Carolyn Crane’s Mind Games

Mind Games

by Carolyn Crane
published by Bantam Spectra
cover art copyright Gene Mollica
my review copy picked up through the Hillsborough County Library
In Carolyn Crane’s debut novel Mind Games, a pleasant dinner out leads Justine into an encounter with an old enemy, and a flare up of her “vein star” syndrome. That awful disease that Justin is sure killed her mother. Her boyfriend Cubbie, however, knows her to just be suffering a panicked bought with the hypochondria from which she suffers. Justine successfully tamps down the panic attack this gives rise to, but the restaurant’s owner, who witnessed all this, mysteriously hands her a card and tells her he can help her control her attacks. Intrigued with the restaurateur’s offer, she returns the next day to glean what she can.

Turns out, it’s not so much that he has a cure for her, but offers a way to alleviate the attacks. If she will join his crew of slightly less than heroic crime fighters, his “disillusionists”. To put it succinctly, they’re all a little messed up, in various different ways, and they use those qualities to set the crime-ridden Midcity straight as best they can. Justine isn’t at all sure Packard’s on the up and up, but once he shows her how to “Zing” her fear into him—a thing that helps her deal with her hypochondriac fears quite effectively—well, she convinced there might be something to his idea of reforming criminals through disillusioning them (ie. psychically forcing them to see the error of their ways). Justine instantly feels drawn to Packard, who is trapped inside the restaurant by his evil nemesis, and wants to do what she can to help, even if it puts her in with some nasty criminals.

On the other hand, she’s afraid there’s something really wrong with what Packard tells her—even that he might not be entirely trustworthy—specifically when she finds out what he’s not telling her and he and his old Nemesis and why he’s stuck in the restaurant.

What’s really going on in this little messed-up crime fighting organization? You’ll have to read this one to find out.

Well now, having read Mind Games, and given you that little synopsis, I have to be honest and tell you, my thoughts on this book are mixed. Though in the beginning I was quite curious about the novel, and while, in the end did find it a compelling read. . . I have to say, the back cover blurb didn’t even begin to come close to explaining the book at all. For one thing, there is no real “wizardry” involved here. In fact, the disillusionists seem to work with a good bit of telepathy, telekensis (very much like a SF novel) and what’s known as Reiki (albeit in a reverse fashion), more so than any form of classic fantasy novel magic. In that way, it felt more akin to Anne McCaffrey’s SF Rowan novels, than any Urban Fantasy or traditional fantasy book out there.

Beyond that though, truthfully, I’m really, really, incredbily, so very sorry to say… there were things about Mind Games that bothered me, certain moments when the book felt far too verbatim-close to other previously published UF novels for my comfort. Also, there were times when I wanted to slap Justine. For as despicable as the Nemesis and Packard seem sometimes, Justine could be just as shallow and mean.  But through the encouragement of Book Bloggers Anonymous, who recommended this one to me, (and since Ms. Crane was very, very kind to stop by and comment there)I persevered. I’m in the minority with this opinion, I’m sure, and I’m really sorry I didn’t enjoy it as much as they did.  But in the end, I found Mind Games compelling enough that I can recommend it. Will I read the forthcoming follow-up Double Cross? Probably… This was Ms. Crane’s debut novel so I’m curious to see how she progresses. If you’d like to try it out, you can get a copy of it at online at,, or whatever your favorite local bookstore or library happens to be. My grade for this one?