Newest Review: ... due to some event that happened whilst they were friends at university really intrigued me. There were nice twists and turns and I loved ... more
Playing murder games
Want to Play? - P.J. Tracy
Member Name: sunmeilan
Want to Play? - P.J. Tracy
Advantages: Great suspense, gripping story
Disadvantages: Perhaps a bit overdone
When a murdered girl is found draped across a statue in a cemetery, the ferocity of her murder is disturbing to all who see it. Yet this is only the beginning. Before long, a team of computer programmers, headed by Grace McBride, have approached the police because the murder is a carbon copy of part of a game they are currently working on. Minneapolis detectives, Magozzi and Gino, begin a race against time to stop more serial killings based on the game from happening. At the same time, it appears that there is a connection with the brutal slaying of an elderly couple in a Wisconsin church and a series of killings that Grace and her programming friends were involved in ten years before. Could Grace and her team be involved in the murders? Or is it someone wanting to implicate Grace at every turn who is just waiting for her to become one of the victims?
Having read a couple of other books by the mother/daughter writing team who make up P J Tracy, I knew that I was in for a gripping read with this book, the first in the series. Gripping it most certainly is, from start to finish. I read a great deal of crime fiction and find it very hard to be completely sucked in these days - either because the read isn't eventful enough or it is too easy to guess what is going to happen next. This book, however, is both eventful and full of twists and turns that make it virtually impossible to second guess the next step - although towards the end, I had picked up on some of the clues that the author had left. Nevertheless, it is a seriously gory murder mystery that will appeal to most fans of thrillers.
Part of the intriguing storyline stems from the descriptions of the characters. Grace is probably the main character, although Magozzi comes a close second. She is not particularly likable to begin with; she is prickly, unfriendly, and obviously has a great deal of difficulty in trusting anyone. However, as her experience of ten years ago is slowly fed to the reader, it becomes more of a surprise that she knows how to function at all. Her computer programmer friends, Harley, Mitch, Roadrunner and Annie, are her family and stick to her side like glue. Nevertheless, P J Tracy still keeps some of her character mysterious, so that the reader cannot completely rule her out of the role of serial killer. It's very cleverly done and makes for a great character.
Magozzi is the other character who really stands out. Despite his initial reservations about Grace, he is slowly beginning to fall in love with her, while desperately wanting to catch the killer at the same time. His job has become his life, but he is beginning to realise that there is room in it for something else - and it could be Grace. He didn't develop hugely over the course of the book, but there is enough there to tempt the reader to carry on with the series, and his relationship with Gino, his partner, is both touching and funny at the same time. The Wisconsin Sheriff who is involved in the murder of the couple in the church is another strong character. His character is quite similar to Magozzi, but he has a love interest in one of the detectives who works for him and it turns out to be quite a highlight of the book.
My only issue with the book is that there is just so much going on in it that at times, it was hard to get to grips with exactly what was going on. It also involves a serial killer who is a complete genius (very similar to some of Patricia Cornwell's killers) and manages to get things spot on every single time without ever being caught in the act. It's just a bit too hard to believe at times. And although there are plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing, they do add to the need to suspend disbelief. This is not something that anyone will necessarily notice while reading, but when mulling things over afterwards, everything just seems a bit too neat and tidy. I am being very picky there though, because at the end of the day, it's a great escapism and most people would rather that than an accurate real life depiction.
The writing style is punchy and gets on with the job, which is precisely what is needed with this type of book. The chapters are short, which fits in well with the way that the story is told - it chops and changes between characters, particularly at the beginning of the book before the Wisconsin murders are connected with the Minneapolis ones. This does mean that the reader has to really keep on their toes for the first part of the book in particular, but the simplicity of the language really helps there. The main issue is getting to grips with all the names, which with names like Magozzi, Harley and Roadrunner is a little mind-bending to start with. In time though, the originality of the names wins through - it's hard to forget someone called Roadrunner who dresses in lycra and is described as looking like a long, thin pencil!
This book is not flawless by any stretch of the imagination, but for a first novel in this genre, it really does deserve its place in thriller history. It isn't always a pleasant read - there are some fairly horrific descriptions of the murders to cope with, but that anyone who struggles with that probably wouldn't be reading anything from this genre anyway. Best of all, I think the authors have created a set of characters who are memorable - at least in Grace and Magozzi. If you're new to the series, this is definitely the place to start - it makes future books much easier to follow with regard to the character backgrounds. I highly recommend this book, 4.5 stars out of 5.
The books is available from play.com for £5.99. Published by Penguin Books, it has 496 pages. ISBN 9780141011325.
Summary: Computer games can kill...