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REVIEW: Double Cross by Carolyn Crane

PLEASE NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD! Some of the spoilers refer to the first book in the series. If you prefer to avoid spoilers, you might not want to read this review until after you have read the book(s).

Dear Ms. Crane,

Between not having realized that Janine Ballard wrote a fabulous review of Mind Games, and frankly, not paying attention to release dates, I read both Mind Games and Double Cross back-to-back in a few days. I agree with Janine that the language and worldbuilding in the first book are exciting, and am happy to say that Double Cross is no slouch in this regard. To quickly put my spin on the first book, I thoroughly enjoyed the high tension level (the scare factor), the worldbuilding and the language, but felt that I had trouble connecting to Packard in particular. That said, I would have given Mind Games a B/B-.

Double Cross Written by Carolyn CraneA very brief plot summary: Justine Jones is a severe hypochondriac (she has a special issue with a vascular disease called vein star syndrome) with the unfortunate side effect of ratcheting up her fear to heart-stopping levels. In Mind Games, Justine is discovered by Sterling Packard, a highcap (person with extra-sensory abilities) who teaches Justine to channel her fear into another person by manipulating their energies. Janine did a wonderful job describing the background characterizations, and rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, I’ll provide you with this:

Packard's team is a kind of "psychological hit squad" made up of disillusionists, people with psychological disorders who channel their own problems into criminals and thereby "crash" them so that they can then be "rebooted" into better human beings.

At the end of Mind Games the directive has changed. When Double Cross begins, Packard’s team is working for Otto Sanchez, the mayor of Midcity. Otto is a highcap and a hypochondriac with the same exact issue as Justine, and fears that the mental energy he’s using to imprison certain highcaps around Midcity will cause a vein star to rupture and kill him. Packard’s team is working to reboot the highcaps to relieve the mental pressure on Otto.

Justine is still heavily conflicted about her work, and constantly questions the motives of both Otto, who has taken it upon himself to imprison people without due process, and Packard, who she depends upon for discerning who is “safe” to zing with her fear. Along with doing dangerous work, Justine is dancing a fine line: she’s quietly dating Otto who she has mentally built into the image of perfection, ergo, the perfect man for her. But she constantly thinks of Packard, and this frustrates and angers her. Beyond Justine’s personal problems, there are the Dorks, a gang that’s targeting and killing highcaps. They’ve figured out a way around the highcap powers and are seemingly bent on gruesome assassination of every highcap they find.

The killers are called Dorks because one of Otto’s decrees, in the week he took office as mayor, was that the city papers can’t give serial killers cool names anymore. The names are pre-chosen, like hurricane names, and kept in a vault to be selected randomly. Privately, Otto told me other D names include Doofus, Dolt and Dickweed

As I noted, Ms. Crane’s wonderful language continues. The hurricane reference is brilliant; it turns the Dorks into a force rather than a joke. Between the scare-the-shit-out-of-me name and the Dorks chosen garb of hooded gray sweatshirts, I was nervous for every highcap that was introduced during the course of the book.

My biggest issue with the book is Justine’s rigid view of Otto as an infallible hero. Otto is massively screwed up (hello…crazy hypochondria? actual vigilante justice?) but Justine overlooks a lot of his peculiarities and isn’t interested in delving into them too deeply for fear of disturbing the perfect image she has. Even when she suspects that all may not be as wonderful as she originally conceived it to be, she allows Otto to push her into the space he’s allotted for her. This is excellent for Otto, but for a UF heroine, I found it to be a bit annoying.

Justine’s relationship with Packard is much more difficult, interesting and exciting. Packard is a total screw up too. Justine is aware of his level of loco, she just can’t figure out why and wants to understand him on a deeper level. Justine is constantly fighting her feelings for Packard because she is mentally tied to him and his ability to see the “safe” zing. She wants to be free of him, and I think part of her craving for freedom is to get away from Packard because he isn’t what she should want. I have an issue here as well: For me, Packard remains an enigma because he revealed so little to Justine throughout the book, and is unwilling to open up to her even though it seems from her point of view that he has strong feelings for her. He hides so much, and I’m unclear as to why all the secrecy is so damn important.

This books is first and foremost Urban Fantasy, and one would assume that looking beyond the relationships would be simple. However, Ms. Crane has woven the triangle neatly into the plot. While I’m not one who looks for triangles, this one is done quite well. I can see Justine’s attraction to both men and her misgivings about both of them, but yes, there are times I want to slap her with a cricket bat. My other issue? The doozy of a cliffhanger. The plot is wonderfully torturous, but due to the rapidity with which things happen toward the end of the book, there are a few loose ends and a massively suspenseful ending which makes me want to HulkSmash. Yeah, I said it. B-


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Sydney (better known by her handle, Shuzluva) knew that she wanted to be Han Solo's copilot after seeing Star Wars at the tender age of 5. She fell in love with romance novels over 20 years ago when she got her hands on Sandra Brown's Texas! trilogy, and in the mid 90's was overjoyed to discover romance writers had branched out into the world of SciFi/fantasy. While she enjoys the occasional contemporary or historical novel, the world of SciFi holds an unshakable fascination for her. Some of her favorite authors include Nalini Singh, Catherine Asaro and Kresley Cole, and she's always interested in adding new authors to the list.


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  2. LauraB
    Nov 18, 2010 @ 14:13:02

    Any word on when the 3rd and final book of the series is due? I’m in w/drawal here.

    Also, part of Justine’s problem is her inability to discern reality, so her adoration of Otto makes sense (compare it to the relationship she starts the series in).

    What I didn’t see clearly is more why Otto and Packard seem so into her. But that may be because Justine doesn’t see this either?

  3. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 19, 2010 @ 08:47:26

    I would give the first in this series an A+ and the second an A-. I loved the cliffhanger but I agree with you about the loose ends. The sleepwalkers/Simon subplot just seemed to get dropped into nowhere. I’m hoping to see that resolved in book 3.

    Also, I thought this book differed in tone from the first considerably. Mind Games introduced a compelling love triangle, but it was almost hard-edged in its lack of romanticism. Justine struggles with moral decisions, for example, but isn’t above using sex as a weapon. In Double Cross, it seemed to me that everyone was getting all mushy and falling in love. Although I was wrapped up in every relationship, this element jarred in comparison to the unsentimental toughness of the team in the first book.

    Anyway, great review, can’t wait for the next. Such an awesome, wildly inventive series.

  4. Diane V
    Nov 19, 2010 @ 09:05:19

    Tried to read “Mind Games” several times but just can’t get past that it’s written in the present tense (which always seems awkward and constantly throws me out of a story.)

    But I have friends and several associates at the local Borders who’s enthusiasm for the 2 books keep me trying — I still haven’t gotten past page 30 of “Mind Game” after 9 months.

  5. Jessica
    Nov 21, 2010 @ 18:45:03

    I enjoyed this one a lot. It’s a funny thing about cliffhangers — some people love them, some hate them. I thought it worked really well here.

    Also, don’t mean to be a pain, but the title of this book is Double Cross, not Double Crossed.

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