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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Insider by Craig Schaefer (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Order The Insider over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down 
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Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Locust Job
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 
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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
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Cold Spectrum
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Right To The Kill
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Black Tie Required
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Ghosts Of Gotham
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Loot

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: Hard-bitten bodyguard Charlie McCabe is lucky to be alive after her recent foray into Boston’s criminal underworld. So she’s taking no chances with this next job: protecting Hayden Cobb, key witness in the trial against a trio of murderous cops known as the East Boston Three. If Cobb drops dead, the Three walk.

After an attempt on Cobb’s life, Charlie suspects the Three have somehow put a hit on him from behind bars, and the assassin’s still at large. And when notorious loan shark Jimmy Lassiter is dragged into the mix, he retaliates the only way he knows how—by striking at the heart of her family.

Now it’s personal. With her father held hostage and her client in profound danger, Charlie must act fast. Far too many lives are at stake, and though she knows she can’t protect everyone, she’s gonna try.

FORMAT/INFO: The Insider is 329 pages long divided over forty three numbered chapters, and is the second volume of The Charlie McCabe series. Narration is in third person via Charlie McCabe primarily and by a few other secondary characters. The book was published in e-book and paperback format, as well as on Kindle Unlimited on July 7, 2020. Cover design is by Kaitlin Kall.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Insider marks a return to Craig Schaefer’s reading roots and we return to the gritty, blue collar areas of New England. Set a few weeks after the events of The Loot, Charlie finds herself fitting in really well with Boston Asset Protection Ltd. Company. Things start out on a mild note as Charlie, Dom and Beckett are takes with the protection of Lincoln Gable, a provocateur in the making. Lincoln however wants the publicity so Charlie and company just have to bear the brunt of the protestors.

To add to that, based on their exploits (as detailed in the previous book), the local DA has approached them with the security for their most valuable witness for the East Boston Three case. In it, a gang of police officers were systematically looting gangs and now three members have been caught. The fourth (possibly a cop) is unknown and still at large. The DA wants to convict the rogue officers and needs Boston Asset Protection to keep their star witness safe until the trial. Things are never simple as Charlie finds out as there’s more than one entity who wants to kill their witness. Plus there’s also the matter with Lincoln Gable and Charlie’s father, these subplots are what power The Insider and make it a thrilling read.

Right off the bat with this sophomore volume, things are off to a rushing start and this is really prominent as the characters and setting have already been established. The characters are Craig Schaefer’s bread and butter and here again with Charlie, we are treated to a complex but heroic character whom we can easily root for. Charlie is trying to fit in within the civilian world and she’s definitely doing a better job than most military folks however her PTSD is still there. She has faced the realities of her father’s situation and is also comfortable with the grey complexities of her job. There’s also the other professionals such as Dom and Beckett who have equally complex pasts and are able to provide Charlie with foresight to do what’s necessary.

The main plot of the story deals with subterfuge and its present on all sides. Clients not necessarily telling the truth, the local law enforcement having leaks and the potential of one of BAP’s member’s past coming back in a deadly way. Craig Schaefer nimbly handles all the threads and keeps the tension even throughout the story. I enjoyed this second outing a lot more than its predecessor as the author nimbly keeps escalating the stakes and there’s quite a few plot misdirections aimed at the reader which were fun to negotiate. The pace of the story is also very streamlined and the characters are constantly kept on the backfoot as they along with the readers try to figure what is truly happening.

One of the key features of this book is how someone’s past comes back to haunt the whole team and this was definitely a solid plus. One of the book’s antagonists is a very curious person and it brought to my mind this line from Craig’s website which he uses to describe this series:
The Charlie McCabe series from Thomas & Mercer Publishing (starting with The Loot, in August 2019) is a pure crime/thriller series with no fantasy elements. As such, technically it doesn’t fit into either of the above continuities.
Technically.
I think this book deals with a curious feature that perhaps knocks on that “technicality” and I’ll be curious to ask Craig about it when we interview him. There’s something here and I think this mirrors what Craig did in the first four Harmony Black books wherein each title would reveal the past of a certain team member. Another aspect which I think the author is handling really well is that he’s not shoehorning a romance subplot into the story for Charlie. I feel this is crucial from the story’s perspective as Charlie as a character is very focused on her job and her father. There’s very little space for anyone else and the author smartly provides a story that keeps these factors in mind. I’m not saying that a romance is never on the cards but so far the author hasn’t provided much details and hopefully will do so when it makes sense for the character and the world settings.

Drawbacks there are a couple. Firstly the story draws on a lot of tropes for the side characters, fiery Italian female sidekick, cool black character who has a mysterious past, and I hope that there’s more details provided rather than for those characters to remain as they are. Secondly I would have liked to see Charlie’s inner emotions at work. She’s such a buttoned down person and I would like to see more of that into play or at least learn specifically what made her this way.

CONCLUSION: The Insider is a twisted story that plays the readers on every front. With a multitude of misdirections, plot twists and grey characters, this second offering in the Charlie McCabe series is a refreshing take and makes me very excited for what’s to come next.

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