I have a headache… Not really surprising, since I’ve just finished reading the last three books – back to back within twenty-four hours - written by professional psychic and novelist, Victoria Laurie. No, not ‘how-to’ books, novels: crime fiction, to be precise. Her series protagonist is Abby Cooper, also a professional psychic, whose comfortable world of doing ‘readings’ for clients is about to be ripped apart. That would be from the first book, “Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye”.
Despite the human race’s long on/off love affair with ‘otherworldly influences’ – there are those who walk among us who truly have contact with the ‘other side’. Throughout time, these people have been either loved or hated, cosseted or burned, flocked to or shunned, ignored or persecuted, under any given set of circumstances. And in spite of the role of stereotypical charlatans that pop up during crises to proclaim they know what’s going on and what signs people must follow, there are a genuine few who bear the true gift of sight. And in saying that they ‘bear’ their gift, I mean just that. It can be the heaviest of burdens. But what they ‘see’ isn’t the problem, it’s how it’s received, perceived and dealt with by those the psychic ‘reads’ for. So no matter how loved and accepted they are (lucky few), a psychic can walk a very lonely road. This is what strikes me about Victoria Laurie’s ‘Abby’. She’s both vulnerable and tough, has a largish inferiority complex but can also be strong as steel, is feisty, karmic and morally responsible, a giver who’s constantly running to the frontline in anyone’s given battle. Karmic heroine? Possibly: but just as flawed a human being as the rest of us - seeing two worlds, not just one, and feeling responsible for both. So in this series of books, Abby finds that violence enters her life – much to the chagrin of those who love her most. Throughout successive books, Abby is nearly killed several times in her pursuit of truth, and brings about the demise of a mob boss who threatens her, as well as everyone around her, attempts to kill her, and fails in the end. She saves whom she can, and that is most, but there are the odd failures due to miscommunications or trying to find out what’s going on. In ‘Killer Insight’, Abby actually does die for a short time, in her efforts to find a deranged killer. Thinking she is insignificant and has nothing to live for, she wants to surrender to the ‘other side’, but her grandmother gently helps her to see for herself what the future should and must be. Abby comes back to those she loves and helps, grateful to find them there waiting, but there will be repercussions that she has to face in her own spirit and soul. However that is for future books, one of which is ‘Crime Seen’
released in September 2007. I for one can’t wait.“Abby Cooper: Psychic Eye”
This is the first of Victoria Laurie’s novels involving professional psychic, Abby Cooper. In spite of a few close friends, a full time practice ‘reading’ for clients, and a loveable miniature dachshund named Eggy, Abby walks a lonely path. Her personal life is non-existent, she has defensive and anger issues regarding her work and how other people behave once they know that she has ‘connections’, and a cash flow problem – or lack thereof. On the flipside of her personality, Abby is caring, determined, has a steely will, and an impulsiveness that drives her where angels fear to tread. Most times she listens to her guides when they are trying to tell her something, but sometimes, through absolute physical or emotional exhaustion, she ignores them at her – or someone else’s – peril.
In this novel, Theresa, Abby’s best friend and mentor, is moving from the Royal Oak, Michigan office that they share, to California and a dream shot at doing her Medium stuff in front of a live audience. Feeling somewhat bereft, Abby decides to take hold of her destiny with both hands and signs up with a computer dating service. The resulting date is a passionate attraction of opposites – not only in points of view, but performance of duties. Innate shyness, anger, and several margaritas cause Abby to blurt out what she ‘sees’ surrounding her date. His shock is a balm, and he apologizes, but he is still an unbeliever. They walk around town getting to know each other while exchanging small confidences, and Abby is both alternately irritated by, and incredibly attracted to Dutch. It seems he is attracted to her too, and his kisses are a happy memory.
A week later, an angry and barely awake Abby opens her door to a formal Dutch and a stranger who has been tailing her. The two are cops and are only there to demand more information out of her regarding a case that Abby mentioned to Dutch on their date. All of Abby’s old horrors of being falsely accused of committing a crime seem to be coming home to roost. Until her guides inform her that they are lying to her and that she has nothing to worry about. If anything, Abby is in a towering rage and flings their lies back in their faces along with facts as to why they’re lies. She reluctantly answers their questions, repeats what she said to Dutch on their date, and then throws them out of her house with a few more personal home truths for them to chew on.
