Max Shannon is an Enforcement officer and one of the best detectives in New York. He recently brought a serial killer to justice and is determined to get the monster to give up the location of all his victims' bodies. To accomplish that, Max brings in a Justice-Psy to get inside the guy's head, and from the moment Max meets her, she unexpectedly stirs him in the most sensual ways. But once her work is completed, he doesn't expect to see her again. Then out of the blue, he's offered a job, working for a powerful Psy Councilor, investigating the multiple murders of her closest advisors. He's assigned a Psy partner to assist as both investigator and Psy liaison, but the last person he expected it to be is the one woman he wants more than any other. When they start getting closer and he discovers that her mind is fracturing and her life could be cut short, Max refuses to let her go without a fight.
Sophia Russo is a Justice-Psy who has the ability to get inside another person's mind. She uses her gift to sift through the memories of some of the worst criminals in the country, seeking the truth. But the work has taken it's toll, leaving her on the verge of a mental break. Because of the nature of their work, all J-Psy eventually must undergo rehabilitation, which leaves a Psy a shell of their former selves, and Sophia's time is nearly up. With her conditioning in tatters, she's no longer fully under Silence, the Psy protocol for eradicating all emotions, so when she meets Max, she finds herself attracted to and intrigued by this human who has natural shields that even she can't penetrate. When she's assigned to help with his investigation, Sophia decides to throw caution to the wind and allow herself this one last indulgence before losing her sanity. But no matter how much she might desire one, a future with Max is all but impossible. Soon she'll no longer be able to hide her mental instability from the Psy, but the serial killer who has become obsessed with her may get to her first.
Bonds of Justice is the eight full-length novel in Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series. This one features Max, a human Enforcement officer who is good friends with Talin (Mine to Possess) and factored prominently in her book. He's paired with Sophia, a Justice Psy and new character to the series. Max and Sophia meet while working an investigation into a brutal serial killer. There's an instant attraction between them but they try to keep a respectable distance. Then Psy Councillor Nikita brings Max and Sophia in to investigate who might be targeting her and murdering her high-ranking advisors. Because of her work, Sophia's shields and her Silence conditioning are both failing, so being in close proximity to Max sends her emotions into overdrive. As things start to heat up between them, they face dangers from all sides. They both may have become targets of the killer they're trying to find, and then the serial killer who's become obsessed with Sophia escapes from prison presenting a threat to her as well. But even if they survive the outside dangers, Sophia's mind is slowly collapsing and there doesn't seem to be anything that can be done for her. Soon she'll either face rehabilitation or death just when she's finally discovered true happiness for the first time in her life.
Max never knew his father and was raised by an abusive mother who eventually died. The only person he ever felt close to was his younger brother, River, who disappeared when he was just a youth. After searching endlessly, Max came to the conclusion that River was probably dead, too. Alone in the world and spurred on by what happened to his brother, Max became an Enforcement officer and is now respected as one of the best detectives in the country. He also has a natural shield that protects him against any Psy invading his mind. He recently brought to justice Gerard Bonner, a serial killer known in the media as the Butcher of Park Avenue, but Bonner isn't cooperating with the cops when it comes to telling them where to find his victims. Determined to bring the bodies home to their families, Max brings in Sophia, a J-Psy with the ability to get inside a criminal's mind. From the moment they meet, Max finds Sophia to be a temptation. He wants to try to get under that cold Psy veneer to find out if he can warm her up, but there isn't an opportunity until Nikita hires them both to find the person who's been killing off her advisors and has also made an attempt on her own life. Then he's with Sophia nearly 24/7, both working the case and discovering that she isn't nearly as icy as others might think. When Max finds out that Sophia is actually dying and there isn't anything that can be done, he refuses to give up hope, but it may not be in his power to save her. I admired Max for being a truly good cop who can't seem to rest until he's gotten closure for the victims' families. He's also smart, quickly figuring out things that may have stumped others. Most of all, I loved his strength and determination to save Sophia and for loving her in spite of her flaws.
