Reviewers: Gloria Lakritz – She Said / Ulysses Dietz – He Said
Victor Bayne is through with the Chicago PD. Can he handle the FPMP?
After years of frustration as a PsyCop, Victor Bayne reports for duty at the Federal Psychic Monitoring Program. As a fledgeling agent, he’s ready to smoke out a few ghosts and be home each night in time for dinner. But is he prepared to add a professional dimension to his romantic partnership with Jacob Marks?
Jacob has already established his territory in the Program—he’s competent, he’s respected, and he’s pretty much fearless. The last thing Vic wants to do is screw up in front of him.
When fellow agents start turning up dead, Vic is expected to do more than just lay their ghosts to rest. But what if his psychic talent isn’t quite enough? As the death toll rises, he and Jacob scramble to determine who’s in danger, and who’s a killer.
Using all the resources at their disposal, they close in on their suspect. But as they do, their past comes back to haunt them…and even Jacob worries they’ve tampered with forces they should have left alone. Are their combined talents enough to protect them from enemies both living and dead?
Reviewed by Gloria Lakritz
Sr. Reviewer and Review Chair for the Paranormal Romance Guild
Soooo after our reading the last book in the series, Book #8 Skin After Skin, Ms Price writes a masterpiece of a story, taking her readers on a totally different path. We began that story having no clue to its relevance, just waiting for Vic and Jacob to appear. But to my surprise, I became totally invested in “the Beginning” of Curtis Ash lovingly known to me as sexy Crash. Wow what a novel that was seeing thru the other side of the window into Jacob and Vic’s life, right?
PsyCop #9, Agent Bayne, again takes the authors new telling of her series to even better heights, the possibility of a new – improved…Victor Bayne! Where all through this series Vic was the despised, hated. He was picked on a total nebbish who couldn’t stop over thinking everything since birth…thru Camp Hell and then the Spook Squad. We now have possibilities with him being a Federal Agent joining the FPMP.
Vic will learn that his talents are acknowledged, appreciated, and respected. This will be a mind altering thing for this young man to take in, because coming into this new position, working with Jacob as a bonafide agent….All he prays for is not to embarrass his lover.
‘Dead Darla’ his childhood nemesis is just the right mix for Vic to see how he can make an enemy a friend. Then he sees her powers ar the yin to his yang, a concept he never realized befor.
Jacob is buried in his job trying to solve the murders. In his frustration, his own fears blossom, actually showing Vic that Jacob has his own weakness … Vic surprised by this steps up to be strong, something new for him; and He Likes It !!!.
I LOVED this book! Victor is given the permission to grow, to find himself, to see old enemies and make some of them friends. It is not the solving of the murders, it is not torrid sex scenes with Jacob….. it is Victor Bayne coming slowly into the light and I cannot wait to see how this series will continue as we have so much more to accomplish.
Jordan Castillo Price is the master at story telling and this book again outshines all my expectations! As I stated a masterpiece of storytelling!!
Review by: Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Guild Review Team
“But boredom was fine by me. I’d had enough excitement to last a lifetime.”
It’s been a while since I read the last Psycop book by Jordan Castillo Price. I’d forgotten just how good her writing is. I’d also forgotten what a great character Victor Bayne is. And in this book, which in some ways is the start of a different series, lets us watch a personal transformation, a kind of intimate epiphany in Victor Bayne’s convoluted mind.
Victor leaves the Chicago Police Department, the “Spook Squad,” to become a federal agent of the FPMP. No longer is he the freak, the lone psychic who sees dead people. At FPMP, his talent is admired, he has a role among others of his kind. He’s no longer automatically branded a weird loser by his co-workers.
With one exception: Darla Davis, known to him as a “Dead Darla.” Into his new reality drops a blast from the past, an agent he knew when they were both teenagers at Heliotrope Station, known to him as Camp Hell.
And she seems to hate him.
Even as Victor begins to adjust to this new normal, things begin to get weird. An agent is murdered, then another. Victor finds his homicide cop skills once again in demand as well as his psychic abilities. At the same time, provoked by agent Davis, he finds himself obsessed with his past, large chunks of which he seems to have forgotten.
What makes this book so compelling is not the murder mystery at its center, but the development of Bayne’s inner self—that part of him he’s largely kept at bay due to his own low self-esteem. “Agent Bayne” is really a book about relationships, past and present. It’s about Victor and his partner, Jacob Marks, seeing each other in a new light as they work side by side. It’s about Victor dealing with his co-workers, from his boss, Laura Kim, to the nerdy operations manager, Patrick Barley. But the most crucial relationships he has to confront are those from his past, as he struggles to remember what happened to him as a child, and what his past means in light of how far he’s come as he approaches his fortieth birthday. The most powerful thing about this story is watching Victor Bayne realize his own value.