Then a last minute client of Abby’s is murdered, and things go downhill from there.
Both wanting to help her client and salve her own guilty conscience, Abby helps answer a few questions herself and then offers to help the police. In spite of their grudging earlier belief, they make her feel like she has nothing they can use or want. Abby begins to do things on her own, and her ‘relationship’ to Dutch gets even more complicated. Trust isn’t an easy thing to establish on either side, and both of them wind up hurt, angry, distrustful, or passionate, and each with a grudging growing respect for the other.
The killer is of a nasty, vindictive kind and thinks that Abby knows more than she does, so she is targeted too. A series of logic, intuition, puzzling clues and crossed live connections, lead to getting the killer and solving the crimes, but not before Abby is dreadfully wounded.
This is a compelling story, with compelling characters that have all too human quirks of their own. But not to be totally serious, there are some very gratifying fun moments and ‘gotchas!’ to keep this roller coaster ride of a novel chugging along nicely. “Better Read Than Dead”
Abby is happily preparing for the homecoming of her boyfriend, Dutch, who is on his way back from his FBI rookie training. Then, out of the blue, she is dragooned into helping read Tarot cards – despite the fact that she doesn’t know how – at an expensive wedding on the night he’s due home. And when they do meet up, Dutch introduces Abby to his new partner, ‘Joe’: a stunning woman with all of the subtlety of a barracuda when it comes to men, and who smugly baits and taunts Abby while they wait for Dutch’s return from taking a phone-call. She reacts badly when he says that he and ‘Joe’ have to leave town on a mission.
The wedding turns out to be a mob one, as in mafia, and Abby reads for a hit man. Afterward, she and Kendal panic and leave. Subsequently, she and Kendal return early to his house and find his boyfriend in bed with a woman. Kendal races out, distraught. Abby returns home, unsuspecting that her life and the life of everyone she loves is now on the line. Kendal disappears – to Florida, it seems – and Abby is forcibly kidnapped to answer to the mob boss, Andros Kapordelis, for her and Kendal’s defection. He makes her repay the money – her share, Kendal’s, and then double for the inconvenience. She is now broke, but still has her attitude and anger to get her by. She defies Andros when he tries to strong-arm her into working for him. Alone, she is unprepared for the intimidation and threats in the days that follow. A further complication is when Milo, Dutch’s former detective partner, asks for Abby’s help in trying to nail a serial rapist.
She puts it all together in the end, after a wild ride through fear, leaps of faith, running for her life, and losing almost every personal possession she has. Her sister, Cat is attacked but saved; Dutch’s life is literally in her hands during a test by Andros; and her own life is saved by mistaken identity, but not her friend Mary Lou’s. It takes every shred of intuitive power, guidance from the other side, logic, guts, and shrewdness to get Abby through this and tie up all the loose ends to everyone’s satisfaction and safety, but hers. Her karmic balance now leans to the ‘debt’ side.
Compelling and harrowing, funny and dead serious at the same time: this is not a ride to miss. “A Vision of Murder”
Abby has taken January off to take a passionate vacation with her boyfriend, FBI agent Dutch Rivers, and buy furniture for her new house, when the fates intervene. Dutch gets shot in the derriere and Abby has to nurse him for a month. Meanwhile, the investment property – dump, might be a better word – that she’s been dragooned into buying and renovating by her handyman, Dave, and her sister Cat, has major problems of its own: hefty violent ghostly ones, with a live violent agent. It takes Abby, a barely mobile Dutch, Milo and Dave to see it though. World War II betrayals, evil intent, murder, and jewels are all a part of this dark puzzle.
This is an almost straightforward poltergeist/historical mystery story, but Ms Laurie’s intrinsic fast pace, danger and excitement are still as palpable as they are in her earlier books. There are some genuinely funny moments as well as tense ones, and death surrounds all.
