People are playing a game called SKUD, which stands for Serial Killer Detective. Created by the five somewhat eccentric owners of the computer company Monkeewrench, the game has 17 murder scenarios featuring increasing difficulty. The player is to work each crime scene as a real life detective and build upon the evidence while shrinking the list of suspects until the killer is found. A test version is up on the Internet for advance orders and so far, out of the large number playing the game, no one has gotten very far in playing their creation. But the orders are pouring in and the group stands to be rich.
That is until someone in real life starts duplicating the cyber death scenes in the game down to every last detail. Not only is a serial killer using their game as a springboard to kill he begins to very personally taunt the police as well as the Monkeewrench group. While distrustful of the police for good reason as the complicated back-story explains, the group is forced into cooperating with the police in a search for the killer as their shared nightmare comes alive once again.
This report prepared by Kevin R. Ttipple
Putnam, April 2003, 23.95, 384 pp.
In Calmut, Wisconsin, an elderly couple is found murdered in church, a bullet in each of their heads. Upon further investigation, the police discover that the couple had moved frequently, changing their names with each new address. They were obviously running from somebody but they had no friends because they were harsh and unforgiving religious fanatics who kept everyone at a distance.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota, five friends have formed a software company Monkeewrench and the latest game they are beta testing on the net is called Serial Killer Detective. Life imitates art because someone is killing people in the exact same way as in the game. The police look into the background of the Monkeewrench Team, which hits a blank wall because the group has gone to a lot of trouble to change their identities. While the police are trying to figure out why, a connection is made to the double homicide in Calmut and Grace McBride, the leader of the software development team, finds herself the target of a sociopath who wants her dead.
This is P.J. Tracy's debut novel and it is an exciting thriller, filled with misdirection and secret agendas. Grace is constantly on guard 24/7 because she escaped from a killer several years ago but she has no peace because he was never caught. The fact that she is still sane says a lot about her inner strength and the loyalty she inspires in her friends. MONKEEWRENCH is a suspense thriller that allows no time outs.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner