Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Play To Kill" by P.J. Tracy

The Monkeewrench team first introduced in "Want To Play?" is called upon by the FBI when videos of real murders start turning up on the Internet. Also involved are detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth, since one of the murders occurred in their jurisdiction. Monkeewrench decide to develop software that can differentiate between fake and real murder videos (yeah, that one didn't ring true with me, either). A link is discovered in that comments were posted before the murders were committed, giving clues as to who would be killed, plus where and when. However, it must be determined whether it is the work of one murderer, or many, and just what connection does an alcoholic judge have to it all?

Let me just start by saying this is the stupidest, most inane, most unsatisfying thriller I have read in some time, and that spoilers are likely to follow. I am utterly gobsmacked that garbage of this nature can not only make it past an editor but also see the light of day as a published manuscript. P.J. Tracy, who is actually a mother-daughter team, took four years to deliver this plotless, suspenseless nonsense, which just boggles the mind.

First of all, while some may enjoy the "quirky" characters, I found them to be either personality-free (Magozzi, Grace MacBride), or cutesy, nauseating caricatures (Rolseth, the rest of the Monkeewrench crew). Everybody spends plenty of time sass-talking, to the point where it just feels like they're killing time. Don't they have a killer/killers to catch? Then we have the endless internal musings. Should Grace trust humanity again? Should Magozzi keep pursuing a relationship with Grace? Should Rolseth/several-other-briefly-introduced-detectives-and-sheriffs throw it all in and spend their days with their families? This sort of thing extends to even the most minor of characters (they show up in one or two chapters and are never heard from again), but we strangely never get a peek into the psyche of Annie, Harley and Roadrunner from Monkeewrench - odd, considering they've been central characters in all five damn books! I kept expecting Rolseth's Cadillac and Grace's dog Charlie to chime in with their thoughts about the universe. As for Rolseth, I don't think I've ever wished so fervently for a character to simply just shut the hell up.

Then we have the utterly lazy plotting. Since the characters are all having such a jolly good time contemplating the way of the world, or exchanging 'witty' dialogue, not much space is left over for suspense or plot twists. It pretty much goes like this: murder videos start showing up on the Internet. Characters find a way to possibly intercept said murders. Two of the potential murders that a majority of the book focuses on have nothing to do with anything. The bomb scare that makes up most of the last third of the book also has nothing to do with anything. Cue quick wrap-up that never identifies any of the killers, but offers a quick motive from the only minor character who appeared in more than two chapters. Conveniently, the whole case is solved before Monkeewrench ever get to use their dodgy real-murder-spotting software.

Go read "Want To Play?", the first book in this series. It's terrific. An absolute ripper. The other three are pretty decent thrillers also. "Play To Kill" is just astonishing in its ineptitude. Where are the plot twists? Where is the suspense? Where is the feeling that even one of our major characters is at risk or under threat? They all just sit around and exchange jokes. Or, in the case of Grace MacBride, sit around being a miserable bitch. I get really angry when I waste time, effort and money on worthless rubbish like this. As good as the previous four books were, I will never read another book by this duo again.

1 comment:

  1. I guess I won't be nicking this off your bookshelf then.
    Plus, Grace has become more self-absorbed as the series progresses. I'm not surprised she's become a misery guts.