Title: Skin After Skin (PsyCop: Book Eight)
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books
Length: 387 Pages
At a Glance: Skin After Skin is one epic Crash-shaped saga, and it upped my affection for him in a big way.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Fierce. Audacious. Independent. Curtis Ash can’t be bothered to settle down. He’s too busy enjoying his cushy job as a high-paid stylist, caught in a whirlwind of hookups, parties, and obscenely priced cocktails.
The only snarl in an otherwise charmed life is the salon’s hotshot colorist, Red Turner. Not only does Red put the whammy on customers and rake in all the big tips, he’s oblivious to Crash’s flirtation. But there will be plenty of time to win him over…so Crash thinks.
Thanks to his refusal to trust his gut, Crash not only tanks his career—he allows the one man who truly holds his interest to slip away. While he insists he doesn’t need a relationship to complete him, would sharing his life with someone really be so bad?
Review: Welcome to Crash 101: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Curtis Raymond Ash but Didn’t Know You Needed. Until now.
I love Crash, have loved him from the minute he showed up in the PsyCop series and caused Victor Bayne to emote all kinds of naughty vibes all over Sticks and Stones. But those being Vic’s books, we never knew a whole lot more about Crash than Vic had time to tell us between work and building a relationship with Jacob. For those of us who’ve always wanted to know more about the man who was once Jacob’s boyfriend, and is the guy Vic now turns to when the cannery’s psychic defenses need a good shoring up, Skin After Skin takes us back to when Crash was a hairdresser with a ‘tude, had a boss from hell, and there was a man named Red Turner, the man who made Crash feel things he’d never felt before.
There’s so much more to this book than the blurb would lead you to believe. Skin After Skin is the evolution of an empath, and the title of this three part novel is perfection. The shedding of his proverbial skin from one adaptation to the next is pure Crash—when bad shit happens, he doesn’t make lemonade from lemons. He crushes them beneath his combat boots on his way to the next venture, which takes him from high-end stylist to just this side of homeless to procurer of charms, spiritual odds and ends, and ritualistic paraphernalia. And, there’s a hell of a lot of struggle along the way, lemme tell ya. Where the other books in this series come with loads of supernatural action and suspense, though, Crash’s is an entirely character inspired novel, often introspective, so don’t go into it expecting the usual Vic/Jacob PsyCop fare. There’s a lot to learn about where Crash came from and where he’s made it to now, and Skin After Skin reads much like three distinct novellas that have been compiled into one epic Crash-shaped saga.
Part one, The One Who Got Away, is the story of how Crash and Red met, how they connected, and then how the connection they felt all fell apart in a none-too-pretty way. What I really loved about this part, however, is how Detective Carolyn Brinkman came to figure into Crash’s life. He and Carolyn have a history that isn’t fully realized in the other books, and knowing that they’re a lot closer than I suspected was such a fantastic reveal. We see Carolyn as all business so often that it’s easy to forget she has a life outside of being a walking, talking polygraph, and her friendship with Crash—and his skepticism that all this psychic business isn’t just a load of crap—was great to see build and grow and morph, especially when events and revelations brought out a softer side to Carolyn than we’re used to seeing.
In Part Two, A Spark of Empathy, Crash goes through his first evolution. Red is gone, his job at Luscious is no more, he’s taken a job at CUTTERZ, which implodes and leads to a job at a godforsaken haircut mill called ClipLand, and we see the emergence of what will eventually become Sticks and Stones. Oh, and this is where Crash also starts dating Jacob Marks—which, even though I knew it’d happened, was still a little weird to see play out on page because Jacob and Vic are so irrevocably connected in my head. In this vignette, Crash’s life takes more twists and turns…most of them leading straight downhill. Fast. Seriously, if anything could go wrong for the poor guy, it did, but this is also where Crash begins to question that this psych business maybe isn’t a scam after all, and, thanks to Jacob, he begins to wonder if there’s something more to his being really good at reading body language and taking non-verbal cues. At its heart, this is the rise and fall of Crash and Jacob’s relationship, which happens in under a year, although this chapter in Crash’s life feels as though it takes the longest to flesh out.
The final part of the book, Sticks and Stones, is by far and away my favorite of the three. Not only do we see Crash in his new skin as a business owner, but seeing Victor Bayne through Crash’s eyes is at least eleventeen kinds of awesome. This is where Skin After Skin dovetails with the series, and Spook Squad in particular, and I hope is prepping us for Vic and Jacob’s next adventure with the FPMP—sooner rather than later. Seeing Con, Lisa, Carolyn, Jacob, and Vic was such a great treat, as was getting a different POV of what happened with Sticks and Stones—which gives Crash yet another motive to evolve and gave me a sentimental gut-check. It’s also where JCP gives Crash and Red their second chance. Yeah, we saw them together at the end of Spook Squad, but this entire novel is the long and bumpy road to how they got there.
Based on the page count, you don’t need me to point out the obvious fact that Skin After Skin isn’t a quick read. And, your enjoyment of it is going to hinge a good deal on how much you’ve ever cared to know about the Ash Man. You learn a lot from this book. It’s Crash—the id, the ego, and the super-ego—but whether it’s all there is to know about him remains to be seen. Crash is a brazenly honest narrator; he lays everything on the line, never once attempting to sugarcoat the events in the story, especially not when it comes to how he feels, and I loved seeing the other characters through his eyes. There are more than a few touching overtones to this novel as well, especially at the end, and Skin After Skin upped my affection for Crash in a big way. I loved the revelations about him and his empathic abilities, and I can’t wait to see how he plays into Vic and Jacob’s lives going forward.
You can buy Skin After Skin here: