Harmony Black by Craig Schaefer


Read January 2017
Recommended for fans of UF mixed with thriller
 ★     ★     ★      

For those of you who wear make-up, I have a little quiz. Quickly name three items you consider essential. Got them? Okay, now pick an additional item that you thought about but decided not quite. Were any of those items eye shadow? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

I really enjoy Craig Schaefer’s Daniel Faust series (first is The Long Way Down), but this spin-off for a side character, Harmony Black, felt more like a first book than the work of a published–and polished–author. That little mistake above was only one of many that stuck out to me, putting me in mind of O’Malley’s mistakes with Myfanwy in The Rook. Please, authors–if you are writing a character that may not feel, you know, natural to you, at least run it by a person of that persuasion or inclination. Because nobody, absolutely nobody, that I know considers eye-shadow part of bare-minimum make-up. I’m not obsessive or anything. It’s just a detail that doesn’t square.

You know what else doesn’t square? A kid whose family left town when she was six remembering where a motel was on the edge of the town. A woman who grew up being taught witchcraft needing to be convinced by her law-enforcement partner that ‘we can’t spread the word on the occult or people will freak out.’ Similar details prickled at me, making me quite unable to sink as fully into the story as I would have like, definitely a bummer. You see, the Daniel Faust series has been my companion on the gym recline bike, the place I go when to break up home routine and swimming, and it’s been perfectly reliable at keeping me engaged and motivated to work-out longer, just so I could read. I was hoping Black would do the same thing, thus providing me with enough gym fodder to last until spring (I really don’t go as often as I should).

That said, Schaefer knows how to keep plot moving and action sequences flowing. There were plenty of interesting developments that I certainly didn’t feel bored. A few developments felt a bit too convenient and a bit too obvious, as if investigation wasn’t really done by the agents but was instead done by Coincidence. I fell for a red herring, which is always fun, that clever turn-about of giving enough clues that perhaps the reader who thinks she is clever knows what the ‘reveal’ will be and then not having that happen.

Writing was enjoyable, with enough detail to give the feel of the setting and the action, without being bogged down by exposition and description. In this book, characters felt a little more stereotypical than in Faust, perhaps because Schafer was coloring within the genre lines of a straight-laced FBI agent brought into a black-ops group.

End of the day, not sorry I bought it, and it was entertaining enough to lead me to buy the next. Clear off the exercise bike–I’m on my way (sans make-up).



About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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4 Responses to Harmony Black by Craig Schaefer

  1. M. says:

    Nothing pulls me out of a story faster than an author messing up minor but hard to ignore details, especially when it’s a character building detail.

    How different is the writing in this book compared to the Daniel Faust books? I know you liked the Faust books better, but was it because of the urban fantasy/sff elements?

    • thebookgator says:

      I think Harmony Black series are going for a FBI-thriller kind of feel, with some magical elements. It doesn’t work as well because of ‘normals’ around it. It ends up feeling like a superhero story, like Fab Four or something. I’ll also throw in that she isn’t really well developed, and what is developed doesn’t feel quite… right, like the makeup comment. I’ve been trying to identify, because Faust is different. I think because it is more about the UF elements being better integrated and not just something that is pulled out when necessary. Faust knows the lay of the land, too, and the FBI people don’t…there’s a weird scene in the second book where they threaten to take a demon in to jail/shoot him/whatever. Which makes no sense and ends up giving it the feel of “two clueless women going up against a world they don’t understand” Keystone cops feel.
      But then Harmony knows what a demon-banishing ritual is…it’s just weirdly inconsistent to me. She’s supposed to be all about rigid moral code but then keeps having to kill members of the other team and spends a ton of time justifying it… I think I get what Schafer is trying to do with her, but it doesn’t work well for me.

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