Shoot to Thrill (Monkeewrench Series #5)

Shoot to Thrill (Monkeewrench Series #5)

4.2 39
by P. J. Tracy

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The FBI asks the ingenious Monkeewrench crew to help them find the chilling link between a dead bride found floating in the Mississippi and a series of gruesome murder videos posted anonymously on the Web- before the killer claims his next victim...

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The FBI asks the ingenious Monkeewrench crew to help them find the chilling link between a dead bride found floating in the Mississippi and a series of gruesome murder videos posted anonymously on the Web- before the killer claims his next victim...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the enjoyable fifth Monkeewrench thriller (after Snow Blind) from Tracy, the mother-daughter writing team of Patricia J. and Traci Lambrecht, special agent John Smith of the FBI's cyber crimes unit seeks the help of cybersleuths Grace MacBride, Annie Belinsky, and their geeky associates—as well as Minneapolis, Minn., homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth—in solving a horrifying string of murders filmed for the Web. The Monkeewrench team must create a program that can separate staged death scenes from the real thing. The first death they scrutinize appears to be the drowning murder of a Minneapolis drag queen. “A stabbing, two shootings, and a strangulation” are among subsequent killings that occur in other cities across the country. They catch a break when the eighth victim, a Medford, Ore., waitress, survives a stabbing. Newcomers will have no trouble getting into the story, and everyone will appreciate the likable characters. Author tour.(May)
Kirkus Reviews
A serial killer who travels the nation-or is it a whole platoon of individual killers?-runs afoul of the Monkeewrench cyberteam when he (she? they?) claims a victim in the outfit's hometown of Minneapolis. It's quite a coincidence when someone drowns Alan Sommers, aka Sweet Cheeks, and makes a video of his death struggles on the banks of the Mississippi, because only a few miles away, the FBI has made Minneapolis its headquarters for a nationwide appeal to computer hackers. Horrified at whoever has been flooding innocuous websites with footage of violent deaths, Special Agent John Smith appeals to his audience to break the law by tracing the perps who've been posting the footage through offshore proxy servers. Chief among these cyber-cowboys is Monkeewrench, the software engineering firm that's developed a sideline expertise in serial homicide (Dead Run, 2005, etc.). Soon after Monkeewrench partner Roadrunner writes a program that can distinguish real from fake snuff videos, the team makes a crucial discovery that links an even greater number of suspicious deaths than the FBI had done and predicts which victims will follow. The staging of the crimes is as sociopathically audacious as ever, and following Roadrunner's partners-beer-guzzling Harley Davidson, plus-sized fashionista Annie Belinsky, perennial victim Grace MacBride, her lover Det. Leo Magozzi (Snow Blind, 2006), and now the FBI's Smith-as they track the killer or killers through cyberspace is gripping. But there are too many detectives to allow much intimacy with any of them, and the solution is a decided letdown. The weakest of the gang's four adventures to date.
Library Journal
Popular social-networking sites take center stage in Tracy's fifth technological thriller (after Snow Blind) as murderous videos are posted online. FBI agent John Smith is on the case and invites the Monkeewrench gang, that group of software geniuses, to determine who is posting the videos and to find a way to differentiate between what turns out to be real murders and staged ones. As one of the killings takes place in Minnesota, Minneapolis detectives Magozzi and Rolseth join the investigation. This odd group of crime fighters makes for a very effective team, even though both Magozzi and Smith are interested in Grace MacBride, the gang's beautiful, superparanoid leader. VERDICT Shifting from murder to terrorism leaves holes in this convoluted story. It will appeal mainly to fans of the Monkeewrench series, who have been waiting four years since Snow Blind, and to those who appreciate high-tech hijinks. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 1/10.]—Stacy Alesi, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., Boca Raton, FL

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Monkeewrench Series , #5
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Sales rank:
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt


From top to bottom and everywhere in between, Minnesota was a bleak and frigid place in January, whether you were shivering on a blizzard- swept western prairie or paralyzed under a foot of snow smack in the middle of Minneapolis. But there was no greater sense of winter desolation than on the north shore of Lake Superior, where the big water that looked like an ocean was forever pushing enormous blocks of sharded ice against one shore or another.

