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In psychic slavery
on 7 June 2009
It helps a mystery novelization if the person writing it has actually written mystery scripts for the series.
In the case of William Rabkin, he's not only penned an episode for "Psych," but also episodes for "Monk," "Diagnosis Murder" and "Nero Wolfe." That said, "Psych: A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Read" is a fun if imperfect little read -- it preserves the wacky, mildly lawless flavour of the TV series, but one of the subplots overstretches credibility.
After Shawn publicly saves a wealthy widow in court, he and Gus earn the wrath of the hate-spewing district attorney, Coules. He takes his revenge by having Gus's car impounded -- and when the boys try to get it back, Shawn's observations prompt the attendant to start shooting. Then poor Gus gets hit with a Mercedes, driven by a sexy, obviously-insane woman named Tara.
Things have not improved when he wakes up: the attendant has been found dead, and Tara has vowed to serve Shawn in all things, because she says he's beaming commands into her head. As the final dose of weirdness, their megamogul ex-classmate Dallas Steele gets back in touch, and reveals that he wants Shawn to invest a bunch of money for him.
Unfortunately Shawn and Gus are quickly implicated in the murders (thanks to Coules) and Dallas reveals a bizarre revenge scheme to publicly discredit Shawn. Worst of all, it turns out that Tara won't hesitate to beat or taser those she thinks Shawn is upset with (including Shawn's dad). And when another body crops up, Shawn must prove that he had nothing to do with it... or else.
"Psych: A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Read" basically reads like an overlong episode of the TV series, complete with a "little Shawn and Gus" flashback, verbal sparring with Lassiter and some lectures from Henry (who has taken up scrapbooking). All it's missing is the obligatory pineapple cameo -- come on, where is Shawn's favorite spiky citrus?
And Rabkin correctly captures the wacky tone of the series, from Shawn's disguises ("Since there was only one cassock, and Gus refused to wear the matching nun's habit") to his theatrical crime-solving methods and bantering dialogue ("You're a medium?" "I used to be, but I think I've put on a few pounds"). Not easy to take that from screen to novel.
And he spins up a series of enjoyably interconnected murders, where it's never quite clear who did what muder and why. The biggest problem is that the whole Dallas Steele subplot is forced. Very forced. Despite Rabkin's best efforts, Steele's vendetta and the subsequent press conference seem far too cartoonish.
Fortunately he does a fair job capturing the personalities of wild, charming Shawn and down-to-earth, steadfast Gus, as well as Lassiter and Henry (who gets tasered). Rabkin misses the mark with a few -- Coules is a 2-D baddie whose vendetta against Shawn gets tiring, Juliet spends the whole book sulking, and Tara is lovingly described as a supersexy, utterly deranged woman who tends to break necks.
"Psych: A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste" has some flaws, but it's still a fun light read that maintains the flavour of the TV series. Here's hoping that Rabkin's next "Psych" novel hits a higher mark.