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A group of five friends are creators of a company called Monkeewrench. They produce computer games for pre-school children and have made themselves substantially rich in the process. One of the team, Grace MacBride, decides they need to branch out and they create a game called Serial Killer. The player has to decipher clues from each murder, to enable them to get to the next level in an attempt to catch the killer.
However, one player seems to be slightly more excited by the game than the norm and begins to recreate the murder scenes, right down to the last tiny detail in real life.
It’s a real problem for the police and with four murders in as many days; they are running in circles trying to catch the real killer with the knowledge there are twenty murders altogether in the game. No one is free from suspicion and everyone, including the Monkeewrench team, is considered and the more the Detectives look into Monkeewrench, the more they find they need to know!
This is the first PJ Tracy book I have read and I am glad I chose this one instead on “Snow Blind”, which I was going to read first. Want to Play was the first book by the mother and daughter team and was heralded as Debut of the Year and I have to say, it is a tag line that I am pretty much in tune with. They have written four books that I am aware of so far and although each book is a standalone story, the characters seem to be constant, or at least the main characters anyway. Whilst this means each book could be read out of chronological order, I will find it easier to be accustomed to the characters before I continued with the rest of their publications.
Having never really read crime books before this was a real pleasure for me and I have found a new genre to fulfil my literary needs. I say crime book in a very loose sense, because although it does cover detective work and gives a good deal of detail on how the Minneapolis police work the case, it is also very suspenseful and in some ways resembles thrillers I have read by Dean Koontz, “Intensity” for example seems to have a similar writing style in my opinion. Although Koontz does like a good bit of gore in his books, PJ Tracy have not held back with descriptions of the death scenes and this was something I found very addictive.
Due to the nature of the serial killer, and the copycat way they were going about the killings, it lent itself to some very eventful and unique murders. For instance in one level of the game a young girl is found dead, on top of an angel statue in a cemetery. The game player is meant to look for clues as to how and why she died, but the real killer simply followed the game murder to the letter and PJ Tracy describes how she was led to the cemetery and how the murder actually took place. Very insightful!
There is a lot of history with all the characters and I really enjoyed the back stories, as although they feel a little excess to the plot at times, they are all actually very necessary and tie in with the whole story at the end. Each sub-story was still, however, very interesting to read and I didn’t feel I was bored.
As far as suspense goes, I can honestly say I did not work out who the was killer until it was revealed in the book, and thankfully that wasn’t until pretty much the last chapter. The authors manage to send you all over the place with your thoughts in terms of who dunnit, and I really enjoyed the way they gave you a little bit more with each chapter. But this was never too much, otherwise I could have figured it out and it was a genuine surprise when I read the answers. Again this was given to you in a really atmospheric way, that gets you totally caught up with the story, and you are riding the wave with the Detectives. As they find out, you find out and I really liked this style of writing.
The only part of this novel I found irritating was the introduction of a lot of people in a short space of time. This led to some early confusion, as characters were mentioned and I found myself on a couple of occasions checking back to see who they were and how they fitted into the plot. It was about three quarters of the way through the book that I finally became fluent with everyone and how they slotted into the network of characters. However in saying this, it didn’t cause confusion as such, because the story was so well written, anyone I was unsure about initially, became an interesting and entertaining personality, meaning that even if I wasn’t entirely sure who they were, it didn’t seem to matter. This does however; help me to explain my preference to reading this novel first, as it kind of sets a base for the next few novels, allowing an immediate interaction with them, rather than having to scene set again.
Overall this book is highly recommended, and PJ Tracy is definitely on my favourite authors list for now. Their second book – Live Bait – will be my next read and if you are interested there is a small taste of this at the end of Want to Play, although I didn’t read it as I already have the book ready, but it did mean the novel finished before I was expecting it to, as the last chunk of pages is taken up by this taster, and I thought it would be more of Want to Play. This was slightly disappointing but it meant that the story ended exactly where it needed to. Everything was tied up and there was nowhere else for it to go without becoming a long drawn out conclusion. I was only disappointed, as I had enjoyed it so much.
Available from Amazon for £5.99 and is definitely worth the money, however if you are unsure, I would also recommend a book site like Bookhopper where you can request second hand books for free if you offer some up too.