Get Blog Posts Via Email

View RSS Feed


Book Author: P. J. Tracy

DESOLATION CANYON by P. J. Tracy: Book Review

A remote desert retreat run by a “man of God,” an organization finding good homes for Russian orphans, a mother grieving the loss of her only son in Afghanistan, the death of a successful businessman at an elegant Beverly Hills hotel.   Four seemingly unrelated situations that coalescence into a single case bring Los Angeles police detective Margaret (Maggie) Nolan and former Army soldier Sam Easton together again.

Children of the Desert is at the center of Desolation Canyon.  It’s a spiritual retreat that’s “gained the attention of celebrities,” Maggie’s father tells her when he informs her that her mother is heading there for a two-day stay to get herself healed, but that doesn’t impress Maggie.  She’s been hurt and bewildered by her mother’s behavior ever since Maggie’s brother Max was killed, and now she’s wondering why her mother has to seek out strangers to help her deal with her loss, why her husband and daughter aren’t enough for her.

Maggie decides to put the concerns about her mother aside and calls Remy Beaudreau, a former police detective for whom she has some unresolved feelings.  They meet for a drink at the luxurious Hotel Bel-Air, and Maggie shares more than she means to about what is going on in her family.  When she mentions the name of the retreat that her mother is going to, it’s obvious that it has some meaning for Remy.  In an attempt to shift the conversation, he suggests they view the hotel’s famous Swan Lake, famous as a site for weddings.

But instead of the serene site they’d anticipated, the swans seem agitated and are batting their wings against the water.  And just moments later, Maggie and Remy see something in the water, and it turns out to be the body of a man.

The body is identified as Blake Lindgren, a lawyer who was general counsel for a Russia-baaed company.  When Maggie and her partner Al Crawford go to the home of Blake’s former wife, they find another corpse; now both Mr. and Mrs. Lindgren have died under suspicious circumstances.

Inside a California prison, Glenn Ramey is visited by “Snake” Jackson, a man he’d done time with years earlier.  Now calling himself Father Paul, Jackson tells Ramey he’s founded a spiritual retreat in the desert, a place where he’s “restoring wounded souls” and that he needs Ramey to be a key part of his security team at the Children of the Desert site.

Disbelieving, Ramey refers to Jackson as a former felon, and the latter’s countenance “transformed fully into a nightmare mask.”  Jackson tells Ramey, “Never mention it again…I’m here to save your life but it wouldn’t trouble me to end it.”

P. J. Tracy has done a masterful job putting together all the pieces of this intricate puzzle.  The plot of Desolation Canyon is suspenseful, and the many characters are believable and true to life.  You can read more about P. J. Tracy at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

DEEP INTO THE DARK by P. J. Tracy: Book Review

Back in Los Angeles after his tour in Afghanistan, Sam Easton is working at the Pearl Club bar, unable to utilize his engineering degree due to his emotional state.  He’s suffering from PTSD and is dependent on both his psychiatrist and his medications.  He doesn’t always listen to Dr. Frolich’s suggestions and is mixing the antipsychotic medication with way too much liquor.  But he’s doing his best.

Not helping Sam’s mental condition is the recent separation from his wife.  He’s not blaming Yuki, who had stood by him since he returned home, but she had finally reached the breaking point and suggested they put some distance between them.  He had to agree it was best for her, although he’s not sure it’s best for him.

Sam’s co-worker at the Club, Melody Traeger, is also having problems.  She’s been seeing Ryan, a music producer, whom she’s definitely attracted to in spite of his possessiveness and jealousy.  But the day he tells her he wants her to quit the Club because he doesn’t like the way men there hit on her, and she tells him she needs the job to pay her rent and college tuition fees, he punches her in the face and gives her a black eye.  Then she’s out of there, through with Ryan–but is he through with her? 

