Mind Games (The Disillusionists Trilogy, #1) - Carolyn Crane You know that part in the horror movie when the scantily clad girl wanders right into the bad guy's clutches? Her thought process goes something along the lines of, "Hmmm, I have two choices here. I can take my cell phone and my stupid ass outside and run to a neighbor's house to call for help, OR I can wander into the dark blood-stained hallway and take my chances with a man with a machete. I'm just that curious." Inevitably, she comes face-to-face with Mr. Serial J. Killer, and is all like ...


Well, for the entirety of Mind Games, the main character Justine is that dumbass girl wandering up the stairs to play hide-and-seek with Freddy Krueger. I despised her character with a visceral passion that I haven't experienced in years, which left me feeling insecure, like I was suddenly the irrational one. It's just a character in a book, Rachel, I told myself. Don't let it spoil your reading experience. But it's hard to escape those feelings when the Worst Person Ever(TM) is narrating the book. Without Justine dragging the whole party down, I would have rated this book 4 or even 5 stars for the excellent world-building. Alas, it just wasn't meant to be.

Justine is a hypochondriac who's a couple more trips to the ER for non-existant diseases away from being institutionalized. She's terrified of dying of vein star sydrome like her mommy, the original hypochondriac, did years ago. She lives a co-dependent life with her decent and normal boyfriend, Cubby, who can't take much more of Justine's irrational fear. Enter Sterling Packard: red-haired hottie with a proposition for Justine. He wants her to join the Disillusionists, a psychological hit squad that basically destabilizes criminals to the point where they become decent people again. Packard teaches Justine to channel her fear into their targets, increasing her quality of life while making Midcity a safer place. There's also the teeny tiny detail that Packard and Justine want to bone SO BAD. But Cubby's still a factor, and then there's Justine's irrational fascination with police chief Otto Sanchez. What's a speshul snowflake to do when she's gots teh new powerz and all teh menz want in her panties?

This, probably. Always this.

I'll start off on a positive note. I love the world that Carolyn Crane created. It's a regular city where high-caps, people with special powers, can do things like sling bricks at unsuspecting citizens and crush their skulls. The concept of the disillusionists targeting murderers and rehabilitating them is so cool, too. When the justice system fails, Packard and his crack team of misfits can step in and turn horrible people into upstanding citizens. Awesome freaking sauce. Crane has a great style for explaining how the disillusionists touch "energy dimensions" and "zing" targets with their anxieties. The writing didn't disappoint me. Unfortunately, the story came from the direct narrative perspective of a woman posessing maybe half a brain cell.

The disillusionists are a very interesting collection of people. There's Shelby, probably the most insightful person in the book, Simon and his gambling addition, Carter and his rage, and Strongarm Francis and his silly name. My favorite person of all, though, is Packard. Oh, Packard!


Packard has been trapped in his restaurant for eight years by his nemesis. He can't step outside of Mongolian Delites, nor can he change anything about it. He's literally stuck in a damn restaurant. At one point, Justine goes to the restaurant at night and finds him reading a travel magazine. Who wouldn't fall in love with that? Packard's an intriguing mix of sexy, infuriating, brilliant, and diabolical. The scenes between Packard and Justine crackled with energy. I love the way he talks, too. He just sounds like an evil mastermind.

"I don't see how I could possibly move a napkin with the power of my mind," I say.

"All will be revealed," he mumbles.

"Did you just say 'All will be revealed'?"

He looks up. "Yes."

"Who says 'All will be revealed'?"

"I do," Packard says. "Just perform the task."

"The task. Ah, please, forgive me for interfering with your diabolical restaurant supply order."

Unfortunately, Packard somehow ends up enamored with Justine. He could do so much better. We all could do so much better. When I read, characterization is my number one concern. I want to like or at least understand the characters so I can enjoy the book. Now, everyone's tastes differ, and I'm sure that some people think Justine is the cat's meow. Sadly, I don't. She's more likable as a pathetic hypochondriac than she is as a so-called empowered woman. Not thinking about vein star just gives her the opportunity to judge everyone around her and make poor life choices. The one time she does something kind of awesome to fight off a bad guy, she's dressed in a freaking sexy nurse costume. And instead of changing out of it once she deals with the bad guy, she flaunts around like an airhead. I understand that her clothes were destroyed, but there's always an extra pair of pants in a freaking house! This is just a small nit-pick, though.

Justine has a horrific case of foot-in-mouth syndrome. She just blurts things out at the most inopportune moments, and never gets a grip on her bad habit. At the end, she tells Otto all about the disillusionists with no prior knowledge of how he would react or what it would do to her team or Packard. And why? Because he was a good fuck, and she had a "good feeling" about him? Up until that point, Justine wasn't a pillar of insight, so I have no idea why she thought she had the right to gamble the very livelihood of her friends like that. Yes, she had a right to be pissed at Packard, but the others were innocent.

Justine also has a serious self-esteem crisis. She spends half of the book trying to please Cubby, then she simultaneously hates and thinks about smexing up Packard. Later, she has sex with Otto even though she suspects that he's dangerous and knows for a fact that he imprisoned Packard in the restaurant. I can't respect a woman who has no loyalty to anyone who doesn't happen to be her boy of the week. Her need for security and the perfect life is understandable, even if her motivations are TSTL. But freaking hell, she never even tries to get better. She just judges and blurts things out, and everyone still thinks she's super swell. Well, I don't, Justine. I don't.

I'll stop ranting now.

Also, during Justine's love scene with one of the male characters, the phrase "cucumbery cock" is used. Cucumbery cock for the win! A mature person wouldn't have guffawed after reading that statement. But I'm not mature.

Lastly, the description of Otto is LOL-worthy. A beret and a cape? Every time she mentioned his damn beret, I had mental images of Sadam Hussein and Fidel Castro. Never trust a man in a beret, ladies.

Despite my issues with Justine, I would recommend this book. The world-building is superb, and Crane has a great sense of humor. Just be prepared to want to swat Justine upside the head 95% of the time.