Sophia had an equally troubled upbringing as Max. She was utterly rejected by her parents for being flawed and was remanded to Psy officials who raised her to be a Justice Psy. Along the way, though, she was abused and bears the scars from that. As a J-Psy, she can get inside the minds of the accused to find out whether they've actually committed crimes. As such, she's invaded the memories of criminals and sociopaths that would make even hardened cops cringe and it's left a psychic scar. Her mental shields have grown paper thin and her Silence conditioning is failing. The eventual future for every J-Psy is mental breakdown that results in either death or rehabilitation, a process that's akin to a lobotomy. Sophia has lasted longer than most, but she knows that her time is coming soon. That's why when Max lets his intentions be known and Sophia reciprocates his attraction, she can't help wanting to live a little before she succumbs. Sophia is so psychically sensitive to touch, though, that they have to take things slowly, but Max's natural mental shield helps. In the meantime, they continue their investigation into the two cases, determined to find both the victims and a killer. Sophia is a little different than some of the other female Psy heroines of this series. Whereas Sascha and Faith are sweet and Ashaya is on the geeky side, Sophia has a rather feisty personality. Unlike the other Psy defectors, she has a compelling reason for why she cannot leave the PsyNet. With that being the case, and having exhausted all other options, she's basically come to terms with her fate, but she does have regrets that she won't get to spend more time with Max. I like that she's just as determined as he is to close their cases, and that once a solution presents itself, she's equally intent upon forging her own path. I have a feeling that she's going to somehow play a role in upcoming events that I sense brewing.
Bonds of Justice has a number of supporting characters, some of whom have their own POV scenes. Lucas and Sascha (Slave to Sensation) are still the cornerstone couple of the series. Lucas maintains his role as alpha of the DarkRiver pack, while Sascha continues to explore the limits of her empathic abilities, which I sense will come into greater play at some point down the road. Faith (Visions of Heat) experiences some frightening visions that leave her shaken, but she and her mate Vaughn are able to save Max and Sophia's lives. Since Tally (Mine to Possess) is one of Max's best friends, she and Clay help him and Sophia several times, as does Dorian (Hostage to Pleasure). Psy Councillors Nikita and Kaleb are front and center in this one as they share a tentative alliance, which proves helpful to Max and Sophia on a personal level. Nikita, who is Sascha's mother, keeps surprising me with her hidden depths in spite of her cold veneer, and Kaleb (Heart of Obsidian) continues to intrigue me, actually helping save Sophia's life. Max's temperamental former alley cat, Morpheus, was a nice addition, too.
Although it didn't end up being one of my favorites, Bonds of Justice was another respectable entry into the Psy-Changeling series. I liked both Max and Sophia and their commitment to taking down the bad guys, as well as romantically to each other. I sympathized with their respective backstories, although I didn't feel like they played quite enough of a role in who they are in the present. It's there, but perhaps not quite as deep as I wanted. I also didn't think that Sophia's unique way of meting out justice played enough of a role either. The plot was good, but again, I felt like there were two different stories (maybe more like three) that were being told without enough intersection between them. There's the Bonner serial killer plot and there's also the mystery of who's been killing off Nikita's advisors. I thought perhaps there might be some odd connection between the two, but there wasn't. Then of course there's the romance between Max and Sophia, which also includes her degrading mental condition, that takes place simultaneously. I just felt like my attention was split in several different directions. I think one of my favorite parts was the overarching story arc of the political machinations going on behind the scenes. The Psy Council is fracturing from within, while the Arrows make a fateful decision regarding their allegiance. And then there are Faith's visions, which at the moment are rather murky and not necessarily set in stone. All of these things portend big things to come, so while Bonds of Justice may not have been a perfect read, it's left me eager to unravel where the greater storyline is going.
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