I feel vaguely guilty for not reading this series earlier. I’ve had one other book by the author in my TBR for several years now, but never got past the first chapter. As a result, whenever I saw a PsyCop recommendation via Amazon or other booksellers online, I tended to skip them. And even though I loved some of the JCP Press Petit Morts, I hadn’t read most of the author’s entries. Until Sunita’s review made me circle back and check the series out.
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.
Solving murders is a snap when you can ask the victims whodunit, but this killer’s not leaving any spirits behind.
Spoilerish statements follow
I loved Vic as narrator. He’s so…not the typical hero or narrator, even for a mystery series. He’s absolutely not a sterling police officer, or he doesn’t appear to be interested in becoming a model detective although he does take his job seriously. He’s possibly addicted to the prescription anti-psy drugs he uses to avoid seeing dead people when he’s off duty; some of the drugs are prescription, that is, while others are of dubious origin. He’s incredibly unathletic. He’s kind of a slacker. And he hasn’t explored his full potential as the Psy half of a PsyCop team — for very good reasons that are revealed as the series goes along.
Jacob, the love interest introduced in the opening chapter of the first novella, is a little bit of a mystery, in terms of his motivation. Readers see that Vic is attracted but also get his puzzlement because he often thinks Jacob is out of his league, both as a high profile PsyCop detective (ostensibly the non-Psy partner of a pairing) and as a hot, hot guy.
I’ve really enjoyed the way Castillo Price has added a little more to each character through each novella and then book. Gradually readers get to see how/why Vic is the way he is, and that Jacob isn’t what he appears on the surface (it’s even a surprise to Jacob to learn that).
This passage in GhosTV is really telling, in terms of Vic’s hiding and how it has influenced his personality and his interactions even with the (few) people he loves or is close to:
When I opened my eyes, [Jacob] was watching me. I looked back…and I wondered what it would take for me to look at him “that way,” like he wanted me to so badly. I wasn’t sure. I spent most of my time trying to be totally devoid of expression, to not let anyone, living or dead, sneak past my own personal brand of shield. Quite possibly, I wouldn’t know how to really look at anybody “that way” even if I tried.
If I couldn’t figure out how to make my face convey my feelings, I suppose I’d need to settle for words. “You know how much I love you, right? I don’t say it enough, I know. It’s…I…” I sighed. “I do. And I’ve never felt like this before. About anyone. Only you.”
While my face was the white noise of the facial expression continuum, Jacob’s was more like a symphony. His eyes softened and went all smitten, and he grabbed me by the shoulders, pulled me against him and stopped just short of kissing me hard, and instead, brought our lips together soft as a whisper while his whole body trembled with tension.
I could take a lesson from him. Really. Literally. Get him to feel an emotion and watch what it did to his face—then turn to a mirror and try to see what it might feel like to look the same way. If I really wanted to try it, he’d do it for me. He’d probably do just about anything for me. Somehow, though, I couldn’t see myself actually asking him.
Because that would be weird.
Also am enjoying the way his circle of friends and colleagues is expanding: Vic was very much alone at the outset of the first book, but he’s now got a new partner, an almost-partner-more-friend, a non-copy Psy friend/temptation, and others. His world and world-view are growing and changing.
Each mystery begins with a murder or other crime that appears at the outset to be non-paranormal, but somehow the solution edges into the Psy zone. And Vic and his cohort use regular detective work (including tedious paperwork and detail review) along with the psychic stuff to figure out whodunwhat.
One question in the back of my mind as I read was how would I classify this series? It’s not really romance any more than the In Death series is genre romance, although both series have a romance/relationship thread. I would probably classify both as mystery/suspense with romance subplot or maybe urban fantasy (the PsyCop series fits UF but I’m not sure In Death does). (Wow, that’s quite a comparison to make, isn’t it? May be good or bad, depending on your perspective on NR’s role in the industry and genre.) Is it m/m? Or is m/m a label for romance only? If a book isn’t strictly romance any longer, is it m/m still or is it better classified (and/or marketed) as gay+other genre label? In my head, there used to be a clear division between gay (romantic) fiction and m/m romance, but the line has blurred and I’m not sure where it’s drawn any longer.
But that philosophical question aside, I really enjoyed this series and am looking forward to whatever comes next for Vic and Jacob.
Recommend without reservation.
The series: Among the Living, Criss Cross, Body & Soul, Secrets, Camp Hell, GhosTV, plus assorted shorts and free stories available via the author’s website. The first four entries in the series are novella length, and the last two are full length books.