About two years ago I started reading the Psychic Eye mysteries written by Victoria Laurie. They start as bright, breezy, light weight mysteries; entertaining, very readable and charming, pretty much what you want in this kind of cozy. Like many readers I don’t always want to be hip deep in blood, bodies, killers or clues and I enjoy good fun fluff with a decent story. The psychic angle was a clever hook. I’d put her early works as a C+ to B- grade. Death Perception is the 6th in the series and the first where Laurie tries to get into a meatier, more complex mystery plot.
Abby Cooper is a psychic. She does her readings in person and by phone (so does Laurie, by the way). Her ‘crew’ are those spirits on the ‘other side’ nudge her in her readings. Lately, her crew have been very quiet. So quiet that Abby is concerned that her gifts might be leaving her somehow.
Dutch is having a family crisis, his cousin Chase has been kidnapped and his family has asked for his help. Dutch, who has finally accepted that Abby has ‘special gifts’, he asks for her help. But Abby’s visions turn dark and deadly – for Dutch. Things don’t improve when they arrive in Las Vegas and check in at the Wynn.
Then Dutch goes out and Abby’s visions turn ever darker and more frightening. She grabs a cab and follows the GPS signal of Dutch’s phone. She lands at the scene of a car accident. A bad one. Panic seizes her. A body is found in a ravine – but it isn’t Dutch, it’s a woman. Then Raymond Robillard, Dutch’s boss, ex-CIA guy and a man Abby saw commit murder in one of her visions is standing there at the accident scene. Her last vision is Dutch in a cemetery.
Robillard is out to silence Abby and make it look like Dutch is a dirty agent. He knows she’s made Dutch suspicious of him and he’s a man with a lot to hide. Compounding the problems is Delgado, the man Chase was guarding, is also missing and it’s starting to look like Dutch and his cousin were involved in it somehow – or so Robillard claims. Now Abby starts fighting the clock, the FBI, and the police, to find Dutch before her visions come true. Her friend Candice, a PI and insurance investigator, comes to Vegas to help. And since money is an issue, Abby has to call her rich, corporate exec, sister in Boston who, instead of sending the courier with cash, once again drops everything and runs to Abby’s side. (How can a top exec keep doing that?)
The solution is something of a surprise though, both the who and the why, but the whole ‘Where is Dutch?’ thing was obvious.
Death Perception is a pretty good book, less of a cozy and more of a mystery, but Abby got rather irritating in this outing. The whole ‘high anxiety’ routine got on my last nerve in a big way. How many scenes of her being a nervous wreck can be crammed into one book? Apparently, a LOT. Abby was definitely outside her comfort zone and it felt like Laurie was as well. The whole book needed Xanax™ or Valium™ or something.
Laurie is a practicing psychic and that experience helps give her lead, Abby Cooper, the sense of being a complete and very real person. Many of her other supporting characters, Candice, Cat, etc., are very good as well. She usually at least good with Dutch Rivers, but here he had the feel of a prop, kind of a two dimensional character. That’s OK for a minor character, but not so good in a key role. The whole relationship between Dutch and Abby has been shallower than one would expect so far into the series. After the huge and very trying buildup, (and all that damn angst) the closing scene between Abby and Dutch was flat as a pancake.
I’m a fan of cozies and amateur sleuths, especially authors who can give me a good laugh now and then. Denise Swanson, Joan Hess, Joanne Fluke, and new comers Kate Collins and Lori Avocato are all examples of mystery light. I like Abby Cooper well enough, but I seriously hope Death Perception was a one off diversion and the stories get back on more secure footing. I am no fan of over-wrought, crying lead characters. Ms. Laurie also writes a Ghost Hunter series that I’ve tried and do not care for but others do.
My Grade: C- (Disclaimer – I am not in agreement with the reviewers on Amazon or Barnes and Nobel on this one. It has a 4.5* rating both places. Then again, maybe negative reviews were never posted after what Victoria Laurie did to one poster on Amazon. If Ms. Laurie wants to get even with me, I hope she realizes my avatar is a groundhog, not a gopher.)
Who would enjoy this book: Fans of Shirley Damsgaard, Madelyn Alt, and the Haunted Bookshop mysteries by Alice Kimberly.
There is a rather bizarre backstory to this book. You can read about it in the reviews on Amazon and also on Dear Author. I was unaware of any of this at the time I read the books, so it isn’t a factor in my comments in the review, but it will be a factor in any future decision to buy – or NOT BUY – Laurie’s future books. (Honestly, any more tears and I will be running away screaming.)