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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Long Way Down by Craig Schaefer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

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 Joliet, Illinois and loves visiting museums and libraries for inspiration.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Nobody knows the seedy underbelly of Las Vegas like Daniel Faust, a sorcerer for hire and ex-gangster who uses black magic and bullets to solve his clients' problems. When an old man comes seeking vengeance for his murdered granddaughter, what looks like a simple job quickly spirals out of control.

Soon Daniel stands in the crossfire between a murderous porn director; a corrupt cop with a quick trigger finger; and his own former employer, a racket boss who isn't entirely human. Then there's Caitlin: brilliant, beautiful, and the lethal right hand of a demon prince.

A man named Faust should know what happens when you rub shoulders with demons. Still Daniel can't resist being drawn to Caitlin's flame as they race to unlock the secret of the Etruscan Box, a relic that people all over town are dying -- and killing -- to get their hands on. As the bodies drop and the double-crosses pile up, Daniel will need every shred of his wits, courage and sheer ruthlessness just to survive.

Daniel Faust knew he was standing with one foot over the brink of hell. He's about to find out just how far he can fall..

FORMAT/INFO: The Long Way Down is 372 pages long divided over forty-four chapters and an epilogue. Narration is in the first-person, via Daniel Faust solely and Artie Kaufman in the third-person for a singular appearance. This is the first book of The Daniel Faust series.

April 25, 2014 marked the North American paperback and e-book publication of The Long Way Down and it was self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design.

CLASSIFICATION: Featuring a cast of anti-heroes and with a magician con-man as the protagonist, the Daniel Faust series is Richard Stark's Parker crossed with The Dresden Files and set in Las Vegas.

ANALYSIS: The Long Way Down is the first book of the Daniel Faust series and while this book wasn't my introduction to Craig's books or even to Daniel Faust's world. It is a good place to start and enter the dark, crazy world that Craig has envisioned.

This book (as I've learned from reading all of the Daniel Faust titles released so far) have multiple plots running together. The story opens up with Daniel introducing the reader to his world in Las Vegas. This is a city that thrives on illusions and we learn that it just goes deeper than the ones that we see. Faust's world is one of magic but it's hidden and one can't really access it. The story follows the usual Urban Fantasy tradition of having a first person narrative. Faust introduces the readers to his friends in the Tiger's Garden, a hangout place which is only accessible to those in tune with magic & other supernatural latencies of the world. He then gets approached by an old Minnesotan man to find his granddaughter who previously had gotten into porn and has now gone missing. Further complicating matters is the fact that she was forced to participate in some heinous films and whose director is knee deep into seedier aspects. .

There's a few more plot complications (such as Caitlin's introduction, the main big bad, etc.) which further fuel the story and keep the readers guessing as to where the story might end up. All throughout this, the author keeps on laying the groundwork for the sequels as well as the character cast besides Daniel. We are given glimpses of his past and introduced to those whom he considers friends and family. We also get to meet the people he has associated with in the past as a criminal. He still does odd jobs and is a person who operates on the other side of law. But he has his rules and while he's not one to shy away from murder and deceit, he still tries to hold to a moral line of only killing folks who deserve it.

Craig Schaefer really effuses the story with lots of twists and the best way I can think of describing this book and the series is Richard Stark's Parker meets The Dresden Files. The main character and the rest of the characters that are introduced aren't heroes but they sure are heroic in their deeds. They regularly work as thieves and are often the type that would be featured as antagonists or at least working in the shadows. But to the author's credit, the story works and Faust is an absorbing narrator. I loved how the author goes about expanding the story and world while keeping the narrative tightly focussed.

The main mystery gets resolved however the other plot twists get introduced and the story takes a whole new path, leading on to a frightful climax. The story does end on a somber note and there's enough potential shown within that I wanted to read the second book immediately. The action is more on a personal level and the big battle towards the end does make up a lot for the start. However this book does have some inertia, particularly in the first third wherein the plot is set up and all the characters are introduced.

The author tries his best but considering this is his debut, there's some rough spots in the book which might slowdown the read for many a reader. For me, this book was a decent  but slightly slow read but since I had read THE WHITE GOLD SCORE previously. I soldiered on knowing that the once the plot finds its groove, it would be worth it and it definitely was.  The story has a good mix of action, plot twists and character drama, and the author hints at certain things that might play out in future books. There are some plot threads and twists which just seem to be resolved easily but this is done with the long haul in mind and something I as a reader could overlook.

Craig Schaefer ends his debut admirably as he leads up to a big climax which does solve most of the plot threads while setting up the sequels. The epilogue is a kicker and hearkens back to very first plot thread and brings it to a solid, fitting conclusion. Still I would rate this book as a three & half star effort, because after reading the sequels I know how good they are and in comparison, this book while absorbing, does its job of introducing the series, characters and world appropriately.

CONCLUSION: The Long Way Down is an admirable debut that introduces the readers to a world wherein the heroes aren't really heroic but charismatic nonetheless, the bad guys are evil but not entirely misguided and the stakes are truly world-shattering.  It was a debut that left me admiring the author's ingenuity & writing skills in spite of the flaws within. Give this book a shot if you love urban fantasy and want to read something darker than most titles that have been published so far.


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

I need to get back to this series. I love the gritty feel of the world here. Wonderful story and series.

The Reader said...

Hi Melissa,

After reading all the 6 books in the Faust series, & the two in the HB series, I can safely say you should do this pronto :)


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Hi Mihir,

Yes, I need to get to them sooner rather than later. Definitely! Things should be catching up and slowing in a few weeks. Then it's all Craig Schaefer books. :D


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