The past two weeks had been particularly cruel to the lake. A parade of low- pressure systems had stalled, battling each other for command of the winds, freezing the great body of water almost to the horizon line. It was profoundly disturbing to see something so powerful completely subdued, like King Kong in chains on a Broadway stage.

Randy Coulter had a lot of empathy for the lake, because he knew what it felt like to be the helpless victim of a greater force, trapped by circumstances he was powerless to change. But that was the old Randy— the new, improved Randy finally had the power to make things happen. And if he could muster the guts, he’d make something happen today.

The trail on the edge of the cliff provided spectacular winterscape views for the snowshoers and cross- country skiers who frequented the winter resorts along the shore, and their numbers were legion in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. City dwellers accustomed to the protective environment of crosswalks and guardrails flocked to the north in a foolish fit of adventure, where you actually had to rely on your own good sense instead of the nanny state to keep you safe.

Randy slipped out of his snowshoes and off the groomed trail, testing each step toward the edge of the cliff with a pole to make sure there was frozen earth beneath the windswept snow. The closer he got to the lip of eternity, the colder the wind that blew on his face. He began to despair, thinking that no would- be athlete would venture out on such a day, when the barometer rose and the temperatures plummeted. They were all inside their cozy cabins and resort rooms, frolicking in hot tubs or drinking in front of a fire, and Randy would be the only soul to see this cliff today.

He had to drop to the snow on his stomach to safely examine the magnificent sight over fifty feet below him. The shoreline bristled with stalagmites of frozen water that vaulted upward from the shore like monstrous icy teeth, just waiting for something substantial to gnaw on. “Beautiful,” he whispered.

“Hey. You okay?”

Randy nearly tumbled over the edge at the sound of a male voice behind him, and then looked over his shoulder and saw everything he would never be. From the logo on the Gore- Tex suit he knew immediately that the man drove a foreign sports car and had left a probably augmented blond woman back in his cabin, and for a moment he felt himself shrink away, curl inside himself, until he remembered the power. “Thank God,” he said, and the man’s waxed brows moved into a frown.

“Are you hurt, buddy? How can I help?”

Randy closed his eyes. “I think there’s a body down there,” he whispered, rising to his feet. “I didn’t know what to do . . .”

“You’re kidding.”

“No, really.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“Do you have a cell phone?”

“Sure. Let me get a look first.”

“Okay, but be careful. It’s a little slick out here near the edge.” The man removed his snowshoes, moved cautiously toward the edge, and peered over. “I don’t see anything.”

“You have to come further this way. Those ice spikes block the view . . . oh, man, this is horrible, I’ve never seen anything like this . . .” Randy felt the man’s hand come down firmly on his shoulder. Oddly, he found the touch comforting.

“Take it easy, buddy. Just relax, take a breath. It’s down there?” Randy didn’t have to fake the tears. They came on their own, and he couldn’t imagine why. “Right . . . down . . . there . . .” he pointed, and when the man leaned forward to follow his finger, Randy locked his knees and braced his legs and pushed against the man’s back with all the strength he had.

The wind carried away the prolonged scream as Randy just stood there, looking out toward the horizon, his face expressionless. It might have been seconds or hours when he finally fell to his stomach again and peered over the edge.

It looked like Mr. Gore- Tex was humping one of the ice stalagmites, and Randy thought that was pretty funny.

“I told you there was a body down there,” he whispered, then pulled a tiny video camera out of his parka pocket and hit the zoom button.

Chapter 1

Alan squinted hard at his three faces in the tiara’s bathroom mirror, trying without any real success to bring a single reflection into focus. But even with his vision swimming and pixilated by vodka, he could see enough to know he looked like a Picasso portrait of Liza Minnelli. His false eyelashes were drooping like tired spiders, spinning crazy webs of mascara down his cheeks, and his smeared lips looked slightly askew, a scarlet counterbalance for his cockeyed wig that was tipping to the opposite side.

His billowy white dress had also suffered the indignity of his twelve- hour party day, and it was shedding pearls like a vomiting oyster.

