Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Book Review: psych - Mind Over Magic by William Rabkin (psych #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Laughs and comedy
Cons: Guest star characters could be better
The Bottom Line:
You'll enjoy watching
Fake psychics, real magicians
Face off in this book

Martians, Magic, and Murder

All books require hard work from authors, but I am convinced that tie-in novels take extra work.  True, the author already has the basic set up and main characters established.  But he'd better not stray from that in the slightest, or the readers will object.  Fortunately, William Rabkin pulls it off perfectly in Mind Over Magic, the second tie in novel based on the USA Network's mystery show psych.

I'm still not quite sure how this show works so well, because on paper I'm not sure it would work.  Shawn Spenser was trained at an early age to become a detective by his father, Henry.  But as an adult, he rejected this career path.  After a number of failed career paths, he discovers he can put his observation and deduction skills to work and earn a living as a fake psychic.  So he opens Psych with his best friend, Gus.  Together they get involved in all kinds of crazy cases.  This book, set in the world of magicians, fits the mold perfectly.

The Fortress of Magic sits on the outskirts of Santa Barbara, an exclusive club for magicians to hang out and perfect their trade.  It's also one of the most popular places for parties, which is why Shawn and Gus find themselves there one night.  And they are in for a treat.  P'tol P'kah, the fabled Martian Magician, shows up to prove to the entire crowd that he isn't a fraud.  To do so, he sets out to perform his signature trick, the Dissolving Man.  In this trick, the seven foot tall green man steps into a tank of water, slowly dissolves before the eyes of his audience, and then reappears amongst them after the lights go out.

However, something goes horribly wrong.  Instead of the tank being empty at the end of the trick, the lights come back on to reveal a very dead man.  But no one knows who he is.  Even more mysterious, P'tol P'kah has vanished.  Shawn and Gus are hired to locate him, a job that takes them to the strip in Vegas.  Who was the man in the tank?  Where is the Martian hiding?  And what is the secret of the Dissolving Man?

This book provides us with a nice little puzzle.  Or should I say three or four.  While all tied together in one plot, there are several questions we can't wait to see answered.  The book moves from plot point to plot point very quickly, always providing some new tidbit that just confused me further.  When Shawn did solve the case for us, however, it all made perfect sense.

But as any fan of Psych knows, the mystery is just an excuse for the comedy.  And that's the case here, too.  There are Shawn's over the top antics.  There's witty banter between Shawn and Gus.  There are plenty of cultural references.  And I loved a joke here based on their sister TV show Monk.  It was wonderful.  Between all of this, I was kept laughing over quite a bit of the book.

This is really Shawn and Gus' book.  They are around more than any other character.  In fact, several scenes are just the two of them.  But that's no problem.  They are entertaining enough to fill the pages.  And they are absolutely true to their series selves.  That does mean Shawn can be annoying at times, but he occasionally gets to me in the series, so that's nothing new.  Yes, the other series characters are all here, and they are true to themselves as well.  Even McNab, a recurring police officer on the show, shows up.

The characters brought in as suspects fulfill their purpose, but that is all.  They are memorable enough we can easily keep them all straight, but they never rise to the level of real people.  That's not too surprising since they really have little page time.  Think of them as guest stars on a TV show, and you'll be just fine.

Again, the writing is third person from Gus' point of view with very brief glimpses into other characters' minds.  In keeping with the show, there is a very funny prologue starring a young Shawn, Gus, and Henry.

Mind Over Magic is a good mystery that will entertain anyone.  But if you are a fan of psych, you'll really enjoy it.

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