Rating: 4.75 stars
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Victor Bayne knows it is probably a mistake, but he can’t resist the opportunity to talk to Roger Burke. Roger is the only one who might be able to help Vic learn more about what went on at Camp Hell, the psychic training center where he spent his younger years, a place about which Vic has lost all memories. After learning that he is being monitored, along with just about everyone else in his life, and that his online presence has been erased, Vic is desperate for more information about his past and what is really going on.
Roger is not willing to let the information go easily, however. He wants Victor to recant his statements about Roger’s role in his kidnapping that landed Roger in prison. Then he will spill all his considerable knowledge about who is tracking Vic and what they want. Vic can’t stand the idea of getting Roger out of jail, but he is tempted, especially when Roger gives him one name for free — Con Dreyfuss, the regional head of the Federal Psychic Monitoring Program (FPMP). Meeting Con makes it clear that this whole thing is much bigger than Vic once thought. The FPMP has considerable power, and people they set their sights on seem to end up dead. According to Con, they want Vic to work for them, helping to exorcise some ghosts. But Vic is wary of getting involved with them in any way, though it is become clear he may not have much of a choice.
Victor has also finally reconnected with his friend and former lover Stefan from his days in Camp Hell. Vic hasn’t spoken to Stefan since he got out of Camp Hell and into the police academy. Stefan is now a therapist and offers to help Vic get his memories back from Camp Hell using hypnosis. With Stefan’s help, Vic begins to access those memories, both the positive ones from his times with Stefan, as well as the horrific ones of the experiments and drug testing they conducted on him and the others.
As Victor learns more about the FPMP and remembers more about his past, the stress begins to grow for him as well as Jacob. The men already knew that Vic was being monitored, but they are now coming to understand the full extent of the surveillance and how invasive things have become. Knowing they can never talk in private and there is almost nowhere they can be safe from the prying eyes and ears is taking its toll on them individually and on their relationship. But Vic is determined to learn what he can, both about his past and about the FPMP, hoping that he can get some control back in his life. The more he digs, the more he learns about himself, his past, the FPMP, and even Jacob.
Camp Hell is the fifth book in the amazing PsyCops series by Jordan Castillo Price. This is one of my favorite series and I am having so much fun rereading it. The series focuses on Victor Bayne, a high level medium, and his boyfriend Jacob, both of whom work as part of a PsyCops teams (though Jacob is a non-psychic). This book picks up what appears to be immediately following the end of the previous book, Secrets. In fact, it seems to be a continuation of the same scene where Vic comes face to face with Roger for the first time. We learned in Secrets that Vic’s online presence is gone and that he is being watched and those around him sworn to secrecy. But here in this book, we really begin to learn the full extent of the involvement in his life.
All along the series balances the story of an investigation Vic works as part of his PsyCops job, along with learning bits about his past and the larger world of psychics. While the first books were heavier on the police end, as the series continues, the balance is shifting. While we do see Vic and his partner investigating the high death rate at a local hospital, the real story is what is happening to Victor on a personal level. We have known that Vic’s experience at the Heliotrope Station training facility (also known as Camp Hell) is something that has always haunted him. But here we really learn why, following along as Vic remembers for the first time all the things that went on there. While the institution was officially a training program for psychics, much darker things were happening as well. As awful as it is to revisit those times, Vic gains a lot of power from the newly gained knowledge. Not only does he remember more about his psychic training and skills, but he also begins to get a little more of an upper hand in his dealings with the FPMP.
This book is my favorite of the series so far, because it just blows the lid off everything and really sinks into the meat of the larger storyline. We learn so much about Victor, about his past, about the motives of those involved with the psychics. I also love the dynamic between Vic and Jacob as they struggle with this new knowledge. It is tense for them, and Vic’s habit of keeping secrets doesn’t help things. They face a situation that could break them apart, but instead it all makes them stronger as a couple. The two men finish this story even more emotionally connected, as well as individually more powerful.
While the investigation into the hospital takes a back seat to the larger series arc, I love that the author still makes the most of it. There are some cleverly done connections between things Vic learns while investigating the deaths and things that are going on in the bigger picture. For example, Con wants Vic to exorcise some repeater ghosts in his office, and those skills come into play in the hospital. So as always, Castillo Price pulls everything together so nicely and with great skill.
As I said, this is one of my favorite series and Camp Hell is one of my favorite PysCops books. I know I say this every time I write a review of this series, but you guys need to be reading these! Victor and Jacob are an amazing couple, the plot is exciting, and the world building is just incredible. An absolute winner.