Review: Harmony Black by Craig Schaefer

I mentioned in my post at the beginning of the year that I was looking forward to getting back into reading, especially by branching out and trying new authors and genres I generally wouldn’t think to try. I’m about to feel like a commercial and I apologize for that, but with Amazon Prime I get one free Kindle book a month through their Kindle First program. For the longest time I’ve been awesome at picking one out each month and downloading it… but that’s as far as I’ve gotten with all but one of them (a romance novel that helped me discover a new novelist to read for fun; that’s probably a great post for another time).

So for January, I decided to try one of the most recent ones I’d picked out and read it as my book for the month. I maybe missed doing it in January because time is going by too quickly, but I did finally pick it up this week, and I’m really glad I did.

harmony black

Harmony Black by Craig Schaefer has all the great workings of a modern mystery novel; Harmony Black is an FBI agent working for a Special Ops branch who usually works alone, but gets pulled out of her first vacation in years by an unusual string of infant kidnappings. She’s thrust into working with a motley crew of FBI agents and associates, and the mystery takes them back to her hometown, to the unsolved mystery of her sister’s mysterious kidnapping, which happened thirty years ago… and yet by all accounts the same scenario is repeating itself. Oh, and did I mention that Harmony Black is a witch and the branch of the FBI she works for targets magical and demonic criminals in very underground, off the books ways, and the case they’re trying to solve involves the Bogeyman?

This novel was an incredibly fun read. Okay, I say fun because it was enjoyable and full of strong characters (especially believable strong female characters!) with an interesting premise. Schaefer does a fantastic job of world building, but in a very twisted, dark way. I’m glad I mostly read this during the day; I’m having issues with closets and darkness at the moment. It’s by no means a horror novel, but the atmosphere and content are chilling, and convincingly so without being too heavy and focusing more on being action-packed. I truly appreciated the horror aspects. The novel is essentially Supernatural if they were officially sanctioned by the government, and featured a team of monsters hunting other monsters (maybe I could say it’s Supernatural meets Suicide Squad?)

My one beef with the novel is the “obligatory”-feeling boy-next-door romance. One of the characters introduced is the boy Harmony lived next to in their hometown, who’s grown up into a handsome deputy and immediately tries to ask her out. It felt forced, like we had to have a romantic interest for the heroine and it had to be the boy next door, but I didn’t find it captivating. This novel is the first of the series, so there’s a chance this story-line improves over time, but for a one off I was not impressed. I almost would have appreciated no romantic interest for her, Harmony’s a strong female character who “don’t need no man” as P would say. It was so distracting at times that I kept finding myself hoping he turned out to be involved in the small town conspiracy they were fighting against, the way that he kept popping up during intense scenes and creating romantic tension out of nowhere. (I mean maybe he was involved…I mean shoot, sorry if that’s a spoiler if anyone is going to pick up the book after reading this.)

The novel is not an incredibly intellectual endeavor, but it is a fantastic piece of “magic exists and we don’t realize it” bit of entertaining mystery reading, and the characters are interesting enough to get attached to. I didn’t realize since I just chose it from a list of six books that this series is actually a spin-off from Schaefer’s first series, the Daniel Faust series, which introduced Harmony Black as the nemesis to that series’ titular character. I’m intrigued enough to want to continue Harmony’s stories, and also back track and read through Faust’s.

Altogether, I was pleasantly surprised and glad I took the time to try something new. It’s opened up two new series for me to explore, and also made me want to look into more of this genre. Maybe I’ll even revisit The Dresden Files, since this series seems to share similar influences.

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