Among the Living by Jordan Castillo Price
Regina’s Review: 4.5 stars Grade: A
Book purchased from Amazon.
“Once upon a time if you told doctors you heard voice, they’d diagnose you as schizophrenic, put you on heavy drugs, and lock you away in a cozy state institution to keep you from hurting others. Nowadays they test you first to see if you’re psychic.”
Have you ever wanted a psychic power? Communicating with others telepathically? Making objects move? Being able to speak with animals? I used to want to move objects with my mind. Reading Firestarter by Stephen King when I was a kid made me imagine all the possibilities that I could have available to me, if only I could learn to bend a spoon with my mind. Unfortunately, spoon bending was not an ability I was able to master and I had to develop other skills to make a living. But the idea continues to intrigue me. The world of crime solving urban fantasy novels is saturated and there is quite a bit of overlap in world building and supernatural talent. That is not the case with the PsyCop series by Jordan Castillo Price.
The PsyCop stories take place in present day Chicago with a twist. Psychic talent is widely acknowledged and utilized by police forces; there are psychic pairs of police officers – one without psychic talent (the “stiff”) and one with psychic talent; but the talents vary by individual – -and Ms. Price has come up with some unique talents. I do not want to spoil anything for new readers, but I will just say that the “talents” she writes about are nothing I have seen in other supernatural based television shows or books.
The main character of the book –the story is told from his first person point of view – is Victor Bayne. Vic sees dead people. But he does not only see them, he can talk to them, hear them and they follow him around and generally make his life miserable. Vic uses his talent as a member of the Chicago police force, but when he is not on the police force Vic medicates himself with prescribed drugs that help dull his ability. Kind of, the drugs kind of work. Vic is a flawed character, definitely not perfect. And his flaws are what make the stories so funny and so very real, despite the fact that the stories involve very unreal storylines.
In Among the Living, the reader follows Vic through his day and investigation; poor Vic stumbles through most encounters and his inner monologue is unintentionally funny from his perspective – Ms. Price is a genius at writing witty inner monologues. Here is an example, the story starts off at a retirement party for Vic’s former partner. Vic heads through his partner’s house and the party, on his trek through the house he passes his partner’s child and some of the child’s friends as Vic debates saying something to the kids he thinks this, “I quelled the urge to go back into the rec room and tell Maurice’s kid that his dad would probably shit a brick if he heard that expression in his home. But that’d lead to a long-winded discussion of civil rights, yadda yadda yadda. Plus I’d be absolutely certain to come off as a creepy, white asshole then, in case there was any doubt at all.” This is typical of Vic’s inner thoughts. Another example of Jacob’s messy life and his thoughts on it (this scene takes place as Vic’s new partner drives Vic’s car), “I rummaged around my glove compartment and found an old pair of shades crusted with mysterious dust. How did things get dusty while they were shut inside a glovebox? …..Gutierrez’ eyes were on the tiny GPS navigation screen. Also dusty, I noted. …I stared through my dusty plastic lenses at a string of Indian grocers and sari shops and noted that I could kind of see over one lens but not the other. Therefore, the shades were probably crooked as well as dusty. Charming.”
Other great examples:
“I sat in the passenger seat of my car and picked the brim of a Styrofoam coffee cup into a dozen small, ragged pieces. I hesitated before letting them fall to the floor, and then I realized that it was my own damn car and I could do what I wanted.”
“I went out to my car with the intention of grabbing a very late lunch when I saw there was someone sitting in my drivers’ seat. Since Guitierrez still had my keys, I realized that was a good thing.”
“I swung around to grab her and shake some sense into her, but the seat belt caught me by the neck. I swore at it and clicked it open, but by then I’d calmed down enough to stop myself from acting like a lunatic.”
Vic is not the only interesting character in Among the Living. There are three other characters introduced in Among the Living, Vic’s partner Lisa and two other detectives partnered together – Carolyn and Jacob. Each of the characters are complexly written, funny and add to the story. Warning I absolutely love this series, but it is not for everyone. The main character is gay and there are some explicit gay romance and sex scenes. The story and the series involves the developing romantic relationship between Vic and Jacob, like everything else in the story, it is well written and purposely layered. During the ins and outs of Vic’s daily life, he pretends he is not gay, “I fixed my gaze on a completely irrelevant nail hole on the wall and pretended they weren’t talking about anything gay. I always figure I’m going to get some kind of telltale look on my face and tip somebody off about my own lifestyle.”
This book is a fun mystery, intriguing urban fantasy world, interesting characters and a sweet romance that does not dominate the story line. Among the Living is a novella and a quick easy read; I highly recommend just picking up this story and taking the dive.
My favorite line of the book, which is a bit of a spoiler but if you have read this book, you will enjoy this super sweet line as much as I do:
“You really don’t know, do you?’ He pressed a gentle kiss onto one of my eyebrows, then the other. ‘It was you, Vic. He disguised himself as you.’”
Ms. Price has written a number of books in this series, the main novels and novellas are for sale, but she offers the in between short stories free (for the most part) on her website:
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