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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Killing Floor Blues by Craig Schaefer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website 
Order The Killing Floor Blues HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The White Gold Score 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Redemption Song 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Living End 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Plain-Dealing Villain
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 Interview with Craig Schaefer

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 has ever escaped from the Iceberg. It's a privately-owned prison deep in the Mojave Desert, staffed by brutal guards and surrounded by desolate wasteland. Inside the walls, gangs and predators are constant threats; outside the walls, there's nothing but a sniper's bullet or a slow death in the desert heat.

Framed for murder and snared in a deadly curse, Daniel Faust lands behind bars with a target on his back. Worse, with Faust out of the picture, the Chicago mob is making its bid for control of Las Vegas. If he can't engineer his escape in time to stop them, none of his friends are safe. Then there's the matter of the warden's dark secret, the one that's filling up the prison morgue with body bags.

Faust has been caged, buried, cut off from his allies and his magic. His enemies think they've won. They're about to learn, the hard way, that this is one sorcerer who always has a trick up his sleeve. Nobody has ever escaped from the Iceberg. But the Iceberg has never had a prisoner like Daniel Faust.

FORMAT/INFO: The Killing Floor Blues is 326 pages long divided over forty-eight chapters with a prologue, an epilogue and an afterword. Narration is in the first-person, via Daniel Faust solely and similar third-person narratives for the prologue and epilogue. This is the fifth volume of The Daniel Faust series.

July 30, 2015 marked the North American paperback and e-book publication of The Killing Floor Blues 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.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Killing Floor Blues was my favorite book of 2016 and possibly the best book in the Daniel Faust series (of the six I've read so far). This book while being such an awesome read, cannot be read as a standalone unfortunately. There will be mild spoilers as I cannot discus much of its blurb without mentioning certain events from A Plain Dealing Villain. On a side note, I believe the events of The Killing Floor Blues are set a little before the events showcased in Harmony Black (book 1 of the Harmony Black series).

The prologue affords us another look at the Smile and his lackey Ms. Fleiss, most readers will recognize Fleiss from the events of the previous book wherein she hired Daniel Faust to steal an artifact in Chicago. The Smile & Fleiss talk about their efforts and this is the first inkling we get of the grand plan that the author has only hinted at so far. In our world, Daniel wakes up disoriented and finds himself on way to the Eisenberg correctional facility (also called Iceberg) in the Mojave desert. Confused as to why he's on way to prison without having a trial, Daniel finds out that he's already been tried and found guilty. Thoroughly befuddled by this rapid turn, Faust soon learns that a grand sinister plan is underway and he's been targeted for reasons unknown.

While in prison, he has to figure out the way of life in prison and also keep himself from being a target of a drug gang that has a branch in Las Vegas (as retribution for his alleged murder of one of their own). There's also bikers from a club to whom he owes money and lastly he will have to contend the inhumane conditions & odious guards in the private prison. Faust learns soon that things are truly f***ed for him as he finds out more about the strange on-goings in prison, the way of life inside as well as he tries to figure out how he landed in prison. The author then gives us a breakneck storyline that's full of action, plot twists and some superb revelations that had me fall in love with this book.

Going on to the positives, this book is one hell of an amalgamation of urban fantasy and a crime thriller. Think Prison Break mixed with a tad bit of Spartacus as well as Taken and you will get an inkling of what a crazy mix of a story this is. The story opens on a somber note but then quickly explodes as we get a fascinating look at private prisons and especially what a scenario might entail when a magician like Daniel Faust is thrown into the mix. The author isn't writing a polemic here so folks who want a detailed look at prisons and all the socio-economic factors that go into the prison populace won't find it here. What the readers will find is a story that will keep you excited, make you cringe and of course try to outguess the author. This is a perfect thriller if you ask me and one of the main reasons why this book was my top choice last year.

Going to the characterization, with the story having a sole narrative voice, it all depends on the character and Daniel Faust doesn't disappoint. With this being the fifth book in the series, the author has had plenty of time to perfect the character and his voice. Faust is a fascinating rascal of a character who doesn't shy away from the occasional violence but uses his brains, skills and talent to get what he wants. This story has him utilizing all three to survive in an environment which reminds him when he was helpless as a child. He swore never to have to experience those feelings but due to the actions of certain people, he finds himself a liar. The narrative never gets too bogged down with the character feeling dismayed as Faust is a fighter and he's already thinking on an escape plan.

The beauty of the plot twists is that while it might seem that this book is about a prison break, it's not that entirely. The story takes a lot of turns and in hands of another author might have been a simple story focussing on a singular plot thread. Craig Schaefer refuses to take the simple route as has been evidenced by his writing career so far. He combines at least three different plots into this storyline and makes them all coherent and flow smoothly. I loved how this book while sticking to the prison escape tropes, yet managed to make the story interesting by adding in newer twists. The author also explores the idea of magic existing but doesn't give the character a simple-get-out-of-jail trick/card. While there is one scene that simply exists to set up something about the character and for future story set-up, I doubt readers will find fault with it and like me, most will enjoy its creepy, oozy factor (I'm using oozy for a very particular reason and you will understand when you read it).

The story just zooms with all of its twists and then ends on a fascinating climax and then we find that there's more to the book. There's a coda plot twist that might upset a few readers but I enjoyed it as it was another way to upend reader expectations. Overall this story was one where I enjoyed it from cover to cover. Going on to the drawbacks, this was one book where I honestly found none. After finishing my primary read I've re-read a few more times and the excitement held up each time. For me that's a sign of an excellent read.

CONCLUSION: The Killing Floor Blues is a book that mixes various genre plots and leaves the readers bemused. For me this book was one of the best fictional reads that I've ever read in a long time. I would recommend most readers on this series just so they can enjoy this volume as much as I did. Do not miss this book and this series, as by the time it will be finished this will be considered a classic one.



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