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Their first real dip in form,
This review is from: Play to Kill (Hardcover)
PJ and Traci Lambrecht's Monkeewrench series has, to date, been one of the stand out crime series of the past decade. Some readers felt that previous novel Snow Blind marked the start of a downturn, and while I didn't agree, unfortunately it has to be acknowledged that Play To Kill does not live up to the same high standards of the previous books in the series.
So, why? Well, we still have the excellent detective duo of Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth. Check. We have much more of the Monkeewrench team than in Snow Blind. Check. We have a plot that makes sense and is exciting... no, hang on. This is where it starts to unravel.
The principal problem with Snow Blind can be traced to two sources. One is the introduction of FBI agent John Smith to the team. The previous novels worked so well because Grace Macbride and her team of computer experts worked completely independently, Grace's on-off relationship with Magozzi providing the crucial link. But here, Smith rather gets in the way. For a supposedly experienced FBI agent, he seems remarkably naive about the investigative process (at one point, he realises he's learned more in two minutes watching Magozzi and Rolseth than in several years previously).
And there's another big problem here. The story inexplicably meanders into a subplot about bombs being planted all over the city. This could have been the basis for an entire novel, but here it's all treated rather casually and feels very much like the writers were running out of ideas. Either that or they had too many ideas, wanted to get this plot in there somewhere, and were worried that they wouldn't get commissioned to write another book. Whatever the reason, it's all a bit daft.
Somehow, despite the problems described above, Play To Kill still manages to be entertaining. It won't put me off reading the next book in the series, should there be one - the rather rushed and odd ending puts that in some doubt - but it does mark the first real drop in standards from the Lambrechts, surprising given the amount of time between the previous book and this. Whatever you do, don't read this as your first PJ Tracy book. Go back and read the superb Want to Play? first. Play To Kill only manages to be average, and given what the authors are capable of, it's a disappointment.