I picked up the first Monkeewrench book back in 2003 when the cover caught my eye. Off the Grid marks the sixth book in this series by mother/daughter writing duo P.J. Tracy.
Monkeewrench is a company comprised of four eclectic computer whizzes who design programs but also work closely with law enforcement agencies who can utilize their specialized talents. They're based in Minneapolis and frequently help Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth. The 'leader' of Monkeewrench is Grace. At the end of the last book, she had broken out of her self imposed isolation and gone sailing with retired FBI agent John Smith. When they are attacked at sea, it looks like John has a target on his back. But why? Who? He decides to go off the grid while Grace returns to Monkeewrench.
Back in Minneapolis, Magozzi and Rolseth are dealing with the unthinkable - young Native girls are being snatched right off the reserve. When one of the girls is found dead, it isn't long before the two men who took her are found murdered as well. As other bodies are found, it looks like someone has taken justice into their own hands.....and the case is bigger than they imagined.
I've quite enjoyed the other books in this series, but found this latest offering just okay. The members of the Monkeewrench crew have always intrigued me - they are all 'damaged' to some degree, but highly intelligent, determined to help the law where they can - and they consider themselves a family. This book, although it involved the crew, was focused much more on Magozzi and Rolseth. While I enjoy these characters as well, they aren't my favourites. Other characters such as a retired vet and his friend, a local Native Police Chief, seemed a bit clichéd. John Smith was flat and I never really bought into him or Grace's attraction to him.
I ended up heading to the Internet to see if there was indeed a Native Mafia/Somali gang connection and yes, there is in Minnesota. The plot line begins with this idea, but then veers into territory that has been travelled before. It was pretty easy to see where the rest of the story was headed. Some of the clues were glaringly simplistic, such as the circled calendar dates. And I had issues with some other small things. For instance - Monkeewrench prides itself on being uber prepared, yet fails to check if someone has put a tracker on their vehicle? I felt the ending came far too abruptly. I was caught up in the action scenes which suddenly jumped to the end, leaving me with questions about one character's demise and feeling like I had missed a few pages.
This book did feel like there were two sets of keyboards at work. I found there to be odd interjections at crucial moments that were truly awkward. For example, we're at the end, waiting to hear what an FBI agent has to say and "Gino reached for a butterscotch candy in a dish on the coffee table, then remembered getting one of those evil things caught in his throat at the fourth-grade Halloween party. Just relax and let it melt, the stupid school nurse had told him as he was choking to death. He put the candy back in the bowl and looked at Agent Dahl."
Now, that being said, I did enjoy the book, but not as much as I wanted to. If you're looking for a lighter style of mystery that will keep you entertained, then pick this one up for the beach. I'll be watching for the next in this series, hopefully with a return to the tone of the earlier books. Those who enjoy James Patterson's mysteries would also enjoy this series. Read an excerpt of Off the Grid. You can find P.J. Tracy on Facebook.