I would like to mention this up front, as you would never know it from reading OFF THE GRID: P.J. Tracy, the author of this fine book, is a mother-daughter writing duo. I have read a collaboration or two, and this one practically defines the term ”seamless” as applied to that type of project. However they do it, they do it very well, and this installment in the Monkeewrench series stands as Exhibit A for that proposition.
"OFF THE GRID is possibly the most grim of the Monkeewrench novels, though it's not without occasional humor. As always, the repartee occurring between Magozzi and Rolseth is first rate, even as Magozzi and MacBride make a few tentative steps towards a reconciliation of their relationship."
Monkeewrench is the moniker assigned to a cutting-edge software company based out of Minneapolis. If you’re thinking that it’s bunch of guys sitting around in their robes in front of a computer monitor, that isn’t what it’s all about. From the top down (and there really isn’t any “down”), each member of Monkeewrench brings a unique skill set to the table. So when Grace MacBride, a partner in Monkeewrench, is on a platonic sabbatical with former FBI agent John Smith, she doesn’t leave her motor skills on the end table at home. A late-night assassination attempt takes place on Smith’s boat, and MacBride responds with deadly force, ending the attack favorably for Smith but leaving a puzzle behind. Why would the would-be assassins, who were foreign nationals, attempt to kill a former FBI agent?
At the same time, Minneapolis homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are dealing with a series of execution-style murders in one of the more violent areas of the city. One of the dead is a highly respected Minneapolis policeman who is terminally ill; when it develops that four of the other victims appear to be tied to terrorist activities, a greater mystery is created. How is a terminally ill law enforcement officer able to track terrorists to their lair? Furthermore, a series of similar incidents across the country, all of them involving suspected terrorists, are linked by the presence of explosives in the murdered terrorists’ residences and wall calendars with the date “October 31” cryptically circled. Someone is connecting the dots and disseminating the information.
As Monkeewrench and the team of Magozzi and Rolseth begin to pursue their separate incidents from opposite viewpoints, they slowly begin to converge on the edge of an Indian reservation located in rural Minnesota, where the success or failure of a deadly terrorist plot will be determined in the quiet of a dangerous and deadly night.
OFF THE GRID is possibly the most grim of the Monkeewrench novels, though it's not without occasional humor. As always, the repartee occurring between Magozzi and Rolseth is first rate, even as Magozzi and MacBride make a few tentative steps towards a reconciliation of their relationship. And while there is some violence, it is hardly over the top. The focus here instead is primarily on the characters, who are memorable regardless of their station in the scheme of things. That is not to say that the plot is given short shrift here. In fact, Tracy is still lobbing surprise grenades off of the page even as the final paragraph is put to rest. All in all, OFF THE GRID is another chapter of a series that seems to get better and better.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 3, 2012