When I started reading these novellas I wanted to review the whole series in just one or two posts, but the reviews were too long so I just decided to do one at a time. They might be short stories but there’s a lot going on in them. If you want to catch up, or if you’re new to the series, you can read the review of the first book here.
The PsyCop world is quite similar to the one we’re living in, but there’s just one big exception: it’s widely known that there are people with paranormal abilities and those people are being recruited and used by the government. Our hero, Victor Bayne, is a member of the PsyCops, an elite division of the Chicago Police department that employs strong psychics with different abilities to solve crimes. Victor is a medium, he sees dead people all the time and everywhere. He takes a drug that muddles his sixth sense and for a while keeps the ghosts at bay, but it doesn’t help that much.
When the book starts Victor’s hands are quite full. First of all, his boyfriend Jacob is temporarily living with him and they are adjusting to the new living arrangements (which includes crazy episodes where Victor attacks Jacob in his sleep and wakes up without recollection of what happened). He also has a new partner who is a bit too eager to please. Ghosts are starting to behave in a weird way -or weirder than usual-, and to top it all off his health is deteriorating and his doctor warns him that he needs to stop taking the drug because it’s starting to affect his liver.
Criss Cross picks up right where Among the Living left, and you could almost read them as one. Victor is starting to realize how much he cares for Jacob and what a huge difference he has made in his life. We also get to see a more vulnerable side of Jacob and how Victor also helps him deal with his issues.
The character growth is consistent and their relationship keeps developing as time goes by, just like it would happen in real life. Maybe they are moving fast but I think that they are the type of characters to speed thing up. They have found someone they want to be with and they are not going to waste time beating around the bushes of their relationship.
So far this is my favorite story, although I still haven’t read the last two. The mystery in this one was just as compelling, mostly because Vic is in the middle of it all and you know that something’s very wrong with him and can’t wait to find out what’s happening to him. But Vic and Jacob’s relationship takes on a more prominent role than in the previous novella and that appealed to me given that I’m such a huge fan of romance (in case you couldn’t tell).
We also get to see how Lisa is doing, and I’m trying to be vague as to not spoil the previous book in case you haven’t read it, but it was nice to see her. And we meet new characters that have an important impact in Victor’s life and that will become regulars in the books to come.
I did have a couple issues with the book. The first one is that one of the secondary characters happens to be Jacob’s ex, and the way that part’s written makes it look like the author was trying to make a big revelation out of it, and that would have been great because a little bit of drama never hurt anyone, which is why I don’t get why there’s a huge spoiler in the book’s blurb. If you read the synopsis it actually says that Victor has to deal with Jacob’s ex Crash, and to me that’s ruining the revelation. It also says that Crash is more interested in getting into Jacob’s pants than in helping Victor, but that’s also wrong because the pants he wants to get in are Victor’s. If you are going to give away part of the plot, at least get it right.
My second problem was that there’s a lot of info-dumping. This is a common occurrence in books narrated in first person, especially if the book is part of a series. The narrator often explains what’s happened before so that the reader can catch up with the story so far, but I always find it annoying and quite frankly, unnecessary. I understand that sometimes it’s unavoidable but I don’t like it. I was surprised to see this here because book one was the complete opposite, in fact, because there’s basically cero explanation whatsoever I found it confusing at first. I wonder if the fact that Victor explains a lot of things that in the first book were slowly revealed to us, is due to complains from readers who found confusing the world-building in the first novella.
Overall this was a great second installment in the series, I liked it even more than the first one and after finishing I immediately started the next one. This is one of those series that are incredible addictive and based on what I’ve seen so far, it just keeps getting better and better. Just like with Among the Living, you can read a rather long preview of the book here, so you can whet your appetite and decide if you want to read it all. I do recommend reading them in order, I think these novellas were meant to be read as a whole and although there are six of them, remember that they are short, so it’s not as daunting a task as it seems.
Review by Brie
Criss Cross finds the ghosts surrounding Victor getting awfully pushy. The medications that Victor usually takes to control his abilities are threatening to destroy his liver, and his new meds aren't any more effective than sugar pills.
Vic is also adjusting to a new PsyCop partner, a mild-mannered guy named Roger with all the personality of white bread. At least he's willing to spring for the Starbucks.
Jacob's ex-boyfriend, Crash, is an empathic healer who might be able to help Victor pull his powers into balance, but he seems more interested in getting into Victor's pants than in providing any actual assistance.
JCP Books; October 18, 2009.