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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Right To The Kill by Craig Schaefer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo & Lukasz Przywoski)

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 Double Or Nothing
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Neon Boneyard
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
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Cold Spectrum
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: When two operatives go dark in Tampa, chasing the trail of an oligarch with ties to the demonic underworld, Vigilant Lock — the nation’s first and last line of defense against occult attack — sends their best to the rescue: Harmony Black, a troubled investigator and an elemental witch with a keen but tangled mind; and her partner Jessie Temple, the daughter of a supernatural slasher and the inheritor of her father’s powers.

The trail of clues leads them to the doorstep of Judah Cranston, a wealthy scientist with dark secrets and a darker agenda. Toss in an alluring marine biologist with eyes for Harmony, and a pair of demon-blooded troubleshooters on a hunt of their own, and Tampa Bay is heating up fast. As the mission takes Harmony and Jessie from the sun-drenched Florida coast to a gloomy New England fishing town steeped in forgotten history, they find themselves up against a threat far greater — and more otherworldly — than they ever expected.

FORMAT/INFO: Right To The Kill is 382 pages long divided over forty-two chapters with a “what came before” section. Narration is in the third-person, via Harmony Black , Jessie Temple & Kevin. This is the fifth volume of the Harmony Black series which is a spin-off to the Daniel Faust series.

October 14, 2019 marked the North American paperback and e-book publication of Right To The Kill and it was self-published by the author. Cover design is by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (Lukasz): Before you read this review, you must know I’m biased. Craig Schaefer is one of my favorite pulp writers. Plus, I love his characters and I’m happy to see them again. Don’t expect a fair and critical assessment.

Right to the Kill, is a soft reboot of the Harmony Black series and a place for new readers to jump in. In Cold Spectrum Harmony and Jessie had driven out a threat from within and taken control of the Vigilant Lock organization. Now they’re in the driver’s seat, with new responsibilities and challenges to face, and the resources of an illegally funded covert-operations group backing them up. When two agents go missing on a mission in Tampa, Harmony and Jessie find themselves on the trail of an occult bioweapon, tracking a madman from the Florida coast to a mist-shrouded New England fishing village. What else? Have you read and enjoyed A Little Mermaid? If yes, she’s back! Except she’s carnivorous and lethal.

Schaefer went from a first-person perspective to the third person giving everyone on the team a chance to shine. The gang can finally do much cooler spy-stuff and we get to see all the moving parts through various perspectives. Also, Jessie. She’s hilarious. And brutal when the lupine passenger in her head takes the lead. Her scenes and banter with Harmony were a highlight of the novel.

I admit I didn’t like Harmony when I started the series, but after recent events, she’s developed a darker side that makes her layered and intriguing. I can officially say she’s grown up and became a nuanced and intriguing character I can root for.

The feel of the book? Think a horror-thriller and yes, there are tentacles :)

TL;DR - a brilliant reboot of the series

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (Mihir): The Harmony Black series has an interesting beginning as do most spinoffs. Harmony first made her appearance in Redemption Song (book 2 of the Daniel Faust series) and her arc continued until A Plain Dealing Villain (book 4). She then made her debut in her own series which was published by Amazon. It was then let go by 47 North last year and the rights reverted back to Craig Schaefer. Craig since then has had made up plans to give Harmony and crew a proper trilogy send-0ff (with the possibility of more books, if certain things align up). We at Fantasy Book Critic were super excited to do the cover reveal for Right To The Kill which is book 5 of the Harmony Black series as well as a soft reboot.

Right To The Kill has some structural changes from the previous titles, namely a shift from first person to third person. There’s also a few other things but those I would rather the reader discover for themselves. The book begins nearly a year after the events of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy (labelled the Wisdom’s Grave incident). The Vigilant Lock team is now free of all their previous constraints (known and unknown). The story begins with Harmony, Jessie, & the team trying to infiltrate Nadine’s cash network and finding ways to disrupt it. Things take a wild turn as such is the wont in thriller stories but it’s from there the story takes a wild turn as a live lead on Bobby Diehl makes them turn to Florida. Events however aren’t smooth as two of their agents have gone missing and Harmony and team now have to go to Florida to find out what happened to the two agents.

This story is a wild thriller and is back to its spies with magic roots that Craig had specified in his interview with us. The narrative change also helps as now the reader is able to get a wider perspective of things and still keep us in the thick of things. The main story while beginning in Florida then dovetails into the remote Maine coast wherein we get a solid horror dose. I loved this aspect as from the first book wherein horror was such a major component. It was good to see the author explore Lovecraftian aquatic mythos.

Let’s talk about the characterization, namely with the narrative focus change, we don’t get an internal view into Harmony’s head however due to the author’s strong skills. We still don’t lose the emotional connect that we have had with Harmony and Jessie. Harmony has been suffering from a while due to court of blooming flowers’ ministrations but she has been adapting herself with some interesting techniques. This book we get a strong indication of where the author plans to take this thread next. Going on to Jessie, we get one of the best scenes in the series so far and I couldn’t stop laughing. I bet many other readers will have a similar reaction and I can’t wait to see where Craig takes her track next. There's also further mingling of the Vigilant Lock team within the Infernal courts and this time, we get a further look in to one of the east coast ones (I expect this court and the infernal character introduced to be of significance later).

The action sequences and plot pace are enhanced strongly and there’s a thread which gives a strong Children Of The Corn vibe. Craig Schaefer ties a wonderful thread to a certain  gargantuan thing from Detonation Boulevard and that only portends some more creepiness in the future. This book breaks the trend of staid amazon covers and the new style cover is just freaking amazing. Again James T. Egan proves why Craig trusts him so much. Lastly this book ends on a climatic note and you will want the next book now (which to be fair, is exactly what the author is aiming for).

CONCLUSION: Right To The Kill is a triumphant return to form in the Harmony Black series by Craig Schaefer. It underscores the main reason why Harmony Black needed a spinoff series of her own. Right To The Kill is the Casino Royale reboot that Schaefer fans have been eagerly waiting for. Savor it and rejoice that this series has gotten the boost on the inside and out.



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