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by P.J. Tracy

Pub Date: April 14th, 2003
ISBN: 0-399-14978-3
Publisher: Putnam

Where will all those violent computer games end? With a copycat series of real-life homicides, in a preposterous, entertaining nailbiter that marks a pseudonymous mother-and-daughter team’s first effort.

Not content with the millions they’ve already made, the five misfits who comprise Monkeewrench Software Development have outdone themselves in their Serial Killer Detective (SKUD) game, whose 20 levels provide 20 different crime scenes. When they put the software online, however, the response is more enthusiastic than they’d expected. Among the 500-odd users who’ve signed on to test-drive the game, one of them has begun to re-create the crimes in loving detail. A seminary student shot to death as he jogs along the river, a novice hooker posed atop a stone angel, a sensation-seeking marketing rep whose discovery in an indelicate position interrupts a society wedding reception aboard a paddlewheel steamer—they’re all taken chapter and verse from SKUD. As Minneapolis Detective Leo Magozzi sorts through leads and tussles with Grace MacBride and her cop-hating, gun-toting Monkeewrench confrères, Sheriff Michael Halloran, miles from everywhere in Kingsford County, Wisconsin, is confronted with the shootings of a homophobic old couple in their parish church and the fatal booby-trap in the house they won’t be returning to. The root of all this evil is pretty clearly a hermaphrodite killer and a bloodbath at the University of Georgia ten years ago, but will Magozzi and Halloran put the pieces together, or even join forces with each other, in time to prevent the murder the fourth level prescribes for the Mall of America? And as the noose tightens around Monkeewrench, which of the five partners—flamboyant clotheshorse Annie Belinsky, techno-weenie Roadrunner, wine and hog connoisseur Harley Davidson, straitlaced Mitchell Cross, or paranoid Grace herself—will hold the key to the puzzle?

Late-night alert: Don’t settle down with this wacky, supercharged maiden voyage at your bedside till you’ve cleared your schedule for the following morning.