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Sunday, May 22, 2022

Book review: Any Minor World (The Midnight Jury #1) by Craig Schaefer



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AUTHOR INFO: Craig Schaefer's books have taken readers to the seamy edge of a criminal underworld drenched in shadow (the Daniel Faust series), to a world torn by war, poison and witchcraft (the Revanche Cycle), and across a modern America mired in occult mysteries and a conspiracy of lies (the Harmony Black series).

Despite this, people say he's strangely normal. Suspiciously normal, in fact. His home on the Web is www.craigschaeferbooks.com.

Publisher: Demimonde Books (April 26, 2022) Length: 356 pages Formats: ebook, paperback

Any Minor World captivated me from the first chapter. Completely. I started it on the bus that took me on a hiking trip and finished it in a tent in the mountains of North Macedonia. So, yeah, I loved it.

It combines all the ingredients I crave - dark urban fantasy, noir, and horror. It also offers an exciting twist with superheroes and an excellent, tight plot.

Set in two realities (including Noir York), Any Minor World follows an unlicensed PI and recovering addict named Roy Mackey. Roy gets a chance to make BIG & EASY money. All he has to do is track down a dead writer's manuscript, which turns out to be a rip-off of The Midnight Jury, a canceled pulp-adventure comic from the 80s.

After identifying and tracking down the actual author, Lucy Langenkamp, Roy's life goes off the rails. Until about a third of the way through the book, Any Minor World reads like a fast-paced noir thriller, but then the story takes an exciting and supernatural turn that speeds up the (already fast-paced) plot. Lucy's imagination is twisted, and her creations, including a flamethrower-wielding exterminator, ancient Egyptian necromancers, and giant skeleton-snakes, somehow step into the real world.

Beneath his rugged physique and addiction, Roy tries to forget a tortured past marked by a police job and a forbidden love gone wrong. Schaeffer loves to use archetypes and tropes to create memorable characters. Roy is a stereotypical down-on-his-luck PI, who takes the case and understands his role in the story. He's the type to say lines like this and remain believable and likable instead of sounding cheesy:

"Recent events have left me with some frustration to work out of my system. So I'm going to go out there, I'm going to politely introduce myself to Mr. Malone, and then I'm going to beat the undead shit out of him. It'll be good for my overall sense of well-being."

I couldn't help but like the guy. Lucy starts as a mousy art restorer, but she finds steel hidden underneath her frail physique and an overwhelming fear of confrontation. As expected, the villains are over-the-top, but longtime fans of comics, superheroes, and supervillains will be thrilled to meet them. There are undead, psychopaths, The Network ( Mafia of the Mafias ), and more (MUCH MORE, but I won't spoil it for you).

The series name, The Midnight Jury, relates to a superhero gone missing. We meet this mysterious figure, but I can say that fans of the Daniel Faust series will be thrilled (at least initially) by it. Readers new to Schaefer's books won't miss a lot, just a small nod toward themes and characters recurring in Schaeffer's other works.

Any Minor World is a fast-paced and clever superhero noir. Sign me up for the Midnight Jury fan club :) I can't wait to see where the story goes from here. Schaefer is my favorite pulp author, and Any Minor World cements her position.

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