Melody has become aware of a black Jeep she thinks is following her.  She’s seen it several times, but she tries convincing herself there are hundreds of cars in L. A. that fit that description.  And then someone crawls through a bedroom window in her apartment while she’s away and leaves two dozen red roses in a vase on her dresser.  She texts Ryan about them, but he denies they’re from him.  Can she believe him?  Does she have a stalker?  Is the driver of the Jeep involved?

The following day, Ryan’s maid finds his body in his apartment, and Police Detective Margaret Nolan is put in charge of the case.  Nolan doesn’t suspect either Melody or Sam, but her partner Al Crawford isn’t so sure.  He sees Melody’s black eye as a triggering event for Sam due to his PTSD, and he thinks his colleague is overly forgiving of Sam’s emotional state because her brother died while serving overseas.

Then Sam and Melody become acquainted with a young man at the Club.  He’s Rolf Hesse, and he wants Sam and Melody to star in a film he’s writing.  At first they tell Rolf they’re not interested, but he’s so enthusiastic they finally agree to look at his script.  He’s calling it Deep into the Dark, and despite themselves they find themselves impressed.  It is dark, but so are the things in their own lives.

P. J. Tracy (Traci Lambrecht) is the daughter of the mother-daughter team who wrote the Monkeewrench series; she continued the series after her mother’s death in 2016.  In this, the first mystery featuring Margaret Nolan, she shows the skill in plotting and characterizations that were evident in her earlier books.  Deep into the Dark is an excellent introduction to what readers will hope is a long-running series.

You can read more about P. J. Tracy at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.



SHOOT TO THRILL by P. J.Tracy: Book Review

The mother-daughter team of P. J. Tracy has written another Monkeewrench novel about two winning teams: the computer geeks/hackers/geniuses at Monkeewrench and the Minneapolis detective team of Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth.  And the entertaining style of Patricia Lambrecht (mother) and Traci Lambrecht (daughter) combines to make this book hard to put down.

In Shoot to Thrill, it appears that the Web has spawned a new kind of evil, pre-posts of murders that are then carried out. There seems to be a Wisconsin connection, a strange thing in a state where nothing bad ever happens, or hardly ever.  But it all comes to light in nearby Minneapolis, the home of the Monkeewrench group and Magozzi and Rolseth.

The F.B.I., being legally unable to hack into sites that may be hiding these killers, sends its agent, John Smith, to Minneapolis to work with Monkeewrench to uncover the web sites that are posting the murders on YouTube for the whole world to watch.  Straight as an arrow, Smith is nearly at the Bureau’s mandatory age of retirement of 57 and is thinking back over his lackluster career.  He had dreams of heroic exploits that never came to pass, and his association with Monkeewrench may be the “slippery slope” that will make him look outside the box he has created for himself.

Magozzi, meanwhile, is still dealing with his unrequited love for Grace McBride, the founder of the Monkeewrench computer experts.  Grace, in turn, is unable to commit to any relationship due to her feelings of guilt over the deaths of close friends and associates for which she blames herself.

During the national search for the killers who are posting the murders on the Internet, the Minneapolis P.D. is also confronted with a series of possible bombs planted at various locations around the city. Is this the work of a terrorist group or simply some copycat teenagers out to disrupt the city as a joke?  F.B.I. profiler Chealsea Thomas thinks the latter but can’t be certain.

Even though the plot is a serious one, there’s a lot of humor in this series. There’s a lot of clever repartee between Magozzi and Rolseth, two typical cops who can’t let on how fond they are of each other.  The Monkeewrenches are oddball characters who have made a fortune with their video games and now can pick and choose what they want to do.

The authors have given each member an offbeat vibe:  Harley Davidson (yes!) owns the mansion where the group works and is a fabulous cook; Grace McBride also cooks but locks herself in her house with its barred windows and steel door; Annie Belinsky wears costumes rather than clothes; and Roadrunner (no first name given) lives in Lycra jogging outfits.

The Monkeewrench series is an enjoyable one, and this mother and daughter team have a lot on the ball.

You can read more about P. J. Tracy at her/their web site.