Monkeewrench Software’s ninth installment—and Traci Lambrecht’s first solo outing since the death of her mother and co-author under the Tracy pseudonym, P.J. Lambrecht (Nothing Stays Buried, 2017, etc.)—shunts the gang of lovable misfits into decidedly supporting roles in a case of revenge served ice cold.
Drug supplier Gus Riskin is so bent on vengeance that he’s willing to kill off one of his best customers in Los Angeles, Trey Norwood—and incidentally his nameless girlfriend—in pursuit of it. The death reverberates in far-off Minneapolis, where Trey’s father, Gregory Norwood II, is a beloved businessman and philanthropist. On the first anniversary of his son’s death, the elder Norwood’s old friend Robert Zeller takes time out from his gubernatorial campaign to phone Norwood, who’s still grieved and suffering from pancreatic cancer. So it’s not entirely a surprise when the cops Zeller asked to go to Norwood’s house find him dead of a single gunshot wound. The surprise is that his death isn’t the suicide it first seems. Hardly has Detective Leo Magozzi, of Minneapolis Homicide, digested the news that he’s looking for a killer when another corpse turns up in a state park: Gerry Stenson, a photojournalist who’d been lurking around Norwood’s estate hoping to get a few pictures. A constant stream of rumors about a terrorist attack on the Minneapolis City Hall, a mounting pile of fatalities, and some hints that the deaths of the two Norwoods are rooted in another crime buried deep in the family’s past all keep Magozzi, or his author, from spending much time with Grace MacBride, who’s almost ready to deliver his baby, or her pals at Monkeewrench: Harley Davidson, Roadrunner, or the comparatively well-adjusted Annie Belinsky.
It’s disappointing to see Tracy’s franchise quartet mostly relegated to providing logistical support and serving as possible targets in this otherwise absorbing, proficient tale.