As a long-time subscriber to Jordan Castillo Price’s newsletter I was asked to review her new publication in return for a review copy. A bonus (from a writer’s point of view) is that she is doing her own research into how the number of reviews affects sales in the early days of a book’s life.
Psycops Briefs is a delightful addition to the Psycops series. At first I was dubious and thought it couldn’t stand alone, but am now persuaded it would actually act as a good introduction to the lives of Victor and Jacob, luring the reader into their world and getting them to buy the main novels.
Victor is a medium who works for the police and his lover is also a policeman. The chronicles of their experiences include m/m romance, straightforward policing, supernatural effects, some philosophising, and quite a lot of humour. Their world is like ours except that psychic abilities are recognised and employed. Although the characters live and work in Chicago, they seem, like the characters in all the best books, to be people the reader has actually met and liked. I feel quite sure that if I were ever to cross the Atlantic and visit their city I would expect, confidently, to see them at work and to visit them in their lovely converted home.
The short stories in this collection are not a sequel to the novels but are concurrent – glimpses of the lives of our ‘heroes’ outside the main narrative. There is a lot of variety. The point of view is sometimes Vic’s and sometimes Jacob’s. The stories are in turn sweet, mysterious, gruesome and gripping. Some are very brief and some are chaptered novellas. Few of them are mysteries in the sense that the main novels are, but they explore those other mysteries of character and motivation and give us more insight into the personalities and backgrounds of all the people involved.
I have loved the whole series from the start. The characters, including the minor characters, are so rounded, and the details are engrossing, whether we are reading about the ghosts Vic encounters, the meals the men eat, the trials of home decoration or the things their friend Crash stocks in his ‘magic’ shop. The writing is beautiful – the kind of writing that seems so effortless you absolutely know a great deal of work has gone into it. It is elegant, sophisticated, grammatical, well-structured, and well edited, and the plots draw you in from the first page. Not by any means always the case for the genres these books fall into! This applies to the shorts in Psycops Briefs as well as the longer novellas and novels. Moreover, Price always sets the scene carefully, making sure her readers are not worried or distracted by trying to think about who minor characters might be, or exactly what Vic’s abilities encompass.
There are particular favourites of mine in this collection: Stroke Of Midnight is the perfect New Year’s Eve story, the novella Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns is exciting enough for Halloween reading and also thought provoking at any time, and the final novella, Witness, gives a lot of information about both our heroes in a ‘show-don’t-tell’ fashion that could be used in a writing master class.
In short, I admire the whole series immensely and this is a very worthy addition. I see it is named Psycops Briefs I and I really hope this means there is at least another volume to come. Buy it if you already know Vic and Jacob. Buy it if you don’t, but would like to meet them. Buy it and enjoy!
And in other news, yes, I’ve been MIA – internet problems in Portugal caused a total breakdown of even my erratic posting habits. I’m back in UK and will try to do better!