"Off the Grid" (Putnam), by P.J. Tracy

The mother-daughter team of Patricia and Traci Lambrecht, writing under the name P.J. Tracy, unveil the sixth novel in their series featuring the Monkeewrench crew in "Off the Grid." Fans will be eager to see their favorite characters reappear, but newcomers will likely feel lost.

Monkeewrench Software Co. handles delicate computer and crime issues, and the team of misfits use their specialized skills to help the police. A partner of the group, Grace MacBride, takes a sabbatical and soon realizes she cannot stay away from trouble. While on a sailboat off the Florida Keys, she sees a friend attacked by pirates. She kills the pirates and saves her friend's life.

At the same time, Leo Magozzi, a homicide detective in Minneapolis, finds two men executed. Soon more deaths occur that appear to be tied to the attack on the sailboat. Magozzi is estranged from MacBride, but he needs her and the Monkeewrench team if the murderers are to be brought to justice.

The Monkeewrench series usually features strong doses of humor mixed with 3-D characters and intricate mysteries. "Off the Grid" feels like a rough outline that needs another pass to flesh out the details. Humor is nonexistent, and some of the characters seem different from previous books. Characters should grow in a series, but they shouldn't become unlikable. The rushed ending and lack of a payoff don't help.