Today's feature is a double: two thrillers for the price of one!
I'd been meaning to read P.J. Tracy's Monkeewrench for ages and finally got it done. For one thing, it's the first book in a popular thriller series; for another, it's written by a mother-and-daughter team, and I always find co-written books, if not great reads, at least interesting to consider from a mechanical point of view (how did they work together? Did one person come up with the plot and the other person do the writing? etc.). It's also been heralded here in the Midwest for its dual setting in Minnesota and Wisconsin.*
As is typically the case with thrillers, the plot is not really the point, but here it is: An uber-religious couple is found shot dead in a church in Wisconsin. At the same time that law enforcement there is trying to unravel that case, a series of grisly murders is playing out in Minneapolis. What do those murders have to do with a software/gaming company called Monkeewrench? Well, the murders are copycat versions of murder scenario's in the company's new crime investigation game, several of which have been previewed on the company's website. Is somebody who accessed the website re-creating the murders, or is it one of the employees of Monkeewrench, all of whom, by the way, clearly have their own dangerous secrets?
And again, as is typically the case with thrillers, I had to read the whole thing--so the prose was clearly compelling. And actually, for a thriller, the character development was pretty good too. I particularly liked the feisty head of Monkeewrench, Grace MacBride. So yeah, okay read. But, unfortunately, the thriller genre and I are destined never to be one. For one thing, somewhere in the middle, I always desire simply to be done with the book, at which case I either start skimming to finish or I simply read the last couple of chapters and call it a day. I don't know why this is. Secondly, I always feel vaguely dirty when finishing them--they never seem like something I should have enjoyed. Weirdly, I don't have this problem when reading True Crime books.
The other thriller was Mo Hayder's Ritual, which again, I plowed all the way through (you can't really read these books slowly, I find--if there's one thing these authors are really, really good at, it's pulling you through chapters and making it hard for you to ever put the book down until you're done). Ritual was a bit more disturbing than Monkeewrench; Hayder's a Brit author and they just seem to do DARK, even in thrillers, better than American authors. Her book opens with police diver Flea Marley finding a hand--that's it--in a small inlet in the port town of Bristol. The greater scheme the hand was part of--having to do with the city's underground and some unsavory ritual practices being adapted from their African roots to very modern criminal settings--is quite complex, but readers are warned this is one of your more graphic variety thrillers.
Hayder was recommended to me a long time ago, by a thriller-reading friend, for her book Birdman, which was also creepy as hell. I can find no fault with Hayder's writing, plotting, or characterization, and of course I love her British tone--but the fact remains that when I was done with this book I just felt sick, and didn't really want to talk about it at all.** I just don't enjoy ending books on that note, so why do it?
*Mr. CR liked Monkeewrench okay, but was endlessly annoyed at this quote: "'I am not one of your abuse cases, Sharon, and I don't need analysis from a kid with a penny-ante U of W psych degree, so give it a rest.'" They're referring to the UW-Madison, which anyone from Wisconsin knows is referred to as "the UW." He thought, even if one of the authors was from Minnesota, not Wisconsin, they should still know that. Mr. CR can be very demanding about the details, and that's why we love him.
**This does not mean I think people who love thrillers are sick or wrong. I routinely read True Crime and other disturbing NF titles that would disgust most people--three of my favorite books of all time are a true crime classic, a book about torture, and the true story of the assassin who was hired to kill the Palestinians who killed the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics--so I'm not judging anyone else.