If Mind Games is where Carolyn Crane sets up her world, Double Cross (2010) is where she hits her stride. The world has been built and Crane can really take her time to enjoy the plot and flesh out her characters. Usually the second book in a trilogy suffers a bit, but this one doesn’t. Characters evolve and develop. Crane turns flaws into impressive strengths and the twist at the end rather surprised me and added a nice tragic note to everything. It’s a fast-paced book that is sure to absorb readers.
THE DISILLUSIONISTS TRILOGY is intensely psychological, and Crane’s use of various psychological issues in her main cast is incredibly brave. I can’t imagine the amount of research she must have done to pull all her characters off believably, and insert an interesting magic system that utilized their various issues in creative ways. The magic system and Crane’s use of psychology as a tool is very well done and attention-grabbing. One of the nice things about it is that Crane keeps it fairly simple. The magic system was created and developed in Mind Games, and doesn’t really change or expand through books two or three. This makes it easy to understand and keep track of as the plot gains complexity and becomes more emotionally charged.
However, some characterization issues are more evident here. Many authors have a hard time making their “good” and “evil” forces seem as realistic as some of the other characters in the book. Crane is no different. While Otto and Packard are incredibly enjoyable characters, in Double Cross they both suffer from a bit of the “perfect man” syndrome. This is probably due to how Justine views them, and the fact that this story is told through her viewpoint, but that doesn’t change the fact that both men are a bit too perfect, too all-seeing to be fully believed.
Furthermore, Otto attains a mayoral status that makes him seem like he fits better in Gotham City than Justine’s hometown. While this didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the novel, it really starts showing in Double Cross and is still present in the third book, Head Rush.