on June 20, 2004
P. J. Tracy (the pseudonym for a mother-daughter writing duo) gained a lot of fans with their first novel, MONKEEWRENCH, a word-of-mouth favorite. Now MONKEEWRENCH's unforgettable characters, lively pacing and eccentric humor return in the sequel, LIVE BAIT.
A year after the Monkeewrench killing spree paralyzed the city, Minneapolis's finest are still reeling. It's been a slow few months in the homicide department, but on a rainy April night, two murders are called in. At first, the two crimes seem unrelated --- the only connection is that both victims are senior citizens. As Detective Magozzi and his team investigate, though, it soon becomes clear that the two murders are connected, but not in a way that anyone would have imagined.
The surprising connection between two seemingly unrelated murders is just one of LIVE BAIT's plot twists that will keep readers hooked. In addition to the compelling mystery story, Tracy's clever, sharp-tongued prose and wry observations add depth to the novel. One detective, for instance, describes the muggy spring day by saying, "I feel like Frosty the Snowman when he got locked in the greenhouse with all the poinsettias." The weather is, in fact, a major force in the novel, as a tornado bears down on the city just as the Minneapolis police bear down on their suspect.
Most of the favorite characters from MONKEEWRENCH are back for this second installment. Many of them are still bruised from their earlier adventures, none more so than Marty Pullman, the cop whose wife was murdered by the Monkeewrench killer. Unable to work, haunted by memories of his wife and his own dark secrets, Marty is a tragic character, consumed by loss and alcoholism. Beautiful but fragile Grace MacBride is also back, trying hard to live a normal life now that she's no longer in mortal danger.
Grace's motley band of software developers --- the central characters of MONKEEWRENCH --- are here, too, but in LIVE BAIT, they serve primarily as comic relief rather than as fully developed characters. Their connection to the plot is tenuous at best, although the author does seem to be setting up a larger role for this quirky crew in the next installment of this winning mystery series. Stay tuned!
--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
on June 6, 2004
I began this book without having read the first one, "Monkeewrench." There were times when explanations hinted at previous events, but it didn't stop me from enjoying the action in this one. The dialogue between the cops was so entertaining! Was it real? I haven't a clue because I've never met a real homicide cop. Does it matter? Not a bit; this is fiction, after all! Having lived through WWII, I found the subject matter still pertinent, still interesting, still emotionally touching. The authors wrote of believable people to me, each a blend of some good, some bad -- sadly real. And as in life, you're torn between hating people's actions and weeping for the people themselves. Other reviewers have given specific criticisms, both thoughtful and valid; and I don't disagree. This is not a darkly deep book. But I recommend it to anyone who enjoys sharp, entertaining dialogue; clever plotting; smart, interesting police procedures; and flawed people who are still appealing (some of whom I've met as neighbors!) and human. Kudos to the authors.....
on June 3, 2004
In the follow-up to the excellent debut novel, MONKEEWRENCH, homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth return to investigate a series of murders of Holocaust survivors. There is no seemingly plausible explanation why these salt-of-the-earth elderly people were being murdered. Clues lead to an international link that threatens to unravel a lifetime of secrets.
I highly anticipated another page-turning suspenseful thriller after MONKEEWRENCH, which was one of my favorite books last year. The setup of the story started off well enough because the characters were engaging and the premise seemed interesting, but once the plotline was revealed the story went into cliché-ridden, been there-done that territory. It was a real letdown. The ending to the mystery is a little too predictable. I figured out who the culprit was without even trying. The best part of the book was the interaction between Grace McBride from MONKEEWRENCH and Leo Mazozzi. I hope they are forefront in the next book and that the next book has a better storyline.
on June 2, 2004
This book has me conflicted. Seriously. But it's not due to insightful, provocative writing. The book didn't necessarily tackle controversial issues either, although you can tell the authors would like to think they did. No, this book has me conflicted, actually, for a reason that has nothing to do with insight or morality or even quality-in other words, nothing to do with anything outside of my own head.
The book has me tied up in knots because I am a sucker for a cheap read.
Stepping back from this book, I came to this conclusion about the authors' thought process: It seems that they like to create as brutal, grisly and pathetic a murder as they possibly can (actually, a few of them), come up with a social/political issue to throw in the mix (I visualize them picking the Holocaust out of a hat, and leaving little bits of paper with "schizophrenia" and "war in Northern Ireland" and "homosexuality" tucked inside the brim, ready in case they are pulled for the next novel, because all of their books seem to follow this format), and then try to tie it all together. This makes the book slightly disjointed, although it is not the singular cause; it is also quite clear that the authors are determined to make their story as unpredictable as possible-but only in one way. You see, the reader knows why eveything is happening a few chapters into the story; there are some holes, of course, because of the authors' tendency to withold critical information as long as they can, and only divulge it when holding on to it any longer would cause the book to halt all forward progress, stop spinning in circles, stop turning around on itself, and, in fact, halt motion of any kind. So you know what is happening, and why it's happening, but you don't know WHO is behind it all. The authors' strategy seems to be to keep their villain as invisible as possible, which creates suspense, definitely, but also robs us of character development of any kind. So when the killer is revealed to us, they TELL us why they committed their crime (there's always something extra, some extra WHY that the authors have not yet revealed, of course) but we cannot reconcile it with the two-dimensional image of them that thus far has been all that is offered us. It's a fine balance that probably comes only with practice, or true, true talent-and this IS only their second book.
