Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Guilty Dead by P.J. Tracy

First Sentence:  Gus Rankin sipped from a bottle of water as he surveyed Trey's living room.
Gregory Norwood died of an accidental drug overdose.  Or did he?  On the one-year anniversary of his death, his father commits suicide.  Or did he?  What is the connection to an even greater threat that could kill hundreds of lives?  It's up to the police, working with the experts of the Monkeywrench team, to find the answers.
The story opens with a prologue that that works as it is an example of "show, don't tell."   It provides background to the events, people, and connections which form one of the two story threads. From there, Tracy quickly draws one into the main story, introducing the rest of the characters and clarifying relationships along the way. 
It doesn't take long before Tracy's trademark plot twists and wry humor become evident—"There was a gate and a gatehouse inhabited by two armed guards who possessed all the charm of North Korean border-control agents."  The other side to humor is tears.  Tracy also understands—"…that grief was the cost of love and it pillaged everybody in exactly the same way, regardless of socio-economic status.  It was the great equalizer."  The dialogue is wonderfully done, particularly the repartee between Magozzi and Rolseth.
All the characters regular readers have come to know are here, with the extra feature of an extremely pregnant Grace.  Those new to the series need not worry, however, as each is reintroduced in a casual manner, with backstories provided.  However, there are a lot of links between the secondary characters, not to mention similar names in the beginning, which can be confusing. 
Tracy creates a real sense of atmosphere, which is something very different from place or time.  It's a skill which can make one stop and really consider—"Norwood's body was gone, but the pervasive stench of death wasn't.  Its malignant presence had even penetrated the upstairs rooms in the big house.  "There were companies that specialized in sanitizing the aftermath of crime scenes – 'trauma cleaning' was the polite term for it – but Magozzi had always wondered if it was possible to scour a place entirely of death's effrontery."
The escalation of suspense is very well done, but the reliance on coincidences is a bit heavy-handed, in spite of the clever exchange on the subject—"…"'We asked a buddy tonight if he believed in coincidences.' She arched an over-plucked brow. 'And what did he say?' 'He said no.  But sometimes coincidences happen.'"
It is a bit unusual, in a good way, to have a bad guy with a conscience, and the motive comes clear as does the intended target.  It is a circuitous route, but an interesting one.  Even so, the exposure of the villain is hard to believe, and the ending, which includes a predictable scene, rather abrupt.  This is the first book written solely by Traci since the passing of her mother P.J., and it does show, yet one should have faith that she'll hit her full stride soon.
"The Guilty Dead" is exciting and suspenseful with twists galore and plenty of bodies.  Whatever else, it's a fun way to spend a few hours with an entertaining group of characters, and that's not a bad thing at all.

THE GUILTY DEAD (Pol Proc/Tech-Monkeywrench Gang/Magozzi/Rolseth-Minnesota-Contemp) G+
      Tracy, P.J. – 9th in series
      Crooked Lane – Sept 2018 

1 comment:

  1. It certainly sounds like an intriguing plot. And even if it may not be Tracy at her best, it sounds as though there are some interesting characters, too. I'm glad you found things to like about it.