Double or Nothing by Craig Schaefer

Read January 2018
Recommended for fans of noir urban fantasy
★    ★    ★    ★   1/2

Schaefer does the unthinkable in urban fantasy: he stays true to the beginning of his series while consistently writing satisfying stories that include new material and character growth. This series is one of only three I follow–and purchase–although it is a distant third to my deep affection for Peter Grant and Kate Daniels.

“I’m not…asking you to…do anything,” Seabrook said, choosing each word as if picturing herself repeating them in court.

Double or Nothing is the seventh novel in the Daniel Faust series, and if you haven’t started yet, don’t start here. While the most basic plot stands alone, it is contextualized by politics in the demon realm, local Vegas politics and the larger unknown Enemy working to kill Faust. There’s a new, nefarious drug in town, and as a condition for a streamlined liquor permit for Daniel’s new lounge, he’s tasked with figuring out who is trying to import a new drug into Vegas. At the same time, the minor deity/shapeshifter Naavarasi is calling in a debt, making a formal request that he retrieve an all-too-familiar knife.

And now we have to visit Naavarasi,” I said. “She eats people. So that’ll be fun.”

Action is fast paced, both literally and figuratively, as Daniel ends up going to Colorado, New Mexico and Illinois to pull pieces together. A lot of minor characters, both friends and adversaries are involved with minimal explanation–not a bad thing–but it again emphasizes the challenge of picking up the story here. There’s a veneer of humor, both situational, such as a mention of Harmony Black, and in commentary. More than other books, this one is also about Daniel and Caitlin’s relationship. As a reader, I enjoyed seeing the two work together professionally as well as personally, and it was a relief to resolve the mysterious hints Nadine had been dropping about Caitlin’s past relationships.

“Sorry, sugar, you’re on the payroll now. Some days you get the cash and the cars and the good champagne…and some days you gotta go to Albuquerque.”

If I had any complaint about the book, it’s that Daniel’s research is task-focused, not background focused. He admits he knows Navaarasi is working an angle, but he doesn’t take the time to figure it out until he’s backed into a corner. I don’t know, rather than Daniel being clueless, it could be a perspective issue, a particularly Vegas mentality Schaefer is trying to capture, that of the ‘wheel-and-deal’ where everyone is presumed to be working an angle. In some ways, that’s the most frustrating aspect of the Faust character for me, that he usually ends up reacting instead of being the strategist using the big picture. This happens again when he fails to access/account for the ‘resources’ of the knife.

Still, those are minor quibbles in what was a solid, non-stop installment. Also worth noting that the writing and characterization hits absolutely none of my -ist triggers. Still such a sad rarity. I hope Schaefer doesn’t move Faust too far from his humble upbringing, because those heist plots are part of what makes this series enjoyable.

 

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About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
This entry was posted in Book reviews, fantasy, Urban fantasy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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