Thursday, March 23, 2017


PSYCHOBYTE by Cat Connor (Rebel ePublishers, 2016)

Reviewed by Alyson Baker

Another day, another death, might not be unusual in FBI Agent Ellie Conway’s world but a baffling series of naked, bloodless, blondes in pristine showers makes her wonder if she is dealing with a genuine vampire. 

Investigating the deaths of these women, Ellie is surprised when clairsentience is added to her remarkable armory of psycho-prophetic talents. Secrets emerge as she races to find a killer with a particular and gruesome agenda. Mounting bodies, escalating pressure, a sinister connection between the art world, the Darknet and the FBI, an impending wedding, peculiar liaisons, and a personal shock challenge Ellie and the Delta A team.

Readers of mysteries, thrillers, chick lit, paranormal fiction, police procedurals and the macabre will all find something to like about PSYCHOBYTE! It is the eighth in the …byte series, featuring FBI Agent Ellie Conway.

I found much to really like and a few things to not like about it: it totally aces the Bechdel test, being full of named female characters who operate as fully functioning adults (really liked); two of Conway’s staff call her ‘Chicky Babe’ and ‘Chicky’ (really really didn’t like, especially as tolerated by Conway who says things like: “I don’t like cute names for killers.  It trivializes their actions”). I really liked the writing style: the reader is totally inside Conway’s head throughout with Connor’s use of Conway’s interior/exterior dialogue.

And Conway’s head is a pretty weird place to  be: Faced with a series of bizarre murders, Conway talks to the deceased to find out more about the crimes, mentally communicates with some of the other characters, and communes with an imaginary but handy being who provides vital clues – or maybe he just jolts them into the forefront of her brain.  The supernatural stuff worked OK for me – especially when matched with Conway’s visceral descriptions of her internal and external environments, which give her perceptions real texture – “The thoughts sloshed from side to side and spilled over the edges of my brain”, “A low drone rippled down the wall and undulated across the floor when I stepped into the busy room” (really liked).

The plotting is complex and rips along – (liked); there were many coincidental connections between the characters, which was a little disorienting – (didn’t really like).  The victims (unfortunately very un-Bechdel) are all young women and all bloodless blondes who have been stabbed in very clean bathrooms, and there are enough clues through the book for you to work out the motive for the crimes – but the solution is so bizarre kudos to you if you do!

The chicklit elements come from Conway’s upcoming nuptials and the personal challenges she faces as she works to solve the crime before more young women are killed. The whole package is quite zany – and I can imagine you could get into following the … byte series.

Alyson Baker is a crime-loving librarian in Nelson. This review will also appear on her blog, which you can check out here

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