Reading challenge book 10: Play to Kill by P.J. Tracy

P.J. Tracy is the pseudonym for a mother-daughter writing duo
Book 10 in my challenge to read one book (I haven’t read before) a fortnight in 2012 is Play to Kill by P.J. Tracy.
Sometimes I love to curl up with a good murder mystery, and if you’re looking for a focus on the crime solving with a lack of faffing around, then P.J. Tracy is the way to go. 
P.J. Tracy is the pseudonym for mother and daughter P.J. and Traci Lambrecht, who have produced a series of linked books.
The authors have a knack of stripping down all of the extraneous rubbish you find in many murder mysteries and crime tales, and just getting right to the point.

There are two heinous murders to open the book, before we even get to see the crime solving going on. And even then, we find out that the murders we viewed weren’t the first.

While the personal lives of the characters involved in solving crimes are important and inform who they are as investigators, they’re not the most important thing in Play to Kill. The crime is. And because that’s the case, we somehow manage to find out more about our characters than if we’d spent entire chapters reading about their personal lives.

There are instances where we see interactions between the characters outside of the crime solving set – Magozzi and Rolseth’s friendship is a great read, and Magozzi and Grace’s interactions are always interesting, since he’s in love with her and we don’t know quite what she feels for him, but neither of them are sitting around crying endless tears over it all.

The other thing I really liked about Play to Kill was that there was none of the red herring type stuff you find in some murder mysteries, where the reader – and the characters – are constantly being led down the wrong path only to discover a red herring. It was good to read something where there wasn’t too much of a wild goose chase, and it seemed more realistic.

In Play to Kill the two groups investigating the series of murders at the centre of the book don’t interact much. Monkeewrench stay largely in their mansion running clever computer programmes, while Rolseth and Magozzi spend most of their time in the office with their fellow police detectives or in their car travelling between murder scenes and the police station or occasionally visiting the Monkeewrench offices.

My favourite character is Rolseth, who seems like your typical doughnut eating cop, but is actually fiercely intelligent and loyal, and makes a brilliant support character to Magozzi. Even then, you can’t really say Magozzi is the main character here. Although he’s been in previous books in this series by Tracy, the writing is such that it’s really more like an emsemble than anything else.

There’s a brilliant twist at the end, which I didn’t see coming, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the murders I’d just spent 300 or so pages reading about.

For me, Play to Kill was the perfect murder mystery. It was to the point, devoid of meaningless interactions and all about the crime, yet still with brilliantly formed characters.

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