Camp Hell by Jordan Castillo Price
Don’t miss the riveting fifth chapter in the PsyCop saga, Camp Hell.
Victor Bayne honed his dubious psychic skills at one of the first psych training facilities in the country, Heliotrope Station, otherwise known as Camp Hell to the psychics who’ve been guests behind its razorwire fence.
Vic discovered that none of the people he remembers from Camp Hell can be found online, and there’s no mention of Heliotrope Station itself, either. Someone’s gone through a lot of trouble to bury the past. But who?
This is the fifth and most recent book in the PsyCops series. If you’ve been reading them all along – as you should – you know that the fourth book ended on a huge cliff hanger. Thankfully I had Camp Hell already waiting so I wasn’t too bothered but no doubt if you read at release you’ve been waiting eagerly for this offering. For those new to the series, the books follow first person narrator and cop Vic as he struggles with his talent. He sees ghosts, very vividly and often confusing the living with the dead. He handles his talent by repressing his past and drugging himself until he can barely function; thank god the city of Chicago gives him a gun. He’s mostly got his drug cocktail to the point he knows exactly how much to take but recent medication scares, kidnappings, and all around weirdness have Vic attempting less drug use and the more radical idea of learning to control his talent. But before you think loveable failure Vic is reformed, he’s just as self absorbed and messy as ever.
In this installment Vic is obsessed with finding out what happened to him during his time at Camp Hell. Affectionately called such by the inmates, Vic repressed almost all his memories of that time in order to function without the panic attacks and overwhelming fear associated with those memories. However when Vic discovered in Secrets that he was wiped clean from the internet and kept a secret, he digs deeper to find some of the missing people from his Camp Hell days. First up is his old lover and best friend, Stefan now Steven. While Vic is attempting therapy with Stefan/Steven, he also has to contend with finding some ghosts killing people at a nearby hospital, repairing the damage to his relationship with Jacob, and last but not least a new psychic watch group seems to be all over Vic.
Once again I felt the plot was too disjointed and unfocused. Vic as a first person narrator is absorbing and enthralling with his weakness, flaws, and reluctant hero antics. However his focus shifts from his obsession to his past to his police case to his relationship with Jacob to his drugs and back again in almost neck breaking pace. The various elements are disparate and didn’t combine cohesively enough to create a tight, even story. That is not to say the plot isn’t interesting and absorbing, because it certainly is. Unfortunately it is also messy and spread out without any particular focus, much as the character of Vic often is as well. Vic jumps from scene to scene and element to element in the way his mind often works, obsessing on the most important thing to him at that time and often using or ignoring everything else. This includes his boyfriend Jacob, his partner Zigler, his friends Lisa and Crash, and anything else that doesn’t revolve around his at the moment fixation. Here Vic slowly begins to realize that he is selfish and completely self absorbed, yet caring and loving in his own way. He also begins to realize that he needs more control over his talent and drugs aren’t always the answer.
This installment adds more depth and development to all the characters. From Vic’s slow awareness to Jacob’s new ability, even Zigler’s actions and those of the psychic watch group help create more context than fluff to this story. Unfortunately the hospital story line with the scary ghost is unfortunate since it’s almost forgettable and often Vic is more obsessed with his therapy, his paranoia, his relationship, and his drugs than actually doing his job as a detective. However the added context to Zigler from the last book and continued in this one creates an intriguing outline and I hope that he’ll stick around.
The main focus of the book and the series however is and always will be Vic. The other characters revolve in his orbit to a greater or lesser degree but it’s all about Vic. He is finally learning to accept his talent, instead of medicate, and more so learning what his limits and abilities really are. Before he seems to luck out on finding solutions or with the help of actual trained detectives solve a case. In this offering, Vic takes more control and handles a terrifying ghost with his own power on purpose. Additionally Vic is slowly starting to understand Jacob more and appreciate all the work Jacob does in their relationship. Not that Vic takes him for granted per se, but Vic’s obsessions take precedence over everything, including Jacob. I can’t wait to see how much more Vic can grow in future editions.
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