It had been awhile since I thought about the Monkeewrench series of novels (which I've enjoyed), but they were brought back to mind when the Amazon Vine review program offered up the latest installment titled Shoot to Thrill by P. J. Tracy. It took a bit of time to reacquaint myself with the characters, and new readers would probably be a bit confused if this was their starting point of the series. I also thought the ending was rather strange, but not enough to ruin the book for me. This was a pleasant bedtime read over a few nights, with just enough tech/geek elements stirred in to make it a bit difficult to put down.
The FBI has a new cyber-twist on the age-old crime of murder. Videos of actual killings are showing up on the Internet, and whoever is responsible has the technical chops to make the postings impossible to trace back to an IP address or a general source. The feds decide to bring in a group of hackers and techno-geeks to see if they can succeed where the feds have so far failed. What this actually means, however, is that the feds will be turning a blind eye to server access hacks and other acts that would be criminal under normal conditions. They also convince the Monkeewrench crew to become involved, given their past expertise in breaking cases that no one else could crack. The feds, local police, and Monkeewrench all figure out a tenuous working style that enables them to get along during the investigation, and soon there are a few suspects that have strong evidence of being involved in some way, shape, or form. Monkeewrench finds a private discussion board where specific elements of each murder were posted before the actual killing. But even then, there's still the feeling that perhaps some other missing key ties all of the acts together. And until that key is found, there's no idea as to whether the killings will stop.
At the start of the book, the authors (a mother/daughter team writing under the pseudonym of P. J. Tracy) explain that this novel was written over several years, and the internet changed significantly during that time. Social networking sites became all the rage. But their main theme remained valid... what happens when the "innocence" of social networking and internet sites are lost, and they become the primary drivers for those who may have a much darker personality? I think the story was true to that theme, and I have no doubt that it's far worse than we know (or than what's currently been uncovered by organizations designed to protect us). It also pointed out that law enforcement are at a distinct disadvantage with laws that govern privacy. On the other hand, I think it's no great leap to see where abuses by law enforcement in those areas would lead to...
In terms of characters, this would be hard for someone to follow if they had not known the background of the two main detectives and the Monkeewrench crew. In fact, you'd probably say the characters were rather shallow as there was not a significant amount of backstory on any of them. I'd even go so far as to recommend that someone NOT start with Shoot to Thrill if they hadn't read the other books in the series. Plot-wise, the book seemed to lag a bit during the middle section, strangely about the time they started to find the suspects. You'd get a suspect for one or more of the killings, but it was obvious that the person(s) couldn't have been totally responsible for everything. So there was this "start and stop" feeling as arrests were made, yet the investigations would seemingly need to start anew because more angles were uncovered.
Even with the things I found "off" about the story or pacing, it was still an enjoyable read, especially with the internet angle on the killings. So long as someone has read other Monkeewrench novels prior to this one, I think they'd also find this installment worth reading.
Disclosure: Obtained From: Amazon Vine Review Program Payment: Free
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
Thomas Duff (duffbert)
Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.