Shoot to Thrill

[Amazon Link]

Another tale in the Minneapolis-based "Monkeewrench" series, co-written by a mother-daughter team pseudonymicized as "P. J. Tracy". Bottom line: Not bad, but just OK.

The premise is that videos of actual grisly murders are being posted on the book's equivalent of violence-porn YouTube. Amidst all the fake grisly murders. The Monkeewrench team is called in to write software to pull out the reals from the fakes. Things get a little more urgent when the death of a local transvestite, initially thought to be an accidental drowning, turns out to have been one of those video homicides.

And, more intriguing, Monkeewrench discovers that the murders have been pre-announced via anonymized cryptic bulletin-board messages. Is this the work of a serial killer? Or a loose association of random sickos? If the latter, who's pulling the strings?

It's a page-turner, true enough. And it has its share of good writing and sympathetic characters. But the plot comes off (to me, anyhow) as unbelievably contrived. And it also seems padded, in that irritating "we have to get the word count up to the number specified in our publishing contract" way. A lot of dialog that's just meandering chit-chat, not revealing anything about the characters or advancing the plot.