a good half of them with hunting rifles and skinning knives, throw a hundred bars into the mix, and eventually some of them are going to end up killing each other. That's just the way it was.

It didn't happen very often, and for the most part they were the kind of killings people up here could get their heads around: bar fights, domestics, and the occasional suspicious hunting accident, like when Harry Patrowski said he shot his mother through the kitchen window because he thought she was a deer.

But an old couple gunned down in a church? Now that was something else, something senseless and evil that wasn't supposed to happen in a little town where kids played outside after dark, nobody locked their doors, and corn wagons still lumbered down Main Street on their way to the feed mill. Hell, half the people in the county thought smoking a joint meant lighting your elbow on fire, and you still had to drive ninety miles south and east to Green Bay just to see an "R" movie.

This murder was going to change everything.

Four of the five squad cars on third watch were already in St. Luke's parking lot by the time Halloran arrived at six a.m.

Great, he thought. I've got one car left on the road patrolling over eight hundred square miles of county. He saw Doc Hanson's ugly blue station wagon sandwiched between two of the squads, and off in a corner, an ancient Ford Falcon in an ominous rectangle of yellow crime-scene tape.

Deputy Bonar Carlson walked out of the church and waited on the top step, tugging at a belt that had no hope of ever again making it up to his belly button.

"Bonar, that holster hangs much lower you're going to have to kneel if you ever need to get at your weapon."

"And I'd still beat you at the draw," Bonar grinned, which was true. "Man, you're ugly this early. Good thing you don't work the third. You'd scare the other boys."

"Just tell me you've solved this already so I can go back home to bed."

"Way I figure, Father Newberry did it. Forty years of listening to confessions and sniffing incense and then one day, poor bastard just snaps and shoots two of his parishioners in the back of the head."

"I'm going to tell him you said that."

Bonar stuffed his fat hands into his jacket pockets and snorted a frosty exhale, serious now. "He didn't hear anything, didn't see anything. Fell asleep in front of the TV after dinner, didn't even know Kleinfeldts were here until he looked out the window at five a.m. and saw their car. Went over to see if he could help, found the bodies, dialed 911, end of story."

"Neighbors?"

"We're working on it."

"So what's your take on it?"

It wasn't an idle question. Bonar might look and talk and act like another good old Wisconsin boy, but there were some scary processing chips in that head of his. He could take one look at a crime scene and tell you things the state forensics boys would never find with all their fancy equipment.

He and Bonar had both done a year-long stint in Milwaukee right out of the academy before hustling back home and jumping into county uniforms. They'd seen a lot in that city they were still trying to forget, but they'd learned a lot, too.

Bonar sucked at the inside of his cheek for a minute, thick eyebrows working like a pair of caterpillars. "Actually, it looks like a hit, which makes about as much sense as the padre doing it. I don't know. My gut tells me psycho, but it seems too clean for that." He pushed open the heavy wooden doors.

A lifetime of conditioning made Halloran's hand twitch as he passed the font of holy water, but it was only a twitch, the last contraction of a dying thing.

Father Newberry was sitting in a back pew, motionless, tiny, old. Halloran touched his shoulder as he walked up the aisle, felt the answering brush of dry fingertips on his.

Two deputies were stringing yellow crime-scene tape from pew to pew in a terrible parody of the white satin ribbon draped for a wedding. Two others were on their hands and knees with flashlights, searching the floor.

Doc Hanson was crouched sideways in the narrow space between the Kleinfeldts and the pew in front of them, eyes and hands busy with the dead, oblivious to the living. Nobody talked. The church was absolutely silent.

Halloran circled the scene slowly, letting it imprint on his mind. There was something wrong with it; something a little off-kilter about the bodies, dancing at the edge of his consciousness, just out of reach.

"Just from the rigor, four hours, give or take," Doc Hanson said without being asked, without looking up. "I'll check the temps when I'm ready to move them. Harris, give me one of your bags. I got a hair here."

Long gone, Halloran thought, moving out of the way, back down the aisle toward Father Newberry. Whoever did this could be in New York by now, or California, or next door.

* * * * *

"So everybody hated them."

"I didn't say that, Mikey."

"Father, meaning no offense, but could you not call me Mikey when I'm on the job?"

