“PTSD” MEANS “FEAR”
This book is about fear and its ramifications. There are actually five plot threads that deal directly with some aspect of crippling fear related to Charley Davidson’s current situation. And while Gemma, Charley’s psychiatrist sister, refers to it by its politically and medically correct name, PTSD, the problem boils down to abject fear.
When Darynda Jones ended the third book of the series, Charley had been tied to a chair and sliced open repeatedly with a scalpel-like blade. Even as Earl Walker, Reyes’ adoptive father, sliced through skin, then muscle and tendon, then along ribs and phalanges, Charley could not scream. Walker had threatened to shoot Cookie and Amber the moment they responded to any noise, so even as Walker sliced away part of her face, she clamped down in silence. Reyes eventually was able to save her, but not before Garrett Swopes barged in and was mortally wounded. And then, lying in the hospital, in critical condition from her wounds and blood loss, Charley’s father had her arrested on accessory and aiding/abetting charges so that her PI license would be revoked.
So, needless to say, when this book opens two months later, Charley is a bit of a mess. She has become agoraphobic, scared to death to leave her apartment for fear of running into someone who will want to hurt her. She has moved out of her office above her father’s bar across the street. She refuses to seek professional therapy; she refuses to see or talk to her father. And she refuses to see or talk to Reyes. She spends her days drinking coffee, buying everything she sees advertised on the shopping channels, talking to her resident ghosts, and carrying a gun on her body 24 hours a day.
Then two things happen almost simultaneously. First, Cookie informs Charley that she is broke and that she is returning everything that Charley bought. Then, while arguing with Cookie, Charley sees Reyes leaning against her father’s bar watching her. Since Reyes owes her for getting him exonerated on murder charges (funny how getting tortured by a man who was supposedly dead for these last ten years will do that!), she decides to collect.
And thus begins her battle to actually deal with incapacitating fear. She has to fight the agoraphobia one footstep at a time. She collapses at the sight of a knife or the sound of a gun discharging. She has to find a way to deal with the chair and the bloodstain hidden under boxes in her living room. But worst of all, she has to deal with the discovery that the smell of fear wafting off her is like a pheromone to the demons, drawing them in to the kill.
As the novel works through these five subplots on the major theme, there are more threads that complicate Charley’s life. She has gone back to work and is trying to find her client’s stalker. An arsonist is burning down every building that Reyes ever lived in. Banks are being robbed by a team whose body builds seem very familiar to Charley. Garrett Swopes, revived on the operating table and taken on a field trip to Hell while still incorporeal, seems to blame Charley. One of Reyes’ former lieutenants in Hell is personally goading Charley in order to draw Reyes out. Charley’s father is trying multiple ways to get Charley to talk to him. And then there is Charley’s relationship with Reyes to consider.
All in all, this is a complicated book, psychologically and in storyline. At first it would seem that too much is going on to keep it all straight. But Darynda Jones makes it work. Just like Charley, all of us have to multi-task on a daily basis. Maybe all of us aren’t being shot or knifed or have physical demons after us, but we all have fears and demons of our making to contend with. Jones just writes these complications into a paranormal frame. There is still humor and witty repartee, hilarious sarcasm and rambling ADD-type monologues. But the funny parts don’t make this book; the psychological drama is the focus this time.
Cover Art from Goodreads