(Melinda Cross, a joint pseudonym, Marian Kent, a joint pseudonym, Jessica McBain, a joint pseudonym, P.J. Platz, a joint pseudonym, P.J. Tracy, a joint pseudonym)
Born 1967; daughter of Patricia J. (a writer) and Phillip (a computer expert) Lambrecht; partner of Dale Launer (a screenwriter). Education: St. Olaf College, graduated 1989.
Writer. Formerly lead singer for rock band, Poke.
NOVELS; WITH MOTHER, P.J. LAMBRECHT; UNDER JOINT PSEUDONYM P.J. TRACY
Monkeewrench, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2003, published as Want to Play?, Michael Joseph (London, England), 2003.
Live Bait, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2004.
Dead Run, Signet (New York, NY), 2006.
Snow Blind, G.P. Putnam ' Sons (New York, NY), 2006.
Also author of other books with P.J. Lambrecht, under joint pseudonyms P.J. Platz, Melinda Cross, Marian Kent, and Jessica McBain. Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Saturday Evening Post.
P.J. Tracy is the pen name used by the mother-and-daughter writing team of P.J. and Traci Lambrecht. "Love, laughter, spontaneous displays of affection, and playful banter are the foundation of this symbiotic partnership, along with a remarkable writing talent," remarked Carole Leigh Engblom in an interview with the Lambrechts in St. Olaf College Magazine Online. Although the two collaborators live hundreds of miles apart—P.J. lives near Minneapolis, Minnesota, while Traci lives in Los Angeles, California—the two regularly get together for plotting sessions and to synchronize their work. "Picture a couple of good friends sitting at a kitchen table, embellishing each other's wild stories, and you'll have a fairly good idea of how we do our plotting," Traci Lambrecht remarked in the St. Olaf College Magazine Online interview. "Our age difference provides two very unique perspectives, so we work on individual assignments, focusing on the chapters populated by the characters and events we each feel most comfortable writing about." Working together comes easy for the pair. "Because our relationship is and always has been close, collaboration is almost effortless," P.J. Lambrecht remarked in the St. Olaf College Magazine interview.
Monkeewrench, the first P.J. Tracy novel (published in England as Want to Play?), is "a soundly plotted thriller that fires on all cylinders," commented a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. "Tracy seamlessly weaves together three distinct subplots converging on a Minneapolis software company." The owners of the company, called Monkeewrench, have introduced a new game to the market: Serial Killer Detective, or SKUD. The game offers twenty detailed levels with twenty different crime scenes, and it becomes even more popular when it premieres online. Things begin to go wrong, however, when murders are committed that mimic the murder techniques and crime scenes in the game: a seminary student is shot while jogging; a hooker is found draped over a stone angel; another victim is killed and left in an embarrassing position aboard a paddleboat steamer. When Minneapolis detective Leo Magozzi starts investigating, he discovers that details about the pasts of the prickly Monkeewrench staff do not add up, and that the millionaire software developers are not who they claim to be.
In a case that will soon intersect with Magozzi's, county sheriff Michael Halloran also has multiple murders on his hands when an elderly couple is found dead in their parish church, shot in the head. As Magozzi and Halloran rush to assemble the clues into a coherent lead, the Monkeewrench developers discover the origin of the grisly murders. They tell the police, and the authorities beef up the security at Minneapolis's Mall of America, where the fourth murder is supposed to take place. Precautions, however, come too late. Attention turns to the game's fifth victim: a teacher in a classroom. Of the hundreds of teachers in classrooms throughout Minneapolis, no one knows who will be targetted.
"This fun, snappy read features funny, sad, and spirited characters" and a "nonstop story," remarked Marianne Fitzgerald in Library Journal. Booklist reviewer Nancy Spillman called Monkeewrench "a devilishly mesmerizing high-tech whodunit," while People critic Sheryl Connelly named it "a killer read in every way." Monkeewrench "is that rare mystery that stays ahead of the reader," noted Rebecca Ascher-Walsh in Entertainment Weekly. Silvia Sikeston, reviewing the book on the Magellan's Log Web site, concluded that "you can bet your backspace key that some very famous, very rich, but also not so talented genre writers would give their movie rights to have their name on this book."