"Sorry. It slipped out." Father Newberry smiled at the one man on this earth he could truly and freely admit he loved like a son in a very human way. Michael Vincent Halloran was broad and tall and very imposing indeed with a gun on his hip and a badge on his chest, but the priest still saw Mikey the altar boy, dark and intense in this land of bland and blond, tailing him through those years before puberty when the priesthood had still been a magnet.

"Okay, then who were their friends?"

The priest sighed. "They had no friends."

"You're not helping, Father."

"No, I suppose I'm not." Father Newberry frowned at the yellow crime-scene tape around the pews ahead, framing the centerpiece of John and Mary Kleinfeldt. Doc Hanson was rummaging in his bag now, bumping John Kleinfeldt's body, grabbing it by the shoulder when it started to tip over. Father Newberry closed his eyes.

Halloran tried again. "You said they tried to get several parishioners removed from the congregation because they believed they were homosexual. I'll need a list of those people."

"But none of them took it seriously. I can't think of one who was really upset, the accusations were so preposterous."

"So none of them are really gay?"

Father Newberry hesitated again. "Not to my knowledge."

"I'll need the list anyway, Father. You have a file on the Kleinfeldts? Next of kin, that sort of thing?"

"In the church office, but they had no family."

"No kids?"

Father Newberry looked down at his hands, at the shiny spots on the knees of his pants that marked him as a professional supplicant, thinking that this was the gray area; that dreaded place where the obligations to the secular and spiritual worlds clashed in a terrible way. He sorted through his memory for what he could say, setting aside what he could not. "I believe they had a child, but they refused to speak of him. Or her. I don't even know if the child was son or daughter."

"Still alive?"

"I don't know that either. I'm sorry."

"It's all right. Anything else you can tell me about them?"

The priest frowned, mentally ticking off the pathetically few scraps of information he possessed about the Kleinfeldts. "They were retired, of course, at their age. Both in their seventies, as I recall. Very devout, in their own way more than God's, I'm sorry to say. And very solitary. I don't think they trusted a living soul, including me, and I always thought that was very sad. I suppose that isn't an uncommon trait among the wealthy."

Halloran looked doubtfully at the shabbily dressed corpses. "Land poor?"

Father Newberry shook his head. "They tithed a precise ten percent. December thirty-first every year they'd send a check and a financial statement from their accountant to prove it was exactly ten percent, as if I would question it."

Halloran grunted. "Weird."

"They were . . . unusual people."

"So what were they worth?"

The priest looked up, found his memory on the ceiling. "Over seven million, I believe, but that was last year. It would be considerably more now."

Behind them the church door opened and closed and a wave of cold moved up the aisle, Bonar in its wake. He stopped next to Halloran. "We got nothing from the neighbors. State forensics is just pulling in." His eyes narrowed on Halloran's face. "What? You got something?"

"Motive, maybe. Father tells me they were worth millions."

Bonar glanced up the aisle at the bodies. "No way."

"It isn't exactly a motive, Mike," the priest interjected. "Unless you consider me a suspect. They left everything to the church."

Bonar elbowed Halloran. "I told you the padre did it."

Father Newberry almost smiled; stopped it just in time. "Lutherans," he muttered instead.

Up in the front of the church Doc Hanson stood abruptly. "Oh shit." He shot a quick, guilty glance back at Father Newberry. "Sorry, Father. Mike, you want to come and take a look at this?"

Beneath the black coat that Doc Hanson had started to unbutton, Mary Kleinfeldt's once-white blouse was saturated with the red-brown of coagulating blood. The smell of it filled the pew.

"She was shot in the chest, too?" Halloran asked.

Doc Hanson shook his head. "Not unless they brought along a cannon. Head hole looks like a .22, and this is way too much blood for anything that small." He unbuttoned the soggy blouse and opened it. The two deputies watching both took a quick step backward.

"Jesus," one of them whispered. "Looks like someone started a do-it-yourself autopsy."

Mary Kleinfeldt's slip and bra had been sliced in half and peeled to each side, exposing blue-veined skin that had never seen the sun. A vertical gash ran down the center of her chest, exposing the sternum. Another gash ran horizontally, so deep that the lower half of her breasts hung inside out.

Halloran stared at the old woman's chest and felt a new kind of fear he couldn't put a name to yet. "That's not an autopsy incision," he said softly. "It's a cross."

