PSYCH: A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO READ by William Rabkin
Obsidian, 2009, 274 pages, 978-0-451-22635-8, Mass Market Paperback, $6.99
Genre: Mystery/Detective Fiction
I’m a hopeless Psych fan, and I’m not ashamed to say so. I’ve also been reading TV tie-ins since I was in elementary school, so, you know, one-plus-one is two and all that.
Still, I was a little apprehensive about reading this book only because I’d previously read one of the Monk novels (Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse) and hated it. Not only did I find Natalie’s point-of-view completely insipid and annoying (which is absolutely not an opinion of her that I have when watching the show), but I felt like the story was just a rewrite of the firehouse episode with a few alterations thrown in for kicks. As if the writer thought that no one would notice and passed it along to his editor with a shrug and a smile.
Regardless of my worries, I bought the book (in a flurry of excitement, actually) and sat down to read it pretty much immediately. I was, shall we say, quite pleased. Like I said, I’ve been reading TV-tie-ins for a very long time, and I’ve been rather spoiled by the ones that turn out well. This one, I’m satisfied to say, didn’t disappoint.
As usual, Gus finds himself in a bit of trouble thanks to Shawn’s habit of annoying the people in authority. When they go to pick up his recently impounded car and find themselves staring down the barrel of a shotgun, his luck takes a turn for the worse. The following car accident does nothing to improve his spirits, nor does the sudden obsession that the driver of the car in said accident has for Shawn. In fact, he’s pretty sure she’s up to no good right from the beginning. Meanwhile, the man with the shotgun turns up dead and an old school buddy shows up suddenly to ask for their help. It’s a very busy week for Gus, and he only wishes Shawn would start taking things a little more seriously.
I have to say, I didn’t expect this book to come from Gus’s point of view, but I liked that it did. Somehow I imagine that Shawn’s character would lose something if the reader were privy to his every thought. Gus was the perfect alternative. He’s always present for the action, always nearby Shawn, and always has very amusing reactions to what’s going on around him. As a POV character goes, he’s a great choice.
In terms of the story, I liked it a lot, and it moved along pretty quickly. There was a moment or two when I fussed a little about wanting to get to the conclusion already, but that was probably just me being impatient. Rabkin handles his multiple plot threads rather deftly, and I was satisfied that nothing especially important got left out by the end.
Equally satisfying was that everyone was in character. Rarely (or possibly never, come to that, but see how I’m not using absolutes?) did I see anyone say something that I felt was unlike his or her portrayal in the show (and you’d know if I had – talk about a pet peeve). Possibly Lassiter was a little too accommodating but, as far as that goes, he and Juliet weren’t in the story all that much, so it’s hardly something I’d go so far as to classify as “out of character.”
Probably my favorite aspect of this book was the dialogue between Shawn and Gus. Rabkin keeps it consistently like the interaction that I’m used to seeing while watching Psych. Since this interaction is part of what makes the show as entertaining as it is, I’m glad he put so much effort into making that happen. Likewise with the running joke involving Shawn and his obsession with Coke Blak. There always has to be something….
So, sure, it’s not epic fiction, but as far as Psych episodes go, I’d say it was good stuff. Fans of the show will likely enjoy it. And, hey, I’ll admit it. I didn’t see the end coming until it was upon me. This either means that Rabkin did a good job with the mystery plot or that I’m just a really terrible detective. I’ll let you decide.