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).