Last week I was doing my usual round of review blogs when I came upon a review of a series of novellas by several authors including Jordan Castillo Price. Everyone was gushing about how great her books were so I decided to give it a try. I fully intended to get the series I read about (it’s called Petit Morts in case you’re curious) but when I was looking through Castillo Price’s backlist I saw this one and I just knew I had to read it. The PsyCop series comprises five novellas that are a bit longer than regular but not by much, one full-length novel, and five free short stories that you can read here.
The first story is called Among the Living and introduces us to the main characters and the world they live in. Victor Bayne is a high level medium working in the elite PsyCop unit of the Chicago Police department. Because he can see dead people he’s an obvious asset to murder investigations. PsyCops work in pairs, one psychic and one non-psychic or “stiff”. There's a variety of psychic abilities that range from seeing dead people, to precognition and human lie-detectors, and the fact that these people exist is known and accepted, but beyond that the world is pretty much the same as the one are living in.
This story begins with Vic’s former partner’s retirement party. There he meets Jacob Marks, he’s also a member of the PsyCops but he’s a stiff. They have barely said two words to each other when they have sex in the bathroom, but then Vic gets called to a murder scene where he also meets his new partner Lisa. This crime scene is peculiar because the victim’s ghost is nowhere to be seen, which is quite unusual because ghosts usually remain in the place they died and Victor, being a high-level psychic, can always see them. Because this investigation happens to be more complicated than usual, they end up working along Jacob and his partner, and that’s when things start to get really interesting.
This series was right up my alley because I love romantic suspense with a paranormal touch. And these books are exactly that. Due to the fact that they are narrated by Vic and the whole setting is a bit creepy, it might seem like they should be a PNR, but to me they were all about the suspense and the mystery. The paranormal aspect is so well done and so seamlessly woven into the plot that I had no problem believing it and I actually stopped noticing it, not because it’s subtle (there are dead guys showing up all the time) but because it felt real, and I think this was because the characters, and specially Vic, were down to earth, full of issues and relatable.
Vic is obviously the main character and the stories always revolve around him. I found him fascinating because he wasn’t a superhero. He didn’t want an ability that has taken so much from him in terms of his mental health and his life in general. He is world-weary and drained. When the story starts Vic’s dealing with depression and addiction, he’s desperate to find a way to shut up the ghosts and nothing is working. But then he meets Jacob and he finds a reason to deal with his problems, it’s not an easy road, but he’s willing to take it.
Jacob, on the other hand, is self-assured and strong. He knows what he wants and he’s willing to fight for it. The reason they make such a great couple is because they balance one another. It was obvious for me how much Jacob cared and respected Vic. This is not the type of relationship where one of the people involved is possessive and overprotective while the other is a dormant. Vic was vulnerable but he wasn’t a pushover, Jacob cared for Vic but he let him do his job. I think this was a very well-balanced couple, a true partnership.
This is not the most romantic story, Vic and Jacob are manly men that would rather have hot sex than talk about their feelings, they don’t say I love you and their relationship develops slowly (although it is hot and heavy). But despite all that, you can tell how much they mean to one another, how Vic’s life dramatically changes by having Jacob in it and how Jacob truly loves Vic. And the ending was very sweet and romantic, at leas in my opinion.
The secondary characters were fantastic. Lisa was a great partner and a better friend. She also has a difficult road ahead of her and her story develops throughout the series, so I’m curious to see what will happen to her.
Finally I must warn you that the main focus of the novella is the murder investigation, there are a couple of sex scenes that are scorching hot, there’s a lot of character development, but the main plot is the murder mystery and not the love story.
This was a very satisfactory read, and although it ends quite abruptly I had a great time reading it. The author does a great job at creating the PsyCop world but the beginning is a bit confusing with a lot of names thrown in there that you won’t really know what they mean until later on. Vic’s voice is compelling and very likeable, so I think that this is a story that deserves to be read. My warning is that it’s highly addictive. If you want to check it out, the first half is online and you can read it for free here.
Review by Brie
Victor Bayne, the psychic half a PsyCop team, is a gay medium who’s more concerned with flying under the radar than in making waves.
He hooks up with handsome Jacob Marks, a non-psychic (or “Stiff”) from an adjacent precinct at his ex-partner’s retirement party and it seems like his dubious luck has taken a turn for the better. But then a serial killer surfaces who can change his appearance to match any witness’ idea of the world’s hottest guy.
JCP Books, LLC. October 18, 2009.