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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Cold Spectrum by Craig Schaefer (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

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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 The Killing Floor Blues
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Castle Doctrine
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
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Double Or Nothing

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: Criminologist Harmony Black is a witch with a loaded Glock. Her partner, Jessie Temple, is packing fierce lupine heat. Together, they’re part of Vigilant Lock, an elite FBI black ops group dedicated to defeating criminals with supernatural connections. But when they uncover a demonic conspiracy in the highest ranks of the government, it appears that everything Harmony and her friends have worked for, fought for, and risked their lives for might be a lie.

Framed for a casino massacre, Harmony and Jessie are on the run—in the real world and in their own. From the seedy casinos of Atlantic City to the steamy bayous of Louisiana and the imposing facades of Washington, DC, there’s not a soul on earth they can trust.

The only way they can clear their names is to take down the conspiracy from within and uncover the truth behind a secret that both the government and the powers of hell want to keep buried. .

FORMAT/INFO: Cold Spectrum is 333 pages long divided over forty-six chapters with a prologue, an epilogue and an afterword. Narration is in the first-person, via Harmony Black solely for the chapters and via third person for the prologue and epilogue via Nadine, Linder, & Bobby Diehl. This is the fourth volume of the Harmony Black series which is a spin-off to the Daniel Faust series.

October 31, 2017 marks the North American paperback and e-book publication of Cold Spectrum and it was published by 47 North (Amazon Publishing). Cover design is by David Drummond. 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Cold Spectrum is the hotly awaited fourth volume of the Harmony Black series. This volume follow right on the heels of Glass Predator literally and figuratively as the main plot is set in under two days of the events of Glass Predator.

As the story opens, we see our Circus team huddling together and trying to figure out how to best survive and how to expose Linder. Things however are not going their way as someone higher up in their shadowy department is orchestrating events and forcing them on the run. Soon they realize their only way out is to connect with the sole remnants of Douglas Bradford’s team who have been hidden from Glass Predator’s virtual eye. This search will take them to Atlantic City via a detour to Portland (on the west coast) and finally a trip to the Louisiana bayous. Harmony, Jessie & team really are on tenterhooks as their own agency is now hunting them and the one of their own squads (Panic cell) is on to them as well.

This book is potentially dealing with the fallout from Glass Predator in more ways than one. Beginning with Harmony, after facing down Nadine and her vile powers, Harmony is facing a personal blowback to her powers. In the last outing she was barely able to control her inner self and find the requisite strength to do the needful. She however finds out that dealing with a succubus and the after-effects are a whole different ballgame. Unlike Harmony, Jessie is exuberant at her recent fortune of finding out more about her inner wolf and is ready to do what’s necessary to survive. April Cassidy and Kevin bring up the rest of the team and they bring their own skills as all of it will be needed for them to survive the nationwide manhunt.

This story is a crackerjack one and Craig had mentioned many times over that this book is a game changer and it is in more ways than one. Primarily the whole reveal about what Cold Spectrum is and what Douglas Bradford unearthed is fully laid bare in this story. Its mind boggling to say the very least and deftly showcases how much of a master planner Craig Schaefer is. There have been clues spread throughout the series so far and in this volume. Plus there’s the big reveal about everything so far and the answers we get are beguiling to say the least. I loved how the reveal ties into the grand mythology of the this series and it even clarifies a few things from the Daniel Faust series since both of them are so heavily entwined together. Lastly I believe this mythology will further enriched by further volumes in both series. I can’t wait to read the next volumes in both series however both of them are at least a year out.

The action sequences following on from Glass Predator are amped up as well, in this regard Cold Spectrum has more to share with Red Knight Falling. The atmosphere and locales change frequently and the action never seems to let up. In the last book there was a fascinating sub-plot introduced which dealt with the Hounds from two infernal courts. In this volume, we get a full resolution to that sub-plot with a wonderful cameo from one of the main characters from the Daniel Faust series. Plus Cold Spectrum also features a surprise appearance from a Hound of an infernal court who has never been featured before. So far each of the hounds we have met in this world have been very different from each other and this new hound is perhaps the most vicious of them all.

Another positive of the book is its pace which never lets up and we constantly are taken from location to location with wonderful action sequences in between. This book while seemingly darker than its predecessors (possibly scoring a tie with the first book for being the grimmest of the series) has a lot more comedy to it as well. Particularly with the scenes focusing on Jessie & Harmony, and I believe this (Jessie’s & Harmony’s relationship) has been one of the series cornerstones. Focusing on the chronological front, I believe this book is set just a couple of days after the events of Glass Predator and potentially runs parallel to some of the earlier events in Double Or Nothing.

This volume being the fourth of the series, we also get a look into Dr. April Cassidy’s life and this I believe is the weakest portion of the book. April Cassidy has been built up as this enigma and a brilliant strategist but we never quite get a focused look into her past. There are comments and insinuations but no dice with the actual history. I was thoroughly disappointed with this aspect. I get why the author might have done so for sake of brevity and keeping the plot on point but I felt that being the last Circus team member and having such a crucial hand in the formation of the Circus team and Jessie’s rehabilitation. It would have been glorious if we had gotten a deeper look into her history and backstory.

This was the biggest drawback of this book in my opinion as otherwise this book is pretty much a runaway thriller. It also sets up things nicely with Harmony and this is where my inclinations about her role in the cosmic story are becoming stronger and stronger. I believe we might get more insight about this in the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on it.

CONCLUSION: Cold Spectrum is a spectacular conclusion to the first arc of the Harmony Black series and I for one am absolutely gung-ho about where this series is headed. Cold Spectrum is an absolute cracker of a story and I can’t recommend it enough. This series is a must read for those who love X-Files, Hellraiser, & a solid dose of dark humor to even out the grim edge of urban fantasy presented within.



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