DOUBLE CROSS (The Disillusionists Trilogy #2)
Available September 28, 2010
Received from author
This review contains NO spoilers
Justine Jones is still a hypochondriac, though to a slightly lesser degree. Thanks to Sterling Packard, she's learned to channel her fear and zing it into another person as part of a rehabilitation program referred to as "disillusioning". With the help of Justine, and Packard's team of talented misfits, criminals are mentally disillusioned and subsequently rebooted so they may become a functioning member of society once again.
Despite having a level of control over her hypochondria, Justine's life hasn't gotten any easier. In fact, it's gotten more complicated. She has yet to forgive Packard for deceiving her when he failed to inform her of the price to pay for his knowledge and assistance, but her traitorous body still responds to him though her mind vehemently rejects him. And then there's Midcity itself, currently being terrorized by a group of serial killers whose targets just might include Packard and the Mayor, Otto Sanchez.
Justine has never felt right about disillusioning unsuspecting people, but she's held tight to Packard's promise that they're providing a necessary service. Now, however, with killers on the loose and the men in her life in jeopardy, Justine must come to terms with not only her abilities, but her conscience as well and determine what, and who, is most important before circumstances make the decision for her.
Intricate, captivating, and richly complicated, Double Cross is nothing short of a revelation. This story is teeming with enigmatic and ingenious characters, each with their own agenda and a moral compass they claim points north, but it remains distinctly unclear as to whether their respective norths are in fact the same direction. The plot itself is as mysterious as the characters, overflowing with misdirection and leaving the reader continually guessing as to character allegiances and motives. Just when we think we might have a handle on the situation, it becomes clear that Ms. Crane is way ahead of us, an extremely talented puppet master well in control of our strings.
Justine is a truly fascinating heroine. She wants so badly to be normal, free of the worries and fears that have controlled her life for so long, but she, like so many others, is self-destructive. She trades one debilitating fear for another, exchanging her hypochondria for a fear of accepting her own flaws and truly revealing who she is to another person. She herself is more a victim of disillusionment than any of the criminals she targets, refusing to relinquish the anger and resentment tainting her view of Packard, and thereby denying herself the very thing she wants most: someone who understands all of her and accepts it unflinchingly. Packard is the embodiment of all the things that make Justine different; he strips away the blanket of comfort that is her fixation with illness and mortality and forces her into a reality she's not ready to face. She cannot accept him until she accepts herself, and all we can do is watch helplessly as she attempts to conquer that very fear.
Her internal struggles with regard to Packard make the reader ache, wanting so badly to defy the laws of physics and reach through the pages to provide comfort while simultaneously ripping the self-imposed blinders from her face so that she can see what's truly in front of her. Just as I started to get frustrated with her attitude toward Packard, she begins to get frustrated with herself, and we get to see a growth and progression as she starts to take control of her thoughts and actions, refusing to let fear of any kind dictate her life.
In addition to some personal growth from Justine, we also catch a glimpse of Packard as he drops some of his defensive shields and becomes less the authoritative highcap and more the vulnerable human being. This subtle shift in character makes him more attractive on every level, one thin layer of ambiguity removed from the ultimate mystery man, and leaves us begging for more page time with him.
The ending is as spectacularly brilliant as the build-up, forcing the reader to suck in a breath and frantically claw at the back cover in the hope that more pages will magically appear with the sounds of our distress. The execution of this story is flawless, every angle perfectly thought out, every character blissfully damaged but ultimately redeemable, and every detail cleverly placed to provide the most psychological impact on the reader. We are teased with information, taunted with a relationship with incendiary potential, and tormented by extremely emotional discoveries, leaving us nothing but a quivering mass after the last page has been turned, our mouths agape and our hearts pounding.
Mind Games was good, but Double Cross takes the story to a whole new level. Run to the bookstore on Tuesday.