A Guest Review by Jenre
Victor Bayne honed his dubious psychic skills at one of the first psych training facilities in the country, Heliotrope Station, otherwise known as Camp Hell to the psychics who’ve been guests behind its razorwire fence.
Vic discovered that none of the people he remembers from Camp Hell can be found online, and there’s no mention of Heliotrope Station itself, either. Someone’s gone through a lot of trouble to bury the past. But who?
The first thing I need to say before I start this review is that this is the fifth book in the Psycop series written by JCP. This series is one of those that you have to read in book order to understand what is happening in the rest of the series. Seriously, you’ll be lost and without a clue if you don’t start from the first book Among the Living and work your way through. This is especially true with this book which follows straight on from book 4, Secrets. If you haven’t read any if the previous books then, firstly, why not? – these are seriously great books – and secondly, go away and read them now!
The whole series is set in a world which is just like ours except that paranormal abilities have been scientifically recognised. Or hero, Vic, is a medium – yes he really does “see dead people”. In fact he does a lot more than that. Vic is a homicide psycop whose brief is to talk to the ghosts of people who have recently died and find out who killed them. Over the last few books he has had a number of partners or ‘stiffs’ – cops who have no paranormal abilities, but finally has settled down with his partner from book three, Bob Zigler. Each book has a mystery theme which Vic is supposed to be investigating. In this book, there have been a number of unexplained deaths in a local hospital and Vic has to find out why. However, as with all the psycop books most of the investigation is sidelined in favour of Vic trying to sort out his personal problems. In the previous book, Vic discovered that he was being watched by a mysterious organisation. This book focuses on Vic trying to find out more about this organisation, as well as recovering some of the memories he has lost about “Camp Hell” or Heliotrope Station, where Vic was trained to use his abilities. As well as this, we get to see how Vic and his lover, Jacob, strengthen and develop their relationship with each other.
This whole series hangs on the character of Vic who is the first person narrator. I have to admit that I love the character of Vic. He’s funny, self-depreciating, nervy and lacking in self-esteem. On the other hand he is also one of the most self-absorbed characters I’ve ever read. He is so focused on finding out about his past and why he is being watched, that he often abandons both his partner and Jacob in favour of going off on his own. However, he is so clueless that he doesn’t actually realise how much he has hurt or offended someone until they call him up on it later. There’s this marvellous scene in the book where Vic notices that Jacob has become even more muscular recently. It then hits him that perhaps one of the reasons Jacob spends so much time at the gym is to vent his frustrations about Vic on the gym machinery. It’s very difficult for the characters (or the reader) to get angry with Vic, though, because he doesn’t realise what an idiot he is sometimes, which is the beauty of the characterisation in this series. The reader knows that Vic is frustrating and that he spends a lot of time unable to see what is going on under his nose, and yet he’s still really adorable.
The other characters often play a back seat in the series because Vic has such a strong voice. It was nice to see in this book that Jacob’s character was given some development and is becoming more instrumental to the plot, rather than just another person for Vic to obsess about. We are also introduced to Stefan, another inmate from ‘Camp Hell’ and one of Vic’s previous lovers who acts as a bridge between the past and present for Vic and provides us with some startling revelations not only about Vic and his past but also Jacob. Crash is still around, causing trouble, but no Lisa this time, and Jacob’s partner is also given less of a role.
The Psycop books are described as ‘horror’, which they are in a way; there’s certainly lots of descriptions of dead people. However, they are also very, very funny. Vic has a habit of getting himself into farcical situations and even a small incidental situation like trying to eat in a taxi on the way to an appointment can be cause for comedy in this book. I have to say that this book has been my favourite so far. Victor has come a long way since we first met him, high on drugs, confused and lonely in the first book. I get a real kick out of seeing the love that has developed between him and Jacob as well as the newly found sexual kinks they are working out together. I also enjoyed seeing Vic coming to some realisation that his ability wasn’t just something to hide or dismiss, but that he could increase his potential for good by stretching that ability. This was the first book in the series where I felt Vic was able to solve the mystery through using his powers deliberately and not through sheer good fortune – a surprising and delightful turn of events.
Overall, this series just gets better and better. Jordan Castillo Price’s writing is has a wonderful sparse quality which fits in perfectly with the world and characters she has created. I highly recommend that you read this book and I’m very much looking forward to book 6.