Title: Spook Squad, PsyCop #7
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Cover Artist: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books
Amazon: Buy Link Spook Squad (PsyCop)
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Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel/107.8 K words/350 pages
Rating: 5+ stars DIK
Review Summary: Brilliant! Scary! A game changer!
Everyone enjoys peace and tranquility, and Victor Bayne is no exception. He goes to great lengths to maintain a harmonious home with his partner, Jacob. Although the cannery is huge, it’s grown difficult to avoid the elephant in the room…the elephant with the letters FPMP scrawled on its hide.
Once Jacob surrendered his PsyCop badge, he infiltrated the Federal Psychic Monitoring Program. In his typical restrained fashion, he hasn’t been sharing much about what he actually does behind its vigilantly guarded doors. And true to form, Vic hasn’t asked. In fact, he would prefer not to think about the FPMP at all, since he’s owed Director Dreyfuss an exorcism since their private flight to PsyTrain.
While Vic has successfully avoided FPMP entanglement for several months, now his debt has finally come due.
This book is a game changer for Victor who is burned out and pissed off about cases that his investigative work helped the police bring to trial, only to have them tossed out by the courts and the murderers back on the streets in no time courtesy of jurors who don’t feel that talking to and getting leads from the dead are valid police investigative techniques.
There have been many changes in Vic’s and Jacob’s lives since GhosTV, PsyCop #6 was published more than 2 years ago. Jacob has switched careers to join the Feds, i.e. the Federal Psychic Monitoring Program headed up by Regional Director Con Dreyfuss, and Jacob’s old partner Carolyn hasn’t forgiven him for what she considers a betrayal. Lisa, Vic’s best friend, is now living with them in the cannery as the guys call their home. All she ever wanted was to be a cop; now she has no job, and she’s living in a tent in her ex partner’s living room. Vic, who is protective towards Lisa, loves having her stay with them and dreads the thought of her moving out eventually.
On the job front Vic knows he’s barely tolerated, not really welcome in the precinct. With Bob Zigler his PsyCop partner away for a few days attending a funeral he feels even more isolated at work, so when Dreyfuss demanded that he make good on his promise to perform an exorcism at his FPMP office he had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. He needed those precious red pills, Seconal, which Dreyfuss seemed to have a never-ending supply of although he doles them out to Vic one pill at a time. Vic had very few options as his other supplier was in jail, so where else could he obtain the pills that doctors refused to prescribe?
The complicated cases that Vic and Jacob were working on overlapped but they rarely talked about them to each other even though they involved the recently and not so recently departed. GhosTv, the physical television, is back with a vengeance as an integral part of Spook Squad, and this well written, complex, gritty, intense story is even scarier than the previous one. I’m not going to give you details of the plot because first, it’s very complicated and there are many sub plots; second, that would spoil the story for you. Instead, I’ll talk about a few of the characters and how some of them have evolved since GhosTv as well as give my perspective. I will say this, the story scared me so much towards the end I couldn’t finish it last night and had to wait for daylight because It’s so spooky, gross and a wild ride to surpass all others.
Crash is back and he’s in love with his boyfriend Red, a hot young black stud with whom he had a falling out some months ago because they had different ideas of what a relationship entailed. But more important, Crash is in a cash crisis; he has none and is barely eking out a living with his shop. Can his business make it or will he have to go back to hair dressing?
Two of the more interesting new characters were Agent Jack Bly whose job apparently was to work with Vic, and the Operations Coordinator Laura Kim, known as The Fixer, but was she what she appeared to be or was there a deep dark secret in her life that she was desperate not to have Vic discover? Of the two I found Laura to be the more complex character although Bly was very strange. From the get-go it was clear as mud whether Laura could be trusted, despite her past with Dreyfuss. As for Agent Bly, what was it about him that confused Victor, and was he as helpful and bland as he appeared to be on the surface? From my comments you can see that Jordan did her best to try and confound her readers and she succeeded as far as I was concerned.
The characters in the PsyCop series continue to be compelling and complicated, including the ghosts, and the level of detail is astounding. However, Spook Squad is definitely not a standalone and I wouldn’t recommend that you read it unless you have read at least a few of the previous books, as you would be hopelessly lost. You wouldn’t understand some of the characters from previous books such as Ritchie Duff (who Vic called Einstein because he was so dumb), who had been an Agent at FPMP for many years and seemed to have some kind of hold over Dreyfuss as he gets just about anything he wants. He spends his time annoying everyone with Chicago Bears football statistics and performing the weirdest exorcisms once a week. Here’s a typical one: he and his assistant, an Agent named Carl, pray on red velvet kneelers, rosaries in hand, while he recites his version of the Lord’s Prayer to get rid of the repeaters in Dreyfuss’s office. Somehow I don’t think the Pope would approve of “blessed is the fruit of the loom Jesus” or “Our Father who art in heaven, hello be thy name“. 😀
Dreyfuss was somewhat of a dichotomy. Was he one of the good guys or another bad seed? Like the other characters his actions are not clear as to which side of the fence he was on. With many of the characters in the book it’s difficult to tell the angels from the devils as Jordan does what she’s best at – obfuscating the facts with false clues and red herrings sprinkled throughout the story. Just when I thought I had everything nailed down she would inject something from way out of left field; I can’t stress enough how scary the end of the book turned out. Vic, who often lets Jacob take the lead in their investigations, was in his element here as he demonstrated why he is such a fascinating and unusually strong MC. Jacob was no slouch either as he showed his mettle when it counted, especially when they battled a very determined ghost.
I should clarify that this book isn’t only about solving crimes and bringing criminals to justice; it’s also about the MCs’ solid relationship. At times it seemed like they could read each other’s minds and there was no need for words – an incredibly loving, and profound partnership.
In conclusion: The writing is brilliant, the mystery (and its solution) is incredibly complicated and well played. Although this story is told from Vic’s first person POV, Jacob’s personality shone and is so clearly defined that his presence is felt even when he’s not in a scene. Everyone in the story is three dimensional and even the ghosts seem real. There is no cliff hanger in Spook Squad and I’m wondering, what’s next? This is the seventh PsyCop book and obviously I have no idea what the author’s plans are for the future of the series, but I would be quite happy if this were the last book, (and not because I don’t want more of Vic and Jacob whom I love), because the conclusion is so satisfying and exciting.