Book Review: Carolyn Crane’s Mind Games

Posted May 1, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Carolyn Crane’s Mind Games

Mind Games


Carolyn Crane

urban fantasy that was published by Bantam Spectra on March 23, 2010 and has 371 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Wild & Steamy, Double Cross

First in the Disillusionists Trilogy, an urban fantasy about vigilante psychics in Midcity near Lake Michigan.

My Take

Mind Games is an incredibly well-done story that sets us up for the rest of the series. Crane introduces us to the characters, the gifts they wield, and their backgrounds with the attendant issues, even as she resolves old conflicts while creating new ones. It’s a combination of hope and ambition with wariness. I am so looking forward to reading Double Cross!

Oh, man, I just wanna smack Justine one! I don’t feel at all sorry that she can’t afford pretty things because she has huge medical bills. She can’t even set her hypochondria aside to enjoy a celebratory dinner with the boyfriend of her dreams. The idiot. Although, Crane is doing a lovely job of setting us up for Packard’s seduction. Who wouldn’t want to be rid of those fears?!

Part of me wonders about my own obsessions, and if they would look as ridiculous to others as Justine’s obsession appears to me. Would I also be frustrated when others couldn’t empathize with my “very real” issues?

Because even hypochondriacs get terrible diseases—

The Story

Supposedly celebrating Cubby’s success at work, Justine is obsessing about the vein star syndrome that she’s sure is going to kill her tonight. It’s her last moments on earth and…well…she just knows that man with that sweet, young couple is the same man who conned her family. And, if it’s the last thing she does, before she dies, she intends to help them!

Oh, the desire to help others impresses Cubby, but not her obsession with her dying. Right this minute…! His inviting Justine to come with him to Belize seems to bring her around. Until she starts to think of “dirt-floor clinics and bright tropical bugs darting across rusty surgical instruments”.

Then Justine finds the couple she tried to help on her doorstep. It seems Justine had it all wrong.

It’s the demonstration Packard provides that changes Justine’s mind. Oh, it’s not an immediate acceptance…not for this illness-obsessed woman, for she’s certain her current diagnosis is a ruse.

The Characters

Justine Jones is a raving hypochondriac obsessed with vein star syndrome. To be fair, her mother did die of it after years of doctors not believing her. Of course, her father had his own obsessions — he knew an outbreak of Ebola was coming any minute. Cuthbert “Cubby” Montgomery is a comfortable, well-off young man Justine sees as her salvation.

Sterling Packard owns Mongolian Delites, a restaurant and his prison; he’s also a psychology highcap. He sees people’s psychological structures and uses his ability to run a psychological hit squad. They disillusion people. Break ’em down so they can reboot. The members of his team include Shelby, a Russian emigré whose gift “sucks the sparkle out of desire”, although she claims she simply gives people the knowledge that what you want will not make you happy; Carter‘s gift is the ability to rouse anger; Helmut helps “people see that they live in dangerous and threatening times”; Strongarm Francis is a detective, who discovers all he can about a target; Simon is the gambling specialist, who encourages the target to gamble which ends in their losing all their worldly goods; Monk destroys people’s faith; Jordan is the therapist who “delivers the truth that other therapists try to…minimize”; Enrique is ennui; and, Jay is the alcoholic who is friends with everyone.

Chief Otto Sanchez has sworn to clean up crime in Midcity, but it seems a losing battle. Yet, Justine has complete faith in him. Melanctha is Jarvis’ private nurse. Jarvis was a functioning disillusionist until he thought he could do without Packard’s ability. The Mandlers are clients who tried to renege on their contract with Packard.

Ben Foley is a con man who bilked Justine’s father out of most of their savings 15 years ago. The Silver Widow loves to watch people suffer; what she did to her husband…erk. The Alchemist targets women at dance clubs. Henji can kill with a thought and works with infrastructure and force fields, a very dangerous gift, and is the reason for Packard’s imprisonment. Diesel was imprisoned by the same nemesis as Packard. Only he didn’t make it.

The Cover and Title

The cover is night and fast paced — there’s no time to lose. It’s jeans and a black leather jacket for Justine, one leg braced while the other is bent with her foot up against what appears to be a subway wall, one hand holding a gleaming knife. The blurring lights of the space-agey building hovering over all and the raised traffic lanes rushing to and fro.

Mind Games is exactly what Packard an