Rating: 4.25 stars
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Seasons: PsyCop Briefs, Volume 2, is an anthology of stories featuring Vic and Jacob from Jordan Castillo Price’s amazing PsyCop series. This is one of my all-time favorite series and one I have been reading (and later reviewing) for over ten years now. The anthology is set up by season, with each season containing one longer, multi-chapter story, plus a bunch of short stories. Some of the stories take place after the most recent book, Other Half, though most dip back into events in and between past books. Castillo Price includes a timeline that lists all the books, as well as all the short stories in the two collections (which began with PsyCop Briefs, Volume 1). The shorter stories also start by indicating where they fit in the timeline. So it is easy to follow along, even for the stories that take place in the past.
I absolutely adore Vic and Jacob, so I love any chance to spend time with this couple. The short story format is nice because while some of them contain a mystery element, the stories are more focused on the characters themselves and their relationships than on a central mystery, so we really get a deep dive here. The anthology contains 18 stories, so while I read them all, I am just highlighting some of my very favorites here.
To the Letter is a short story where Vic and Jacob head up to Wisconsin to Jacob’s family cabin. There is not much to do there, as things are pretty rustic and the cabin is in the middle of nowhere (at least by Vic’s estimation). The guys end up playing Scrabble (at which Jacob is substantially better), which turns into a sexy strip version. While the story is fade to black, it still really highlights the chemistry and the intimacy between the men. It also amusingly showcases Jacob’s competitive streak (and Vic’s total lack of one). The story is funny and charming and highlights both characters well.
On the Ball is a multi-chapter story that takes place between Criss Cross and Body and Soul when Jacob has moved into Vic’s apartment. The story starts off with a super sexy scene between the men, which in addition to being hot, also showcases how the pair are moving from pure physical attraction to a connection that’s much deeper. As Vic says “Initially, the appeal was more to do with his looks — he’s a handsome guy — but as we became inured to the sight of one another, I realize that the attraction ran far deeper. Emotional? Sure. But maybe something more. Something as yet unmeasured, a vibration that resides beneath our skin, outside of the wavelengths that current technology is capable of measuring.”
The story continues to follow Vic as he is asked to be a police liaison to the “Ball Charity” (aka a testicular cancer organization that has a charity 5K and encourages folks to raise money by growing a mustache). Of course, because it is Vic, he soon realizes there is a ghost hanging around that is impacting the charity and so he sets to resolving the problem. It is a fun mystery and also shows that side of the normally curmudgeonly Vic where he can’t let a wrong go without trying to help, and where he determinedly pushes himself beyond what he even thinks is possible.
Sticker Shock is a short that takes place after Other Half while Vic is on an undercover assignment. He is, of course, supposed to maintain a low profile and at that he is blazingly unsuccessful. This story is cute and funny as poor Vic ends up in over his head. And the ending cracked me up, both Jacob’s reaction and how FPIMP resolves the problem.
Cold Case is another multi-chapter story taking place just after Vic and Jacob buy the Cannery. It is a total mess and barely habitable. While Vic is content to slowly get things sorted, Jacob is impatient to dig in. Vic notes, “Jacob was totally getting off on this. The story of our lives. Him raring to go, and me with my foot on the breaks.” The most immediate problem is that the Cannery has no heat and because the building is so old, there is only one guy in the city who knows how to service it. Unfortunately, Jacob is having no luck getting this guy to even return his calls and the men are worried the water pipes are going to explode before long if they don’t get it fixed. While Jacob is normally the guy who handles these types of problems, Vic ends up cleverly resolving things.
Meanwhile, Vic and his partner, Zigler, are investigating a cold case of a guy who won a huge sum of money in the lottery and then just disappeared without cashing the check. By everyone’s accounts, the man was the nicest guy in the world. No one ever found the body or evidence of foul play. But given he never got the money either, it seems unlikely the man ran off. Everyone assumes it is all about the money somehow, but a change of perspective allows Vic to crack the case.
Overall, I really enjoyed these stories and the chance to reconnect with Vic, Jacob, and the PsyCop world. There is a good mix here in terms of length, time period, and focus. We get some sexy moments and some romantic ones, as well as some nice shorter mysteries. This anthology reminds me just how much I love this series and I really had fun with this collection.