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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Loot by Craig Schaefer (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo & Lukasz Przywoski)


Pre-order The Loot over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down 
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Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Redemption Song 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Living End 
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Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Killing Floor Blues
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Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Sworn To The Night
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Detonation Boulevard
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Winter's Reach 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Instruments Of Control 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harmony Black
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Red Knight Falling
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Glass Predator
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Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Ghosts Of Gotham

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Craig Schaefer was born in Chicago and wanted to be a writer since a very young age. His writing was inspired by Elmore Leonard, Richard Stark, Clive Barker & H. P. Lovecraft. After reaching his 40th birthday he decided to give in to his passion and since then has released twelve novels in the last three years. He currently lives in North Carolina and loves visiting museums and libraries for inspiration.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: She fought for her country. Now she’s fighting for her family.

When Sergeant Charlie McCabe returns from fighting in Afghanistan, she hopes to leave the war behind. Instead, she comes home to a father whose gambling has put him in deep trouble with a violent loan shark. She finds work as a professional bodyguard, but to save her father, she needs to get serious cash together fast.

However, her father isn’t the only one who needs saving. When Charlie’s first client—a wealthy executive with a shady past—narrowly escapes a bomb plot, Charlie’s investigation leads her into the heart of Boston’s criminal underworld. Along the way, she stumbles upon clues about a diamond heist gone wrong that’s been unsolved for decades.

With the clock ticking and chaos descending, Charlie sees a solution to both problems, but it won’t be easy, and it won’t be pretty. A “normal” life may await Charlie on the other side of this mess, but part of her knows that the battle has just begun.

FORMAT/INFO: The Loot is 321 pages long divided over forty four numbered chapters, and is the first book in The Charlie McCabe series. The book will be available in e-book and paperback format, as well as on Kindle Unlimited from August 1, 2019. Cover design is by Kaitlin Kall.

ANALYSIS (Lukasz): As a die-hard Schaefer fan, I’ll buy and read anything he writes. It’s good he writes in the genres I adore as a reader. The Loot is his first thriller novel. Having read all of Craig’s previous titles, I knew what to expect - an intoxicating flood of action, personal drama, and suspense. No supernatural elements this time, though.

Charlie (Charlene) McCabe is a leading character that you might recognize–a retired and worn soldier who hopes to leave the war behind. Unfortunately, her father’s gambling habit put him in deep trouble. Charlie wants to help him, but she needs serious cash to pay his debts before the violent loan shark teaches him a lesson. Because retired EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Technicians aren’t highly sought after in the labor market, she accepts a job as a professional bodyguard. When her client’s deadly secrets come to light, things go sideways, but there may be the long-lost loot to take away.

I loved the pacing of the story and its focus on the personal. Charlene no longer fights for the country, but she does for her family. I prefer smaller scale narratives so I loved her determination to save her father from himself and dangerous bookie while simultaneously trying to explain the attempted murder mystery.

In terms of character development, Charlie is compelling in her own right, with her own personal demons that color many of the scenes. Her troubled relationship with her father gives readers even more insight into her mental space. She may be willing to dip her fingers outside of the boundaries of the law, but she’s one of the good guys. Some motivation behind the antagonists of this story seems a bit trite, as do their tactics. On the whole, though, the characters are well developed, with backstories and moments of introspection that make them memorable. I especially enjoyed stoic Beckett who may (or may not) have a lethal past.

The Loot is a gripping thriller, and possibly a beginning of the exciting series with Charlie McCabe leading the charge. I can’t wait to read the sequel.

ANALYSIS (Mihir):  Craig Schaefer's The Loot is his first official foray into the crime thriller genre. I say “official” because technically in his debut series, Craig has definitely explored aspects of the genre in a multitude of ways. However with The Loot (the first in the Charlie McCabe series), he gets to fully explore his literary muscles in a different world that’s perhaps nothing like he has done before.

When the story opens, we meet Charlene “Charlie” McCabe as she returns back to her New England roots from her military tour. She’s an explosive devices expert who has managed to stay whole physically (psychologically it’s a whole different matter). Arriving back, she’s confronted with a father whom she’s not on good terms and later discovers has a gambling problem. Taking on the onus of his debt, Charlie has to figure out a way to help her dad in ten days. She also takes on a job as a security detail bodyguard in a slightly unorthodox company managed by a brother –sister duo. Things get even more heated when their client is made a target for bombing attacks and doesn’t care enough to allow the security details to do their job. Hemmed in from all sides, Charlie is forced to consider her morals and utilize all the tricks and talents at her disposal to make things work on both the personal and professional fronts.

Right off the bat, this book conveys a sense of urgency, as we dive into a blue-collar world with Charlie. The home which she returns to is Spenser, Massachusetts, a poor area as one would imagine. Not doing so well but still proud and surviving. Charlie is able to fit in but it’s not something that she enjoys. The story is a lean one as we are immediately introduced to the main plot threads and from hen it’s a race to the end. Craig Schaefer fully utilizes the narrative thriller structure and gives us a story that keeps us guessing while also roaring towards a climax.

Characters are also another plus point, be it Charlie or her coworkers such as her quirky bosses Sofia & Jake Esposito, Dom Da Costa and her prayers to certain goddesses, Beckett a classical strong and silent type, and a few others. We get a solid cast of characters whom I’m presuming will play bigger parts in the future books. Also focusing on Charlie, she’s one tough cookie but at the same time, she’s also flexible with her morality when the need demands it. I often dislike moralistically rigid characters and so Charlie was a welcome addition. Especially when situations demanded that she go with the flow. She not only does that but often bends the flow in unexpected & thrilling directions. I loved this aspect about her and I hope the author allows her to go full tilt.

The only thing that perhaps didn’t jive with my overall enjoyment was the final end reveal about the titular loot which I thought was a bit too convenient. Overall it was a subjective thing because the end twist was a brilliant one and it sets up the next book superbly. The book also needed a bit more meat within its middle chapters as the author really streamlined the story. I wouldn’t have minded if the secondary characters had gotten more of a light shined on them (perhaps that’s what are sequels are for).

CONCLUSION: The Loot is Craig Schaefer’s first foray into a pure crime thriller story and as far as efforts go, it’s certainly a solid one. Charlie McCabe is a fiery character but not an all-consuming one. She’s of the slow-burn kind that smolders and is equally dangerous. The Loot is the start of another exciting series from one of my favourite writers, and I can’t wait to see what he surprises he springs in the sequel The Insider.

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