Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review "Mind Games"

Title: Mind Games, (The Disillusionists Trilogy, #1)
Author: Carolyn Crane
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Published: March 23rd 2010 by Spectra


Justine Jones has a secret. A hardcore hypochondriac, she’s convinced a blood vessel is about to burst in her brain. Then, out of the blue, a startlingly handsome man named Packard peers into Justine’s soul and invites her to join his private crime-fighting team. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal. With a little of Packard’s hands-on training, Justine can weaponize her neurosis, turning it outward on Midcity’s worst criminals, and finally get the freedom from fear she’s always craved. End of problem.

Or is it? In Midcity, a dashing police chief is fighting a unique breed of outlaw with more than human powers. And while Justine’s first missions, including one against a nymphomaniac husband-killer, are thrilling successes, there is more to Packard than meets the eye. Soon, while battling her attraction to two very different men, Justine is plunging deeper into a world of wizardry, eroticism, and cosmic secrets. With Packard’s help, Justine has freed herself from her madness—only to discover a reality more frightening than anyone’s worst fears.

"Mind Games" is a very extraordinary book. First of all, I don´t even know if it´s just Urban Fantasy. It has also a comic book flair with a little touch of crime fighting superheroes. It is set in Midcity, a city that suffers from a brutal crime wave. People are terrorized by criminals like the Brick Slinger who drops bricks on his unsuspecting victims. The authorities, most of all Police Chief Otto Sanchez, are fighting an uphill battle.

Justine Jones, the main character of this book is hypochondriac and she knows it. She lives in the constant fear that she might die of the vein star syndrom, just like her mother did. She wishes nothing more than to be free of her fear and lead a normal life. A life she so desperatly tries to have with Cubby, her good-looking, very normal and very lucky All-American boyfriend. But when a panic attack hits her, there is little she can do. Neither Cubby´s attemps to convince her with sheer logic nor the regular visits to the ER can convince Justine that she´s not sick.
For the reader, these panic attacks are strangely entertaining, as Carolyn Crane writes them with a certain dark and absurd humor that just takes you by surprise. But it´s also that vulnerability combined with her undying trust in Chief Sanchez and her wish for everybody to be free of fear that endears Justine so much to the reader.

One day however, Justine and her boyfriend are at a restaurant and she meets Sterling Packard and his team. Packard is a highcap (people who have extraordinary powers due to a hightened brain power), he can see the psychological structure of anybody and instantly knows their weakness. He has put together a team of "misfits", people who suffer just like Justine from different neuroses, such as despression, extreme rage or even more serious conditions like gambling and alcoholism. Together, the are paid to disillusion certain targets by attacking them psychologically, exploit their weaknesses and make them loose everything. After that they "reboot" and try to make up for their past life of crimes.
Packard asks Justine to join the team and is thus offering her a way out of her fear. The only thing she has to do to help disillusion someone is channel her fear into the target.
At first, Justine declines, but after having tested "zinging" and enjoyed a few days without fear, she wavers. She knows it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get rid of her fear, yet she dislikes th idea of vigilantism.
Yet, Packard is a very charismatic man and Justine and Packard share an instant connection. He is dark, wild and mysterious, quite the opposite of her boyfriend Cubby. So, reluctantly, Justine agrees to join the team. Between training and her very first target, she gets to know the other members of the group and for the first time ever, she actually bonds with people who are exactly like her. Ever so slightly, Justine begins to change. She quits her old job and starts lying to Cubby, as she is not allowed to tell him about her "secret new job". More and more, this whole situation begins to put a strain on their relationship. With every bit she drifts away from Cubby, she is pulled to Packard.
Then however, Justine finds out that Packard is trapped in his restaurant Mongolian Delights by any unknown mysterious nemesis. As she sets out to help him get free, she discovers more than she wants and finds herself in a web of lies and dependencies that not only threatens her life but the entire city.

"Mind Games" is split in different parts. In the first part, you get to know Justine and her hypochondria, meet Packard and his team and get a feeling for the world this story is set in. It sometimes even made me laugh, because of some very bizarre, yet frightingly realistic descriptions of Justine´s panic attacks and the odd conversations among the members of the team.
The second part starts with Justine´s first assignment and the descriptions of how the teams works. Justine changes, both revels in her new life without fear and fights with her conscience, questioning if shifting her fears to other people is really the right thing to do.
It is the very last part however that makes this book very special. In their search for the nemesis, Justine and her newfound friends uncover some secrets of Packard´s past that could change everything. Unsure of whome to trust, Justine takes matters in her own hands and sees to a surprising end that noone else could have achieved.

The main characters in this book are multilayered, complex and likeable. They are also deeply flawed. I liked the idea how the weaknesses of them turned into their strengths and are used as a force of good.

The story is expertly told with just the right amount of pace, action and suspense. The very end had me all hooked up and I really wanted to know how everything would turn out.

Carolyn Crane has proven with this book that Urban Fantasy doesn´t need werewolves, vampires or the other usual suspects to be a great read. Highcaps and neurotics make for a just as intruiging, gripping and smart story.

I can only recomend this extraordinary book to all readers and lovers of the Urban Fantasy genre.

4 out of 5 Points

If you want more of Carolyn Crane now, go visit her homepage, where you can find the first chapter of Mind Games online, along with other interesting stuff about Midicty like the Midcitiy Eagle, Midcitiy´s most trusted newspaper. You can also visit her blog.

"Mind Games" ist the first book in a trilogy, with the next in series, "Double Cross" to be released on September 28th 2010.


Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

I am really glad you enjoyed this book. It sounds like the characters are three dimentional and likeable. That is always a great thing. Thanks for the review. I am looking forward to getting into this book in a few weeks here. :)