And it's not all bad, either. There are points in the beginning where it is obvious that there is more than one style of writing in evidence, and that contributes to the book's disjointedness, but it disappears toward the middle, and is nearly forgotten by the end. The authors have some talent, and the suspense they infuse their story with makes it a good cheap read; they made their sacrifice, and those picking up a thriller are probably not looking for character development anyway, although the good guys in the book do mature, change, face mid-life crisises and emotional breakdowns, you name it. But show some love to the bad guy! Anyway, it all depends on what you are looking for. This one will definitely keep you up at night, and if all you're looking for is a scare, something to make you want to turn your house into a safe house like Grace McBride's and sleep in your mommy's bed, pick it up.
on May 14, 2004
Not as good as Monkeewrench, but still worth reading. I was disappointed to see that it was another revenge-from-the-camps type of book - it's not like that subject hasn't been covered. They did a good job with it, though, although it took the cops way too long to figure out the revenge angle. Maybe they don't read fiction?
I was mildly suprised to learn whodunit but by then I wasn't really that invested in having the mystery solved. In Monkeewrench the plot and the writing were equally great. In Live Bait I think the writing was too good for what the writer was working with.
Most of the writing was about Magozzi and crew solving the crime, but Grace and the Monkeewrench crew were there, preparing to take a crime-solving RV out on the road. I'm curious as to whether the next book will follow the Monkeewrench crew out on the road, or Magozzi and pals back at the station house. I'm rooting for any further books to follow the cops. I like the Monkeewrench crew, but would seriously miss Leo and Gino and Angela (who is never seen but whose presence is so strongly felt through Gino's lunches and phone calls).
on May 8, 2004
As improbable as it sounds, there have been no homicides in Minneapolis for months and the detectives that work on homicides are reduced to working on cold cases. The terrific dry spell breaks in a horrific way when eighty five year old Morey Gilbert, a victim of the concentration camp, is killed outside his home. Homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth (of MONKEEWRENCH fame) are assigned the case but they have little to go on because the victim's wife messed up the crime scene.
In the same neighborhood Mr. Fischer's living room is a sea of blood but there is no body. It is later discovered that the corpse is tied up at the railroad trucks but Fischer has a heart attack before the train could hit him. At first the two homicide detectives believe there is no link between the two killings but learns much later that there is. In the meantime, two more eighty-something victims, a man and a woman both living in Morey's neighborhood, are murdered and the only thing they have in common is that they are survivors of the camps.
P.J. Tracy is an expect at writings crime thrillers with so many unexpected twists and turns in the storyline that readers find themselves totally absorbed in the book and will want to read it one sitting. The works of this mother-daughter writing team will be enjoyed by readers who like Patricia Cornwell, Christine McGuire, and Nancy Taylor Rosenberg. The action scenes are very realistic as is the plot but the characters take LIVE BAIT out of the ordinary into the sublime.
on June 15, 2004
Entertaining fiction. P. J. Tracy is the pseudonym of a mother-daughter writing team. In "Live Bait," they have crafted an entertaining mystery.
The characters to a certain extent are more caricature, than character. They are a bit overblown and far from believable. But they are fun.
Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are Minneapolis homicide detectives. A lengthy drought of murders comes to an abrupt end when a seemingly harmless old man is murdered at his plant nursery. Why would anyone murder this local saint? Before that question can be answered, the bodies start piling up. All elderly, all leading seemingly innocuous lives.
As Magozzi and Rolseth and cases work their cases, we learn that not all is at it seems to be. The plot twists come thick and fast. The pacing is excellent - and the ending may come as a surprise.
In all, a delightful read, even if the characters aren't overly believable.
on May 13, 2004
I recently read the first novel in this series, Monkeewrench, and was thrilled to see this new book, by the great mother-daughter writing team. I adore the characters and couldn't wait to get involved with another story that involved them.
I am not going to explain the plot, Amazon always does that, but I will tell you I couldn't figure out who did what and why, until the authors wanted me too, and it made for a great ride. Really interesting premise....and I am again looking forward to the next book in this series. I think the author was setting up a situation that will bring some of the characters from the first book that were not around much in this one, back, and I can't wait. Read this book, but read Monkeewrench first if you havn't read it. It is out in paper and well worth the read, plus it will really help to know the background.
on May 30, 2004
One of the things I enjoyed about Monkeewrench was how well fleshed out so many characters were. Two of the most interesting characters, and the center of the story were Grace McBride and Detective Leo Magozzi who were left trying to get to know each other. This story picks up six months later, when Magozzi and his partner Gino Rolseth find another strange set of murders. This story focuses on Magozzi and Rolseth, who get a little help from Grace McBride. Naturally, the story has plenty of twists and turns and introduces some new, well thought out, interesting characters. If you enjoyed Monkeewrench, you definitely need to pick up this book.
on June 3, 2004
While I would have liked to see the original gang of four from
Monkeewrench more prominantly involved, this book held my interest. Two deaths of elderly people, one gruesome and one seemingly normal, have Magozzi and Rolseth perplexed. When Grace
McBride uses the Monkeewrench computer program, a pattern begins to form...the Holocaust. The premise is quite unbelievable, but I have to admit to shedding a few tears by the end. I'm looking forward to something a bit better from mother/daughter on their next jaunt. More computer geekishness please. However, I do enjoy the Magozzi/McBride relationship.