August 6, 2006

Snow Blind

Snow Blind by P.J. Tracy
Finished on 7/28/06
Rating: A- (8/10 Very good)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved to read. While all the other children in my kindergarten class stretched out on their mats at naptime, I got to sit with my teacher, quietly reading from Dick & Jane. Looking back, I don’t recall any of the other kids trading naps for a chance to read to the teacher, but maybe they did. All I know is I felt very special and very lucky.
As a young reader, I enjoyed the popular children’s series such as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House books, The Bobbsey Twins, The Happy Hollisters, All-of-A-Kind Family and Anne of Green Gables. I also found great pleasure in discovering the classic stand-alones: The Magic Far-Away Tree, Heidi, and The Secret Garden. Yet unlike many of my friends, I was never terribly interested in mysteries, only reading a solitary Nancy Drew (The Hidden Staircase) and maybe a couple from the Trixie Belden collection.

In spite of the distraction of boys and the beach, my love for reading didn’t subside when I hit my teens; however, I don’t remember too much of what I read for pleasure: That Was Then, This Is Now; Go Ask Alice; The Shining (had to read this one on the beach – it scared the crap out of me!); an occasional Sidney Sheldon or (gasp) Danielle Steel. But again, no mysteries.

Life got busy (marriage, baby, divorce, back-to-school, remarriage) and before I knew it I got sucked into the world of computers and the Internet. In the mid 90s I discovered online book groups, opening up a whole new world of authors to choose from. I began to read Ian McEwan, Rohinton Mistry, Jose Saramago, Richard Russo, Ann Patchett, Barbara Kingsolver, Donna Woolfolk Cross, Margaret Atwood, and Mary Doria Russell. Gone were the days of Steel, Grisham and Sanders. Lots of contemporary fiction, but still no mysteries.

Then, someone with whom I share similar reading tastes mentioned that she greatly enjoyed mysteries by Dennis Lehane and Harlan Coben. I kept hearing these names and finally decided to give them a try. What a thrill to not only discover a new group of great authors, but a new genre as well. I fell in love with Lehane’s Kenzie/Gennaro duo; Coben’s Myron Bolitar and his psychotic sidekick, Win; Robert Parker’s gutsy and intelligent Sunny Randall; John Sandford’s womanizing Lucas Davenport; and most recently, P.J. Tracy’s Monkeewrench Gang. I love the ongoing character development in each of these series, for very much the same reason I love a good TV drama (Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, and of course, the very best of the best, House M.D.). It’s not so much about the mystery and unraveling of clues, hoping to figure out whodunit, but rather the bantering and camaraderie between the regulars in the series that keep me coming back for more. Kenzie, Bolitar, Randall, Davenport, and Grace all share a common trait with the Fishers, Tony Soprano, and Gregory House: They’re flawed individuals and often miserable, which makes them all the more believable and human, and thus, loveable.

Snow Blind, Tracy’s latest Monkeewrench novel, doesn’t disappoint. Set in the frigid winter environs of Minneapolis and surrounding areas, Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are back in action, tracking down leads to a series of murders, while forced to babysit Iris Rikker, the newly elected sheriff of rural Dundas County.

Damnit, there weren’t supposed to be bodies. Bodies had never been mentioned, not once.

She stared holes into the eyes of her reflection, mentally reinforcing who and what she was – onetime city girl, substitute English teacher at whatever school in the district would take her, and the brand-new deputy who’d been working a scant two months on night-shift dispatch because part-time teaching didn’t pay the bills – and then she closed her eyes and took a deep, shaky breath. Yesterday she had been those things. Today she was the newly elected sheriff of one of the largest rural counties in Minnesota and some jackass named Sampson thought she was the person to call when you found a body lying around.

In spite of the fact that Grace, Harley and Roadrunner (the computer whizzes, collectively known as the Monkeewrench gang) appear only briefly in this new release, Magozzi, Rolseth and Rikker are just as entertaining and make up for any void caused by the absence of the others.

The dilemma of writing a review about a mystery/thriller is the constant possibility of revealing a “spoiler.” For this reason, these reviews tend to be a bit light in plot detail. You’ll just have to take my word for it. This is another great read by a talented mother-daughter writing team. If you haven’t read P.J. Tracy’s mysteries, you’re in for a treat. Meanwhile, I have the new Sunny Randall book in my stacks! Life is good.

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