Read this to find out what Cat does with a bulldozer and what it costs her for her temper tantrum. Find out about Abby and Cat’s parents, and why Abby loathes them. And as argumentative as they are all through this story – scaring the bejeezus out of each other in the process – Dutch and Abby finally get to take their much needed vacation of passion.“Killer Insight”
This novel is every bit as deadly serious as Abby’s situation in “Better Read Than Dead”. A rocky Valentine’s Day date at Abby’s house leads to a surmised rift between Dutch and Abby when he says he wants more space to concentrate on his work. She’s angry and hurt, and blames it on when Dutch came to her office to help clean up following its destruction in the previous novel. Unfortunately, the first thing he picks up is a file that affects him strangely. He makes excuses and leaves. She groans when she realizes that it’s her ages old ‘wedding file’: the file of clippings a girl keeps while she dreams of her ‘big day’. Things come to a head on Valentine’s Day, and the misunderstanding gets worse. She looks at Dutch’s energy and sees that her pattern is no longer a part of it. Abby is shocked, and concludes that he’s removing her from his life and is moving on: essentially breaking up with her. There are far more chilling reasons for it not being there, but it doesn’t occur to her to ask. She forces him to leave and then promptly falls to pieces.
Subsequent events take her to a dear friend’s wedding in Colorado, to nurse her wounds and get some fresh scenery. Pathetically, she takes the ‘on sale’ new cell phone that Dutch gave her for Valentine’s Day, and vainly waits for him to call. Before she’s even unpacked, however, local events surrounding the wedding turn dark when she discovers that one of the bridesmaids is somehow dead. The snowball search for her body and cause for her murder turns into a fast-paced avalanche that spells danger for women in the wedding party and Abby in particular.
There is a deeply tragic turning point for Abby near the end of this story. It gives her some answers, lets her ask some questions of her own, and gives her hope and resolve to go on with. Her turmoil will give any reader pause, who has gone through love and rejection, rebound and resolution, and strengthening of will. Compelling, fast paced, funny in parts, deadly in others, this story compares favorably to “Better Read Than Dead” for Abby at her most rebellious and resourceful, determined and brave. A damn good read.
I can’t wait until September when Ms Laurie’s new novel in the series, “Crime Seen” hits the bookstores.
Meanwhile, I’ve read…
“What’s a Ghoul to Do?”
This is a new series by Ms Laurie, surrounding the character of professional ghostbuster M.J. Holliday who was introduced in the Abby Cooper series in “A Vision of Murder”. M.J. is a Medium: that she can talk to dead people, in ways that Abby can’t. Although M.J. is somewhat lonely as far as relationships with men goes, her best friend and partner is an extrovert gay man called Gilley that she’s known since childhood. After that, M.J. and Abby differ greatly, in their respective talents as well as their approach to life. Both are determined and brave, but M.J. doesn’t seem to attract the same violence and trouble that finds Abby. However, this is just the first book about M.J.’s adventures, so things could get way more interesting as time goes on.
At first, M.J. turns down a ghostbusting job in northern Massachusetts, because the client insists on coming with her on the job. For good reasons, M.J. and Gilley work alone, but Dr. Steven Sable – or Doctor Delicious as M.J.’s african gray parrot, Doc, calls him – is skeptical and insists. They part ways, only to meet up again on a blind date set up by Mama Dell. An embarrassing mix up and a sharp taste of her talent later, Steven takes M.J. more seriously and apologizes. Meanwhile there is a heavy degree of electricity rebounding back forth between the two, in the mutual attraction stakes.
The job is to go to Steven’s grandfather’s fancy lodge and find if, and why he killed himself there. If it were only that easy… Old agreements, questionable paternity, old hatreds, and Steven’s sleazy, calculating father, Dr. Steven Sable Senior, make for a deadly raising of stakes. Wild TV sets, ghost lights, a very pushy specter, secrets, an exploding pool, and a shadowy would-be murderer create mayhem and danger for our team.
The story rollicks along at a standard Laurie pace: fast. There’s also the usual amount of passion and fun. And although, this isn’t quite as deep as the Abby Cooper novels, it only needs for the author to shrug her shoulders for the characters to fall into place, and for her to hit her stride with that particular end of the psychic universe. I, for one, can’t believe I’ve got to wait a whole year for the next installment.