--from Monkeewrench: A Novel by P.J. Tracy, Copyright © 2003, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 52 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 52 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    exciting thriller, filled with misdirection and secret agendas

    In Calmut, Wisconsin, an elderly couple is found murdered in church, a bullet in each of their heads. Upon further investigation, the police discover that the couple had moved frequently, changing their names with each new address. They were obviously running from somebody but they had no friends because they were harsh and unforgiving religious fanatics who kept everyone at a distance. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, five friends have formed a software company Monkeewrench and the latest game they are beta testing on the net is called Serial Killer Detective. Life imitates art because someone is killing people in the exact same way as in the game. The police look into the background of the Monkeewrench Team, which hits a blank wall because the group has gone to a lot of trouble to change their identities. While the police are trying to figure out why, a connection is made to the double homicide in Calmut and Grace McBride, the leader of the software development team, finds herself the target of a sociopath who wants her dead. This is P.J. Tracy¿s debut novel and it is an exciting thriller, filled with misdirection and secret agendas. Grace is constantly on guard 24/7 because she escaped from a killer several years ago but she has no peace because he was never caught. The fact that she is still sane says a lot about her inner strength and the loyalty she inspires in her friends. MONKEEWRENCH is a suspense thriller that allows no time outs. Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    Most fun I've had in a long time!

    This mother-daughter writing team has created an unusual cast of characters that bring fun to "murder". They provide a backdrop of laughter to a very thrilling and edgy "serial-killer" based story. The twists occur naturally and suprisingly. This is a real "can't put it down" read. I'm looking forward to the other books in this series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great BookClub Read

    Monkeewrench was our most recent BookClub read. I found it a very easy read and one fun for those of us from the Twin Cities area. Upon completion of the book, I went and purchased the other three books of the series. They are all very good ..... I am now anxiously awaiting the next release!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    No Monkeying Around

    >> Monkeewrench is action-packed from the start. It's got complex characters and a twisted plot. It's sure to keep you on your toes every step of the way.I picked up this book and couldn't put it down. Warning: If you picked this book up to fill a few minutes of your time, wait until you've got longer because it's extremely captivating.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Waiting

    Picked up this book after seeing her newest in hardback on the shelf. Spent all day reading and went back to store that night so that i could get all the other ones. Then spent the rest of the weekend reading these. I am now waiting for the next installment of the Monkeywrench bunch.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2007

    REAL

    Laugh out loud funny in places and a page turning thriller the rest of the way. The characters are real. I'm so used to reading characters who are not what they seem or have arrogant attitudes but in these books the people are refreshingly like people we meet every day. Truly fabulous storylines. Best things I've read in years.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2005

    A good debut; work to be done

    I stayed up to finish 'Monkeewrench' because of the characters, not the plot. It's obvious the writers really enjoyed creating the characters and writing their dialogue -- they do an excellent job. I hope future books demonstrate the same level of skill in pulling the plot elements together, because I thought the overall framework was weak. My book club loved it; I guess I'm just fussier.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2003

    AN INGENIOUSLY PLOTTED MULTI-LEVEL THRILLER

    Look out thriller world here's P. J. Tracy ( pseudonym for a mother/daughter writing team)! In an interview the mother half of this formidable writing duo is quoted as saying that she has 'absolutely no qualifications for such a profession, except a penchant for lying.' This reviewer isn't lying when she says that 'Monkeewrench,' the first in a promised series of four, is one of the most amazing, imaginative, compelling, off-the-wall debut novels in many moons. For starters, double murders simply do not occur in a sleepy Wisconsin community, especially not in a small Catholic church which was 'old and almost Protestant in its plainness' and 'The blessed Virgin wore the gleam of plastic and bore an unsaintly resemblance to the mannequin in the window of Frieda's House of Fashion....' Nonetheless, the crime did occur - two elderly parishioners were shot while praying, making the first homicide in five years for Sheriff Michael Halloran. During his initial investigation of the case a shocking tragedy occurs. Even if he were not shaken Halloran would never dream that these double killings will be linked with diabolical murders in Minneapolis. Nor does he realize the powers of deputy Sharon Mueller who aims to be a full fledged part of this investigation and Halloran's life. Grace McBride is beautiful, unapproachable, and lives in a house protected like Fort Knox. She has a past that haunts her every waking hour, and is surrounded by the oddest assortment of characters to grace a page. Outre' they may be, but they're also brilliant. Together with Grace they make up Monkeewrench, a software company that has devised a computer game. Rapidly becoming popular in Minneapolis and environs the game is basically the challenging search for a murderer. Players follow a series of made-up murders and clues to catch a psychopathic killer. Art imitates life in a horrorificl way when someone begins to copy the game in real life. By the time detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth become aware that this is happening three people are already dead, and there are 17 more episodes on line. When word of this is leaked to the press the city is wracked with fear - there are 17 more possible victims. One of the first to come under Magozzi's scrutiny is Grace McBride. He is both puzzled and attracted - stumped when he discovers that Grace and her crew had assumed new identities some years before. Compounding this puzzle is the fact that the FBI is tight lipped about why the new identities were given. Have I mentioned zippy, state-if the art dialogue rife with humor, computerese, and police-speak? I should have because Monkeewrench is loaded with it. Mother/daughter teams can probably come up with a lot, but few, I'll venture, can match this ingeniously plotted, multi-level thriller that's as artfully knit as an argyle sock.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    it was good. Just wish I had read the first 4 in the series to k

