[REVIEW] PsyCop: Spook Squad by Jordan Castillo Price

psycop spook squadSpook Squad (PsyCop series Book 7) by Jordan Castillo Price

From the Blurb

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.

The Short Version

Yes, read it damn you! Or start the series from the beginning.

The Long Version

I’ve been a big fan of Jordan Castillo Price’s m/m supernatural mystery series  PsyCop for years now, and was really happy when the seventh instalment, Spook Squad, was released a week ago. Never has both the alternate universe Chicago in which it’s set and the supernatural system underpinning Victor’s mediumship felt so cohesive and so immersive. Compared with earlier books, Spook Squad shifts the emphasis from Victor’s relationship with his boyfriend Jacob somewhat and instead focuses on his interactions with an increasingly large and diverse ensemble cast of friends, colleagues, enemies and frenemies. It’s some of these moments between Victor and the supporting characters as they navigate difficult territory in their personal and professional lives that make the story feel so true-to-life. Never mind that Ms Price has a gift for making these people feel real, with their own histories and hangups, in all their shades of grey. And while one of my favourite aspects of PsyCop has always been how it never sacrifices plot and intrigue for the sake of manufactured romantic turmoil, there’s still plenty of Victor/Jacob teamwork to please longstanding fans.

psycop ghostvThe short of it is, I loved Spook Squad and I’m keen to see what future PsyCop books do with some of the new possibilities teased out in this story. But I also felt that this instalment was neither as precise nor as vigorous in its writing style and plotting as were the previous two books, GhosTV and Camp Hell. To be fair, I think Ms Price intentionally wrote a less tunnel vision-type story with smaller, interweaving plots this time, but sometimes the whole thing just felt a little meandering. I also guessed two of the larger plot twists (that practically never happens for easily-led yours truly), which made the lead up to them feel a bit tedious at times (though of course, I didn’t predict everything, and there are some truly great “oh my god!“-inciting moments). One aspect in which I felt Spook Squad doesn’t deviate enough from GhostTV, though, was during the final showdown: it just felt like a briefer and less emotionally fraught version of Victor’s confrontation with Karen Frugali, if a little more morbid.

I was also expecting the new character, Jack Bly, to wow me a bit more, considering hisPsycop Among the Living appearance on the cover (and particularly when Victor’s pre-occupation with him at the start feels a little forced…as did the explicit “puzzle solving” metaphor that kept popping up). That being said, older characters I used to find bland (Zigler) or downright frickin’ annoying (Con Dreyfuss) I now adore, so I’m going to give Ms Price the benefit of the doubt and let her flesh out his character over the rest of series. Given how much I’ve come to love and identify with Vic himself (so. socially. awkward) it’s a happy thing to see him so (comparatively) settled in his life now, especially when you remember how isolated he was in Among the Living. I just hope his newfound contentment doesn’t come at the expense of future stories — everyone and everything was starting too feel a little too comfortable for me in the final chapter (which would be fine, if it were actually the last book).

Anyway, for longterm fans of the series, buying and devouring Spook Squad is a no-brainer, and I have no compunctions about recommending the Psycop series to anyone, and especially to m/m readers who enjoy a side of smut with their plot and worldbuilding — and not the other way around.

Stray, Spoilery Observations (Proceed with Caution)

  • In Spook Squad’s back matter Jordan Castillo Price mentions that she considered chucking in the towel and getting a day job during this book’s writing process. I hope she means she just had a few instances of the despair that accompanies most long creative projects, and that becoming an office peon wasn’t a true temptation. Jordan, you’re too much of a blessing to the supernatural mystery genre in general and the m/m genre in particular for us to lose! Please keep writing us wonderful stories like this forever.
  • I have to say, though, I’m gonna miss the mysteriously sinister, wisecracking, private jet-flying Constantine Dreyfuss we knew and loved/hated in GhosTV. I’m glad you’re in love, Con, but did you have to turn soft and then disappear yourself?
  • Crash’s new-old boyfriend Red is a bit of a non-entity for me, maybe especially because whenever his name popped up I immediately thought of Orange is the New Black’s tyrannical Russian chef.
  • I loved Lydia’s “Something you believe to be true is revealed as false” line, because yep, Victor is gonna be ascribing the events of his life to that from now on whether he wants to or not, because that’s human nature.
  • I’m so, so glad Laura turned out to not to be the emotionless Asian ninja assassin stereotype that she appeared to be in Camp Hell, because she’s really a darling and now I want to be her friend IRL.
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