The characters in Monkeewrench return in Live Bait, a thriller that finds Magozzi and his associates attempting to track down a murderer who preys on elderly Jewish survivors of Nazi concentration camps who are now living in Minneapolis. Among the clues is a gun that can be traced to numerous murders around the world. The fast-moving plot "incorporates romance, gore, and a surprise ending," advised Rebecca Ascher-Walsh in Entertainment Weekly. A Publishers Weekly writer stated: "With generous doses of humor and suspense, this sharp, satisfying thriller will rivet readers from the start."
Dead Run continues the adventures of the group, and in it, the mother-daughter writing team "has once again penned a furiously paced tale," commented Stacy Alesi in Library Journal. In this suspenseful novel, McBride and her female companions find themselves stranded in what seems to be a ghost town; they soon discover that they are being targetted by a paramilitary organization that intends to shoot them on sight. The women's desperate bid to stay alive and foil their attackers is only part of the story, which also takes in a larger terrorist plot. The story is presented less as a mystery than as a straightforward thriller. A Publishers Weekly writer referred to Dead Run as another "winner," and approved of the "quips and comedy" in the book as well as the "dark pasts" of the characters that provide another dimension.
Snow Blind, published in 2007, opens with Magozzi and his partner Rolseth at a snowman-building contest sponsored by the local police department. The lighthearted event turns grim when the bodies of two slain policemen are found inside two of the snowmen. A Publishers Weekly writer called this fourth P.J. Tracy effort an "exciting" and "entertaining" addition to the series.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2003, Carrie Bissey, review of Monkeewrench, p. 1056.
Entertainment Weekly, April 11, 2003, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, review of Monkeewrench, p. 82; May 7, 2004, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, review of Live Bait, p. 92; April 22, 2005, Karen Karbo, review of Dead Run, p. 67; August 4, 2006, Ken Tucker, review of Snow Blind, p. 73.
Hollywood Reporter, March 10, 2003, Thomas Leitch, review of Monkeewrench, pp. 16-17.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2003, review of Monkeewrench, p. 177; March 1, 2004, review of Live Bait, p. 204.
Kliatt, September, 2003, Nola Theiss, review of Monkeewrench, p. 55.
Library Journal, February 15, 2003, Marianne Fitzgerald, review of Monkeewrench, p. 171; April 15, 2005, Stacy Alesi, review of Dead Run, p. 80.
MBR Bookwatch, April 1, 2005, review of Dead Run.
New York Times Book Review, April 6, 2003, Marilyn Stasio, review of Monkeewrench, p. 19.
People, May 5, 2003, Sheryl Connelly, review of Monkeewrench, p. 49; May 17, 2004, Ellen Shapiro, review of Live Bait, p. 51.
Publishers Weekly, March 3, 2003, Adam Dunn, interview with P.J. Lambrecht, p. 52; March 3, 2003, "Two Heads Are Better than One," p. 52; March 22, 2004, review of Live Bait, p. 60; February 21, 2005, review of Dead Run, p. 157; June 12, 2006, review of Snow Blind, p. 30.
CNN.com,http://www.cnn.com/ (June 28, 2007), Adam Dunn, "Mother-Daughter Writing Team Hits on Winning Formula."
Magellan's Log Web site,http://www.texaschapbookpress.com/magellanslog.htm (June 28, 2007), Sylvia Sikeston, review of Monkeewrench.
St. Olaf College Magazine Online,www.stolaf.edu/offices/communications/magazine/ (June 28, 2007), Carole Leigh Engblom, interview with P.J. and Traci Lambrecht.
Same Vein,http://www.ains.net.au/~gerlach/rev200512 (June 28, 2007), review of Want to Play?
Writer Unboxed,http://www.writerunboxed.com/ (February 2, 2007), Therese Walsh, interview with P.J. Tracy.