    it was good. Just wish I had read the first 4 in the series to know who the characters were.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2014

    Instantly Hooked

    After reading this book, I immediately purchased the rest of the series. So far, I'm up to #4. Initially, I was a little nervous when I noticed the books getting a little shorter, but, luckily, each subsequent book has been as good as the first in the series!

    The writers do throw a LOT of characters at you in this 1st book, but they manage to develop them quickly and well. I was sucked into their world immediately. The mysteries and the action are solid. The story lines have humor, tragedy, hope, and pathos. The books and the characters feel real. I've known many cops, and the authors truly capture the dichotomic nature of many of them: funny as a stand-up comedian and serious as a soldier on the front lines.

    I hope this series continues.

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  • Posted July 30, 2013

    terrific

    There are a handful of writers whose books I want to read all of and fewer still that I want to actually buy. This series is worth the money. The mysteries are good, but the humor and banter and dialogue is even better. Fans of CJ Box, Robert Crais, Nevada Barr... will enjoy the writing team of P.J. Tracy.

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  • Posted February 16, 2013

    Great start to a series. Great characters. I couldn't wait to read more!

    I discovered the second book in the series, Live Bait, and as I started to read it I realized it was a series and I wanted all the background so I stopped reading Live Bait and got Monkeewrench. Loved it and quickly gobbled up every book in the series. And I want more!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    If you like Sandford and live in MPLS

    I thought the book was good reading,suspenseful right to the end and also humorous at times.I live in the MPLS area and read Jhon Sandford so i enjoyed the book and will read the next in the series.

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  • Posted September 19, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The story was mediocre if you can get past the excessive profanity.

    The story line was very difficult to follow. It jumped from scene and situation too sporadically. The profanity was very distracting. I doubt it would have been one third as long if the profanity was taken out. The language doesn't add to but rather distracts from the plot.
    I won this in a giveaway and although I appreciate authors offering their books to these giveaways, I would never add this one to my library.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The authors have a way of bringing the story together so it is hard to figure out the "who dun it" until the end. Even though the writers are female, I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how they captured the banter that goes on between the cops who worked together. The book was very entertaining, had humor and a good mystery twist. I have since purchased more of their books and I am enjoying those as well.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2012

    Read this book!

    A worker at my local Barnes and Noble told me about this book, and I'm glad she did. To keep it simple its a very good book. I recomend to anyone who likes a good police story.

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  • Posted November 17, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Monkeewrench has a monkey wrench in the plot

    Fell in love with the characters on the spot! Introducing the crew and the police force they end up butting heads with. I was ready for the next one and was not disappointed. A quick witted and fast paced story that keeps the pages turning.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2008

    Great Book

    I couldn't put this book down. Had to get online to find other titles by this mother daughter duo.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2008

    One to keep on the shelf and reread!

    I loved this book. I was looking for something along the lines of a mystery and wow! A pace that keeps you in the book and wanting to stay in the world long after your done. It takes a great writer (in this case writers) to keep you wanting more.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2006

    Loved It!

    Loved it, loved it! Really reminds me of John Sandford books. Great storyline and characters. I have already ordered the followup books!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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