Curtis Ash (aka Crash) is a hairdresser in a high end salon. He loves his job, makes good money, and spends his evenings having pricey drinks and sexy hookups. When Crash’s salon brings in a new colorist, it shakes up his routine, both because Red is taking some of Crash’s clients, but also because Crash finds the man crazy hot. But despite the chemistry Crash clearly feels between them and Red’s obvious interest, Red keeps things strictly professional. Just as it seems that maybe there is a chance for them, things fall apart at work leaving Crash out of a job and Red headed out of town.
Now Crash is left with an expensive apartment and partying habit and next to no income. Over the next couple of years, Crash works on rebuilding his life, moving forward even as he can’t get Red totally out of his mind. Crash finds love, only to have it fall apart. He begins to explore his empathic gifts, trying to determine if his ability to read people is just a skill, or whether he truly has psychic abilities. And he turns to a new career, one focusing on spirituality through his store Sticks & Stones. All the while as Crash grows and changes, he learns more about himself and what he wants out of life. Just as Crash finally manages to become the person he is truly meant to be all on his own, he might just find there is still a chance for love for him after all.
Skin After Skin is the eighth book in Jordan Castillo Price’s fabulous PsyCops series. This is one of those series that I truly think everyone should be reading; it really is just that good. The series features the world of the PsyCops, law enforcement teams made up of a psychic and non-psychic and includes one of my all time favorite romance couples, Victor and Jacob. Like seriously, all time favorites. Crash is a prominent side character in that series and here we are getting a whole book focused on him and from his POV. What is particularly interesting is that this book spans the two years prior to Among the Living, the first book in the series, and continues right up until the end of Spook Squad, the most recent novel. So not only are we getting a story from Crash’s viewpoint, we are also seeing the events of the rest of the series from his outsider POV, which is really quite fascinating (it also means you really need to be caught up on that series for this to work well and be spoiler free). As much as I love Victor, he is a very unreliable narrator as he has many issues that color the way he sees the world and himself. So seeing bits and pieces of those books from Crash’s angle was particularly interesting.
This story is divided up into three parts. The first roughly comprises Crash’s time at his salon and the way things fall apart with his job and Red. The second two parts then cover Crash finding his way out of things and learning about himself, what he wants to do with his life, and the kind of person he wants to be. It also includes the time where Crash dates Jacob, something I have always been fascinated about because they seem so totally different it was hard to imagine them together. I’ll admit this could have been kind of weird, as like I said, I am obsessed with Vic and Jacob and I was worried it would bother me seeing Jacob with Crash. But it is actually really a great way to see both of these guys in a new light and I could totally get why they worked together. We also get to see Crash meeting some of our other favorite PsyCops characters, including Carolyn, Victor, and Lisa. I have to say, I loved Carolyn and Crash as BFFs. It gave me a whole new perspective on her to see her through Crash’s eyes as the two hang out and drink margaritas, versus only as Jacob’s serious police partner.
This story is really Crash’s journey and we follow him over the years as he has ups and downs and really sort of comes into his own. While he is much more commercially successful at the start of the book, by the end he has really found himself and is much happier and more content with his life. I found the story really engaging. I have always loved Crash as a side character and I really enjoyed getting to know him better here. In the other books, Crash seems a little more superficial, the guy who loves to flirt with Victor and make smart mouthed comments. But here we really see Crash’s depth and get a much better feel for him that I really enjoyed.
I did have two issues here. First, I had kind of a hard time understanding exactly what causes Crash and Jacob’s break up. I got the basics, but it seems like things just implode and I didn’t fully have a handle on why. Or maybe it is that if Crash’s understanding of the situation is accurate, it doesn’t put Jacob in the best of light. And honestly, it puts his relationship with Vic under kind of an off lens as well. So I wish this had been a bit clearer. My other issue is with the romance side of things. Honestly, I would have been totally happy just hanging out with Crash. I didn’t need the romance plot at all. But we know from Spook Squad that Red and Crash reunite, and so I found myself waiting for it the whole book. We also know that Crash is still hung up on Red throughout the story, even as he is dating Jacob. So it feels like the book is really leading to something big for them. But their early scenes seem to be mostly pining on Crash’s part and off page interaction, and then Red doesn’t return until quite late in the story. So we don’t get much relationship development early on, nor do we have much time to see them really build something later. They just sort of move into this really serious place really fast and it just moved a little too quickly for me. For the build up we get, I wanted more time with them.
Regardless of those issues, I really loved this story. I could barely put it down, and honestly if I had the time, I would have read this long book straight through start to finish. I really found Crash a wonderful lead character and totally enjoyed seeing the PsyCops world from his point of view. It made me want to go back and read the series again, and I am even more eager for the next installment with Vic and Jacob. So for PsyCop fans, you aren’t going to want to miss this. And if you new to the series, I definitely encourage you to pick up Among the Living and get started.