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Monday, April 13, 2020

Black Tie Required by Craig Schaefer (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
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Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down 
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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 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 
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 Right To The Kill
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: Las Vegas, Nevada. For some, a neon-drenched playground. For Harmony Black, a graveyard of bad memories. But when your job is protecting humanity from the horrors of the occult underworld, you go where the mission sends you.

The annual TechTopia conference draws Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, big thinkers, startup investors — and the Basilisk, a former German Military Intelligence officer turned freelance assassin. He’s in town to make a killing, and his target could be any of a thousand potential victims. To protect their source of information, direct action is off the table: Harmony and her team have to identify the target and stage a rescue without the Basilisk — or his mistress, the sadistic demoness Nadine — ever learning that they were involved.

Stranger things are brewing under the neon and glitz. The elite of the criminal underworld are flocking to the city like flies to a rotting corpse, rumors of a secret auction are swirling, and the assassin’s target has ties to Talon Worldwide — a corporation with a foothold on two parallel Earths. Soon enough, Harmony discovers there’s far more at stake than a single life. The consequences of this mission aren’t just global: they’re interdimensional.

FORMAT/INFO: Black Tie Required is 286 pages long divided over thirty nine chapters with a “what came before” section. Narration is in the third-person, via Harmony Black , Jessie Temple & Kevin. This is the sixth volume of the Harmony Black series which is a spin-off to the Daniel Faust series

April 14, 2020 will mark the North American paperback and e-book publication of Black Tie Required and it was self-published by the author. Cover design is by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design.

OVERVIEW/ANALYISIS: Black Tie Required is the sixth book of the Harmony Black series and the second book in the new Harmony Black trilogy. Black Tie Required follows the events of Right To The Kill as we find the team still focusing on their main target Nadine.

The main plot deals with the TechTopia conference in Las Vegas around which swirls a rumour of a secret auction. To add that, a highly sought-after german assassin is also attending the conference and the team not only have to find out who the target is but also prevent it. This is just the start as Harmony has her own struggles due to Nadine’s vicious actions. The team is also dealing with the revelations from Right To The Kill, all in all things are as crazy as they can be. The main plot unfolds over a period of two-three days and it’s as good as a thriller you can get. We get a story that mixes a lot of elements and ultimately it leaves the reader guessing about who the target is and what is truly happening. In this plot regard, it reminded me a lot of Jeffrey Deaver's The Coffin Dancer.

As with Right To The Kill, it’s the characterization that makes this book and the reboot of the original series such a successful one. While the main plot is still focused around Harmony, we get some important bits via Jessie and other characters and this is where the story truly explodes of the pages. The plot really shines a good amount of light on the antagonist which was a cool thing. As the Basilisk is one of the most dangerous folks that the Vigilant team have ever faced and this is a team that has faced demons literally. Harmony and Jessie are the emotional core of this series and it's in this book their bond is tested and highlighted to its strongest extent. I love how the author has showcased them to be polar opposites in magic and temperament but beneath it all, they share the same steel and drive for justice. This book forces the most amount of change on Harmony physically, psychologically & morally. (this point is really driven home after reading the penultimate chapter). All of which feels mighty organic and is perhaps leading to some bigger dust-ups down the road.

As with any Craig Schaefer book, the plot is a twisted one with a lot of threads. I’ve begun to notice that in this regard, Craig is similar to Jeffrey Deaver who is famous for his multiple twisted endings. I love this aspect as in this book, what we think is happening and what truly is the case is miles apart. The book has some clever and cool nods to the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy and in one specific case we even find out what Marie (the Knight) is up to currently. Suffice to say it’s a very knightly thing to do and I truly hope Craig gives us a story/novella about it (trust me you WILL want to know more).

The twisted plot ends on a big climax and I loved how it touched on quite few of Craig’s other series and for those fans (me included), this is one of the best bits about Craig’s books. This truly is a connected universe and it shows in the tiny nods, references & mentions (things like what the Knight is doing, the return of a certain brother-sister cambion duo from NY and we finally learn about a particular black Hemi Cuda which has been the subject of speculation since about the last twelve books). The action is a bit more on the personal level and the horror element takes a backseat to the thriller one in this book unlike its predecessor. This though is a great thing as this book IMHO takes it back to the pinnacle of the series which was Harmony Black (book 1). I loved how this book has taken this series to a whole new level. Book 5 was a revival but book 6 will really make fans notice why Harmony Black is worthy of her own series.

On another note, I’ve to highlight the cover which IMO is an amazingly cool one. This has been another ace in a long line of winning covers and seriously a slap in the face of folks who complain about self-published books not having decent covers.

The only point that perhaps made my read a teeny tiny bit less enjoyable was the fact that while it touched upon events of the Daniel Faust series, we didn’t get any clear pointers about a certain Paladin-Enemy conflict. Things have been heating up especially amidst the events of The Locust Job. I’m sure that we will be getting a lot more with the next books in the Daniel Faust and Harmony Black series but I was hoping that there would be a bit more revealed about that particular plot thread.

CONCLUSION: Black Tie Required has it all, a thrilling plot, characters put through a wringer, a bit of dark humour, and an ending that will leave you wanting the next book NOW. Craig Schaefer solidly underscores why I consider him to be the best author that the urban fantasy genre has to offer. Of course he does it by bucking every trend and trope that the sub-genre is known for. Black Tie Required is one of the best books I’ve read in 2020 and as a thriller fan, I consider it to be one of the best thrillers I’ve read in my life.



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