Always, Price’s terse, noir-ish writing has a consistent wry undertone, part self-deprecation, part ironic commentary. The cover image she chose to represent Victor Bayne is, for me, unusually interesting. I kept referring back to it as I read. At first glance he looks like a doofus, confused and slightly disheveled. But you also see a kind of wounded innocence in those big dark eyes, that intense stare. You see a man struggling to make sense of a life that has been filled with confusion and anxiety. You also see beauty, and determination.
I hope this really is the beginning of a whole new Victor Bayne series, because a new man emerges here; one I want to get to know better.
NOW THAT THE REVIEWERS HAVE READ EACH OTHER’S THOUGHTS…
Gloria: Hey Ulysses. Just read your review. Wasn’t Jordan’s book great? I loved it and so did you. I loved you saw the same things as I did. Tell me what you loved Best?
Ulysses:What I loved best about this book is the way Victor changes—the image in my mind is that he blossoms like a flower in the sun. We see a Victor Bayne we’ve never seen before.
Gloria: Yes Ulysses, we have suffered with poor Vic being obsessive, compulsive, drug dependent. It is painful to be in his head, hearing him, be uncomfortable in his own skin. We had realized he was saddled with his seeing the dead at such an early age and not having people understand. He was a freak to everyone. Being in Camp Hell was an awakening of sorts for him to find others with these capabilities but alas their treatment was another story. To see him begin this new journey made my heart feel good,The best moment for me was his seeing Jacob always strong; need Vic to be his strength. Never would Vic imagine that to happen, yet he stepped up AND LIKED IT…..Being there for Jacob! Best scene ever.
Ulysses: I honestly didn’t remember Darla Davis from Vic’s past—but it didn’t matter. Vic and Darla almost stole the show from Vic and Jacob. How did you come up with the idea of reintroducing characters from Vic’s disastrous teen years?
An aspect of this story I loved was Vic retrieving his lost memories—and discovering that they were not what he expected at all. Such a great twist, although in some ways sadder…how did that occur to you to play it this way?
Crash…I loved “Skin After Skin” … to a point; but now I feel I’ve got a richer background for the whole series, with Crash’s backstory in my mind. What was your purpose in bringing Crash (and Red) into this narrative? Was it always there, or did “Skin After Skin” somehow re-open an ability to look at Vic through yet another fascinating lens?
Q&A WITH THE AUTHOR, Jordan Castillo Price:
Jordan: Hi, PRG! Thanks so much for inviting me to chat about Agent Bayne: PsyCop9!
PRG: This is a long story arc, reaching back into Victor’s childhood and plucking at his lost memories. The Psycop series preceding “Agent Bayne” amplifies this macro vision of Vic’s life. So, when did this huge arc occur to you? Was it in your mind from the beginning, or was is on book six or something when the ‘big vision’ came to you? (Does this make sense as a question?)
Jordan: Total sense. I think it was likely around book 4 that I began thinking about Vic’s life as a bigger arc, because that was when I started self-publishing, and that was when I was able to create books at any length I wanted. I think it may have worked to my advantage. A lot of details that I omitted simply because there wasn’t enough real estate became intriguing gaps where I was free to fill in any backstory I wanted.
PRG: In “Agent Bayne,” Vic blossoms—professionally and personally. Blossom is a weird word, but that’s what it felt like to me. He felt warmth and he just…grew. It’s sort of a coming-of-age story for a 40-year- old. What was it that made you decide that Vic—and all of us who love him—needed this?
Jordan: “Blossom” is a great word! I like to think Vic is always evolving. The overall evolution is going in the direction of him understanding himself, but I want to take minuscule baby steps to get there, because once he has that giant epiphany and sees himself clearly, the series is over. There’s a relationship arc in Agent Bayne where he gets to heal a conflict from his past, and what’s interesting about it is that if I were writing a Romance, the genre structure would dictate his conflict be with Jacob. But, this isn’t a Romance. It’s an urban fantasy with a romantic subplot, and so I am free to keep Vic and Jacob on the same page, and let Vic work out various struggles with the other important people in his life.
PRG: This book was (in my view) all about relationships, in a way that is more intense that ever before for Vic (part of that ‘blossoming’ I noted above). Will that continue to be true for the future FPMP novels, or will we just see a new and improved Vic being his new self and dealing with the rather dark scenario that ended the last book (the Assassin, and whoever ‘they’ are pulling the strings)?
Jordan: There are a few more personal strings that I have left hanging — on purpose this time — that Vic will get to explore before he deals with the Assassin and the force behind it. It seems that as I write and the world building reveals itself to me, more strings appear. And this is really fortunate, because it means there’s more stuff in the PsyCop world to discover. Exploring his talent, as well as the talents of other characters, will also keep giving me interesting what-ifs to think about.
PRG: Im so excited about the last two books….Where ar you feeling we are going from here?
Jordan: PsyCop 10, Murder House, is about Vic’s first lengthy assignment undercover. I had been thinking I’d address the habit demons (or, blobs, as I call them) in a subplot, but it turns out that this book is full enough without him delving into that mystery just yet. So, with each new assignment, there are all kinds of possibilities to explore with him and still keep everything fresh.