He cringed as he tried to tease out snippets of the evening from his memory, but there were a lot of black spots in the matrix. Sweet Jesus Lord Almighty, he was drunk. How many martinis had he had? Two at home, another four or five at Camilla’s place for sure, and then there had been an unrelenting succession of those disgusting, tragically pink cocktails here at the club, pushed on him by the new Dominican bartender who’d been so guileless in sharing the various intimate locations of his body piercings.

The thought of needles being poked into certain sensitive areas of a male’s anatomy sent his stomach into turmoil, and he leaned over the sink and splashed cold water on his face until the nausea subsided.

When he finally felt sturdy enough, he pushed himself into an upright position and aimed his compass for the nearest exit. The night was young, there were still some A- list parties he was planning to attend, and he needed to sober up before he did, especially if he was going to perform. Fortunately, Camilla had given him the key to her condo, which was just a few blocks away if he went as the crow flies and took the riverside walking path. He’d take a shower, drink some juice, and he’d be up and running again just in time for the drag show.

It was never easy negotiating the path along the Mississippi in four- inch stilettos, even with your sense of equilibrium intact; and it was harder still when you were wearing a fabulous pair of Dolce & Gabbanas you just had to have because they were fifty percent off at Neiman’s, even though they were a size too big. He’d stuffed the toes with cotton balls and had doubled up some duct tape and put it in the heels, because dancing to “It’s Raining Men” wasn’t exactly a minuet, and he needed the extra security. But he was still slipping in and out of them as he half- careened, half- bulldozed down the path, and at one point, he stumbled, fell, and came to lying in a nest of damp, putrid- smelling weeds so close to the river, he could hear the hiss of water in his ears.

He could also hear Wild Jim’s psychotic, drunken rants echoing in the darkness: “Crazy faggot! Crazy faggot, crazy queen, fell down and broke his crown!”

Wild Jim was a fixture along this stretch of the Mississippi, and the locals who lived around here knew him every bit as well as the cops did. He was clearly on a superior bender of unknown origin tonight, like almost every other night, and in that regard, the two of them had a lot in common. In fact, Alan felt strangely comforted by the familiar presence, as annoying as it was.

“Yoo- hoo! Jimmy!” he called in his best soprano lilt. “Where are you? Come here and help Mama up!”

Wild Jim answered with a grunting salvo of unintelligible expletives from somewhere above him on the embankment.

“Puh- leeze, Jimmy,” Alan needled. “Come help your mama.”

“Stop talking shit. You crazy faggots are messing up my river and always talking shit.”

Alan giggled and stared up at the stars, wondering if he’d ever be able to muster the strength to pull himself up. And in truth, he wasn’t sure he wanted to, at least not yet. It did smell down here, and the ground was damp, but it was surprisingly peaceful in this little hollow where the riverbanks absorbed the urban cacophony of the streets above. If Wild Jim would only shut up, he might actually consider taking a little nap right here.

He had no idea how much time had passed before he finally struggled to his feet, and as he did, he heard the rustle of grass coming from somewhere behind him, drawing closer. He hadn’t ever expected that Wild Jim would actually show himself— he had a big mouth, but he usually stayed out of sight.

It was a delicious, naughty surprise to feel two powerful arms scoop him up like a bride. Not a common scenario for gay men meeting by the river for a one- time, anonymous assignation, which was the saddest thing about being a queen. Normally there were no real kings in the circle; no take- you- down- and- have- their- way- with- you romantic heroes, and Alan’s girlish heart had always pined for that. How lovely that at last he was the romantic heroine of his imagination. Too bad he was so wasted he’d probably never remember any of this.

He heard the splash when his hero first stepped into the river, but didn’t process the implications until he felt himself being lowered into the water. His first thought was for his shoes; his second for his dress; but both of those major tragedies were blasted from the ruins of his mind when the man pushed him to the bottom and pinned him there. Alan held his breath dutifully, looking up through the water, waiting to see what came next in this kinkiest of all encounters.

It wasn’t very deep this close to the shore; maybe five inches over his face. Less than half a foot of water between Alan and oxygen. Suddenly that became very important, but by the time he realized that nothing came next, that this was the grand finale, it was too late for his tortured lungs. He struggled mightily, but only for a few seconds before his body told him to gasp, gasp now, and he had no choice but to open his mouth wide and take in his first drink of the Mississippi River. He didn’t struggle much after that.

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