Author: Carolyn Crane
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: 28 September 2010
Paperback: 326 pages
Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the Disillusionists Trilogy
SOME SECRETS COME BACK TO HAUNT. OTHERS COME TO KILL.
Justine Jones lived her life as a fearful hypochondriac until she was lured into the web of a mysterious mastermind named Packard, who gifts her with extraordinary mental powers—dooming her to fight Midcity’s shadowy war on paranormal crime in order to find the peace she so desperately craves.
But now serial killers with unheard-of skills are terrorizing the most powerful beings in Midcity, including mastermind Packard and his oldest friend and worst enemy, Midcity’s new mayor, who has the ability to bend matter itself to his will.
As the body count grows, Justine faces a crisis of conscience as she tests the limits of her new powers and faces an impossible choice between two flawed but brilliant men—one on a journey of redemption, the other descending into a pit of moral depravity.
How did I get this book: I basically begged the author for a copy since we are quite friendly (full disclosure).
Why did I read the book: After reading and loving the first book in the series Mind Games, I was really looking forward to this one.
Mind Games, the first book in the Disillusionists Trilogy was one of my favourite debuts this year and a strong contender for best UF series of 2010 (alongside Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series). That first book introduced us to Midcity, a place with a high amount of criminals and high level of Highcaps – humans with mutant “powers” – and to Justine Jones, the protagonist of the series. An obsessive hypochondriac, Justine has started working for a group that call themselves the “Disillusionists.” Under the direction of a man named Packard, the group, largely composed by misfits with extraordinary mental imbalances (rage, pessimism, ennui, addictions), channels that negative energy into specific dangerous and/or criminal targets in order to rehabilitate them. Packard and his Disillusionists are in other words a psychological, neurotic hit-squad of vigilantes.
At the end of the first book, quite a few things has been established. First, the hit squad will now be working for the Mayor (who is himself an extremely powerful highcap). Mayor Otto had been keeping dangerous highcaps under house arrest using his own powers, amongst them Packard, his former friend and now nemesis. But the task is becoming strenuous on Otto’s powers, and in exchange for his freedom, Packard has struck a deal with his former friend: he is to lead his team to Disillusion and rehabilitate those that criminals Otto has imprisoned, eventually releasing them. Justine, who had started falling in love with Packard in the beginning of the first book, found out that by becoming a Disillusionist she would be forever in need to go back to Packard for a zing (or recharge) rendering her effectively connected to him – something he failed to mention when he first contracted her, and this is something she feels she can never forgive. Otto, who was one of their targets in the fist book, becomes her new romantic interest.
Thus book 2 begins: with Justine working for Otto under the supervision of Packard and trying to reignite her relationship with the Mayor. Then, the plot thickens, as a different hit squad starts murdering highcaps and it is down to the group to investigate that threat.
In terms of plotting, book 2 is as strong as book 1, with a mixture of adventure and sleuthing; with the unique group of individuals at the centre of it all. The story is full of twists and not a single of them I saw coming and a couple left me with my mouth hanging open.
But I think that it is with the characters, especially Justine’s moral struggles, that the series really shines. I truly appreciate the fact that all characters are fraught with moral ambiguity and that not one character could be pigeon-holed, or easily labeled. They are all complex, messed-up people. That goes for all of them: the Disillusionists, Otto, Packard, and Justine.
In fact, Justine is an incredible character because she is so messed up. In this instalment, it is less to do with her hypochondria (because it is under control, as one of the beneficial aspects of being part of the team), but instead all to do with the very lack of her hypochondria, and how she has achieved that: because to accept the lack of hypochondria in her life is to accept her job as a disillusionist and all that it encompasses. As a character, Justine somewhat functions as the moral compass of the series. Yeah, so she might not know exactly where North is, but she is searching for it. This means asking herself questions that mirrored my own: are the Disillusionists right in their decision to subvert the law and rehabilitate crooks, or are they in the wrong? Is this form of rehabilitation acceptable, or is it inhumane? How is that a real rehab when the person to be rehabilitated doesn’t even know he/she is going through rehab? Is this form of vigilantism heroic and admirable or just another form of power trip? Those and other questions, Justine asks herself as she navigates both the world of vigilantism and the world of the Law. And, there are no clear-cut answers thus far in the series.
With regards to the romance and the Love Triangle of Doom: Justine is torn between someone that she admires and thinks is the best for her and someone she has a problem forgiving (with reason) but whom totally gets her. Justine’s romantic entanglements do take a front seat in this instalment, more so than in the previous one, but I though this plotline was a perfect counterpart for everything else going on in her life. To decide between the two characters, Packard and Otto, is to actually come to a point of self-awareness for Justine. The moment of truth is when she realises that she too, is NOT perfect. It is decision time and a decision IS made (and I was VERY happy with it), but that decision is taken away from Justine in a most twisterific ending when Carolyn Crane went all Empire Strikes Back on our collective behinds and nearly broke my heart in the process.
I really, really want to read the final installment PRONTO.
Notable Quotes/Parts: Folks, I won’t spoil but know this: on page 300 I cried a little bit, and on page 324 I lost it. Shit hits the fan big time between those two pages.
Additional Thoughts: Carolyn Crane has been SMUGGLED!!! As part of our new feature on youtube (you can check our channel here) the author made two videos for us: one talking about her series and the other one asnwering the MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION of all times: does she smuggle books too?
Check it out: Carolyn Crane on her series:
and Carolyn Crane on Book Smuggling:
Verdict: The Disillusionists Trilogy is inventive and original without ever going over the top and losing sight of its very flawed, human characters especially Justine, the force behind the series. Double Cross settles this series as one of my current favourites.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
Reading Next: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld