The Psychic and the Sleuth

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The Psychic and the Sleuth coverTitle: The Psychic and the Sleuth
Author: Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee
Cover Artist: Kendra Eggert
Publisher: Samhain
Buy Link:The Psychic and the Sleuth
Genre: historical
Length: 237 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Cryselle

Review Summary: A very sexy historical that somehow manages to fall slightly flat.

Blurb

Inspector Robert Court should have felt a sense of justice when a rag-and-bones man went to the gallows for murdering his cousin. Yet something hasnever felt right about the investigation. Robert’s relentless quest for the truth has annoyed his superintendent, landing him lowly assignments  such as foiling a false medium who’s fleecing the wives of the elite.

Oliver Marsh plays the confidence game of spiritualism, though his flashes of insight often offer his clients some comfort. Despite the presence of an attractive, if sneering, non-believer at a séance, he carries on—and experiences a horrifying psychic episode in which he experiences a murder as the victim.

There’s only one way for Court to learn if the young, dangerously attractive Marsh is his cousin’s killer or a real psychic: spend as much time with him as possible. Despite his resolve to focus on his job, Marsh somehow manages to weave a seductive spell around the inspector’s straight-laced heart.

Gradually, undeniable attraction overcomes caution. The two men are on the case, and on each other, as they race to stop a murderer before he kills again.

Warning: Graphic language and hot male/male sex with light BDSM themes. Despite “Descriptions of Murderous Acts” perpetrated by an unhinged killer, resist the temptation to cover your eyes—you’ll miss the good parts!

Review

The Psychic and the Sleuth is the latest heir in the genre of amateur investigator working with, or sometimes in opposition to, the steady copper. This time the cop has a personal interest in the case: his pretty young cousin was the victim, and Robert Court doesn’t believe that the man who swung for the murder was the evil-doer.

Late Victorian justice had a way of putting a permanent end on an investigation, and Court’s persistence has had very negative career consequences. He’s working the equivalent of the low end of the fraud squad, crimes that occur when the clever meet the wealthy gullible. Spiritualism had been a movement for some fifty years at the time of this story, and was very popular among those who could pay to receive messages from the “Other Side.” Arthur Conan Doyle himself was a believer, even though his friend Harry Houdini decried it. Houdini spent a considerable amount of time, effort, and money debunking the mediums who crackled, knocked, thumped, and fainted their way into large sums in exchange for kind words and hope for the bereaved. The police occasionally took an interest, particularly at the suggestion of a family member who didn’t like the medium’s influence or the money drain.

So what happens when the medium is not a fraud? Or not a fraud all of the time? And is terrified of not being a fraud? And has an illicit attraction to the investigator too?

Oliver Marsh has a problem, since the object of his attraction is trying to put him out of business, and possibly into jail. Marsh has had some experience of love and both acceptance of his inclinations and a healthy desire not to suffer for them. Robert Court could create dire problems for Marsh, though as time passes and their relationship grows, he’s less willing to play that threat and more vulnerable to it himself. The accuser could easily become the accused, but Marsh pursues the relationship, not for safety’s sake, though who would blame him? but for genuine affection.

Court also grows in his belief that Marsh is not a dangerous fraud, and that the distressing clues he produces are both legitimate and the trail to the real culprit. As the spiritual matters clarify, the focus changes from the identity of the murderer to how to catch a man for a crime where guilt has been established elsewhere. A pair of secondary characters proves invaluable in the hunt, and are interesting in their own right.

Court’s experiences are of the of the quick, one-off variety; he’s not used to having a conversation, let alone a relationship, with the man he’s having sex with. His domineering tendencies match nicely to Marsh’s submission during sex; they come to enjoy their play more and more. Court can’t seem to keep this from turning into over-protectiveness in the investigation, something Marsh objects to and fights against.

In the end, if justice is not entirely done, then at least the murderer will kill no more, satisfying everyone but the hapless dustman. Court and Marsh’s conflicting needs and converging needs all meet in a late nineteenth century version of a twenty-first century solution, and all are happy, even within the confines of the times.

I wanted to like this story more than I did, and consequently, this has been a very tough review to write. It has a lot of elements done very well, with a good flavor of the late Victorian age, a well executed external mystery and a couple who overcome a number of problems to be together, but something remained flat for me. I could believe in the detective work and in the psychic elements, and I enjoyed the relationship as it relaxed into something both men could enjoy. Court the controlled copper was still Court the controlled and dominant lover, while Marsh could coax him into playfulness from the bottom.

So with all that I recognize that is well done here, this didn’t quite come alive off the page for me. Court’s demeanor is so unrelentingly somber that he loses three dimensionality, and his brief lightness when dealing with his unruly dog (who would probably be a terror to live with) isn’t enough to enliven him. Marsh had more moods, thoughts, and reactions, more emotions in general; his POV scenes were more enjoyable, his dangers more heart-pounding, his happiness more satisfying.

I would still recommend this book for those who like the period or who are fond of amateur sleuth+cop duos. 3.5 stars

11 thoughts on “The Psychic and the Sleuth

  1. Raine

    I had a problem with this one too, even though there was a rather good atmosphere. It didn’t even matter for the mystery that I got the bad guy as soon as we met him- but I thought that some of the sex play was really off key. It seemed out of character for both men…….BDSM maybe- but not this particular form. So like you I was disappointed, but for a different reason. :sad:

    1. Sirius

      Yep, me as well, I mean I was not *really* dissappointed, I loved the characters and the story, but sex felt way off and not fitting to those two characters. One scene in particular made me laugh and not in a good way.

  2. Cryselle Post author

    I had to read this book twice to figure out what wasn’t working for me. I don’t know enough about BDSM to say if it was good or bad or making sense in context, so I had to leave that out when deciding what to write and how to rate. But this was a tough review because the dissatisfaction was so elusive.

    I know which scene made you snort, and it’s still way better than another I read recently, set slightly earlier, where the characters went straight from from “Don’t touch that, you’ll go blind!” to rimming, without so much as a “No we won’t.” :shock:

    1. Sirius

      Oh I just want to clarify – I do not have any personal knowledge of BDSM, and I am most certainly not qualified to say whether it was good or bad, however I have read by enough BDSM themed books that I know what works and what does not work for me, you know? In this book for me BDSM no matter how light, just did not fit the characters. I guess for me it is much harder to pull off BDSM in historicals than in contemporaries. I am very very fond of the series by these authors and if you have not read Gentleman and the rogue, I cant recommend it highly enough. When I say series, I only mean that the titles are chosen in the similar manner, there are no other connection, besides those books being historicals. I also liked The nobleman and the spy and “The house of Mirrors”. Have you read “Bound” trilogy by Ava Marchh? This is where BDSM in historical context worked really well for me. I get that BDSM was not the main reason for your dissappointment, its just for me this was the main reason for mine, so I am trying to clarify :). Thanks for the review.

  3. Reggie

    Thanks for the review! I love the title so I’ve been looking at this one. I have too many books on my list so I think I will continue to give it a pass.

    I’m not much for LGBT historicals, so they have to be REALLY good for me to even try them anyway. (I’m sadly biased. I don’t read historical black fiction either.)

    I wish we had more detective/psychic stories done in contemporary or even sci-fi settings, oh well.

    Thanks again for another great review!

    1. Cryselle Post author

      Thanks! Um, for really good historical LGBT, try PD Singer’s Maroon: Donal agus Jimmy. There’s a review around here for it, I didn’t write it, I just agree with it.

  4. Madonna196

    I love these two writers and I loved the characters but I wish the bondage/dominance issue had not come into play at all. That was really disappointing and didn’t further the characters or the plot. Every time that scenario is thrown into a novel I always feel a little let down and disappointed. Still, I loved the plot and setting and probably would give this a 4 star rating, maybe 4.5.

    1. Cryselle Post author

      I really wanted to know what other people thought of this one. Sounds like we all have a slightly different view on the part that didn’t quite work for us.

  5. Karen

    Cryselle, I was over halfway through this book when your review was posted. I’d been enjoying the book — much more so than a number of others I’d read recently — so was looking forward to reading other readers’ take on it. I really appreciate the deft way you’ve described the book, but personally rate it much higher (4.5+). The main characters are delightful, the sex scenes are originally delivered (especially compared to many others with BDSM themes), and I’m a sucker for detective stories. I confess that solving the mystery/bringing the perpetrator to justice, was less important to me than resolving how the gentlemen would be able to feasibly (safely) carry on their relationship. I’d like to see this as the first in a series with these characters.

    Sirius, I’m guessing that you were laughing over the “pet” scene? This is the first time I’ve read any version of this kind of play that didn’t make me want to snort or roll my eyes. That in itself is testament to how much this book worked for me.

  6. Cryselle Post author

    Sounds like you’re really enjoying it. There is a great deal here that is very well done.

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