Title: Bitter Pill
Series: PsyCop: Book Eleven
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Length: 257 Pages
Category: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense
At a Glance: Jordan Castillo Price has routinely delivered a special sort of brilliance through these characters, but Bitter Pill bumps that up by several notches, and does so through an unexpected character and in an emphatically touching way. 2020 may still be in its infancy, but I’m adding this book right now to my Best Of list.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: There’s a new drug on the streets called Kick. The side effects are so brutal, most folks only try it once…unless they’re psychic. Then they do it until it kills them.
Psychic medium Victor Bayne is well acquainted with pharmaceuticals, from the Auracel that blocks his ghosts to the Seconal that offers him a blissful nights’ sleep. But he’s managed to steer clear of street drugs…so far.
Jacob Marks has a medicine cabinet filled with every over-the-counter remedy known to man, but none of them are doing much for his mood—and his long, fruitless days of combing through records at The Clinic are taking a heavy toll.
But their lackluster investigation does have one silver lining: a front row seat at The Clinic when the first Kick overdose comes in. And as scary as the drug might be, if it truly does augment psychic ability, the appeal is not lost on Vic.
Because the very first hit never killed anyone.
Where did Kick come from? Why is it so addictive? And why is everyone at The Clinic acting so darn shady? That’s what Vic intends to find out. And if he’s lucky, he can also expose a shadowy figure from Camp Hell.
Unfortunately, the demons of his pill addiction might prove just as deadly as his long-buried history. He thought he’d managed to ditch that pernicious habit. But what if it was only lurking in the shadows, waiting for the best time to rear its ugly head?
Review: In 2006, Victor Bayne and Jacob Marks…uuuuhhh…let’s just say they met in the bathroom at Maurice Taylor’s retirement party. By that point, Vic had already been an integral cog in the PsyCop program for twelve years. He was just a kid when it all started, but he was also a pioneer and the entire reason the experiment endured beyond its inception. Up until their first official…meeting…Vic had known of Jacob, the golden boy Stiff of the Twelfth Precinct, but he didn’t know know him. Then Vic got to know Jacob in a really carnal sense. Now, thirteen-plus years on, they have come a long way from the random hookup in that bathroom, are leagues removed from Jacob seeming like a guy who just has a kink for Psychs, and at book eleven in the series, they have done nothing more consistent than make me fall in love with them and this -verse over and over and over again. Jordan Castillo Price has routinely delivered a special sort of brilliance through these characters, but Bitter Pill bumps that up by several notches, and does so through an unexpected character and in an emphatically touching way I wasn’t expecting. When an author can still surprise me this far into a relationship with her work, that’s something to be celebrated.
Vic’s addictions and his continued efforts to stay off the combination of Auracel and Seconal he’s relied on for so long to help him cope with his way-off-the-charts ability to see, and sometimes communicate with, the dead plays a big role in this book. The subject of addiction itself—not just Vic’s—comes into play when a new street drug, Kick, rears its ugly head. It’s not the first dose that does its victims in. It’s the second that’ll kill ya, and the immediate urge to feed that demon is irresistible. Vic, Jacob, Carolyn, and Zigler team up at The Clinic to try and track down the source of the drug. Who’s dealing it and what the hell makes it so effectively addictive? Why is the Psych community being targeted as its victims? Why are the ghosts of the drug’s casualties so freaking messed up? And how is Vic going to resist that telltale itch that beckons for just one hit? None of the answers to those questions come easy, and suspicions grow as things at The Clinic get hinkier. When Vic and Jacob decide the GhosTV might help in their investigation, and FPMP National steps into the mix, everything goes haywire in only the way they could go in this series. And that means everything goes haywire in glorious and breathtaking ways when the specter of Vic’s past enters the fray.
In an effort to get more info about Kick, through channels only Vic could use, he returns to his old stomping grounds to connect with an informant who knows the streets. Jackie is a sex worker. She’s also been dead for some twenty years. And her story comes to the fore, beyond her usefulness to Vic, in a way that touched my heart and also delivers Jacob to yet another unexpected place on his journey from regular Stiff to a partner with a variety of unnamed, and potentially as yet untapped, powers that have become complementary opposites of Vic’s own. Vic’s contrition and determination to give Jackie peace was moving, but there is no question that Jacob is the hero in her story. That JCP was able to summon a backstory and resolution for the ghost of a murdered woman with a tragic history, amongst everything else happening in Bitter Pill, and did so with grace and compassion, is a testament to her commitment to deliver something new and surprising in every installment.
That Jacob is allowed to not only be vulnerable but to express those vulnerabilities to Vic now is an absolute bonus. Jacob’s sangfroid is still a big part of who he is, but he’s no longer unshakable and that makes him even larger than life in some ways. There is still much to learn about Jacob Marks, and that hook is baited skillfully at the end. The lengths that Jacob will go to, to keep Vic safe and to be the best partner in the psychic sense that he can possibly be are on full display in Bitter Pill. And, of course, this wouldn’t be a PsyCop novel without the humor and Vic’s trademark awkwardness—his efforts to practice yoga via YouTube elicited some…unexpected results. Yeah. And his discussion with Crash and Red about it was priceless.
This series is not a one-trick pony nor are its characters mere descriptions on the page. There always seems to be something new waiting to be revealed, a mystery to be solved, a surprise lurking around any and every corner, and, of course, there’s still the gaps in Vic’s memory of his Camp Hell years in play.
2020 may still be in its infancy, but I’m adding this book right now to my Best Of list.
You can buy Bitter Pill here:
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3 thoughts on “Review: Bitter Pill by Jordan Castillo Price”
quite the recommendation! thanks
I’ve been faithfully following this series for 10 years, and JCP has never let me down. This is definitely not a standalone, though, so if you decide to give Vic and Jacob a try, be sure to start with Among the Living. The first several books of the series are novella length, so they’re quick and easy to get through :)
I did it too! I mean I followed the series since the beginning or so. but in the last years i kind of lost sight of it. But now I am again up to date ;) thanks for the recommendation