"I hate waking up in an unfamiliar place. I’ve slept in pretty much the same bed for the past fifteen years, so when I wake up someplace new, it really throws me off. When that someplace is tied to a metal folding chair in the center of an abandoned warehouse that reeks of stale cigarette smoke, diesel fuel and axle grease - well, that really started my night off on a sparkling note."
Thus starts Hard Day's Knight, first book in the Black Knight Chronicles. I love this book. It makes me happy in a way that hasn't happened in a long, long time. Now, this is not lofty literature here, this is Jay and Silent Bob get turned into vampires, grow up a bit, and decide to become private eyes. It's cute. It's fun. It's insanely well written. If it were food, it would be a perfect chocolate chip cookie with just enough milk. The kind of thing that makes you feel good after you've eaten it.
The plot is what you might expect if Keven Smith were to write an episode of Angel. Jimmy Black, and his sidekick/partner Greg Knightwood (The Black Knight of their detective agency and the title.) have a problem. The client pissed off a witch big time, and needs help so his whole family isn't killed. They go in thinking this will be an easy little case of use the vamp mojo to scare the witch and all will be fine. But it's never that easy. Turns out the problem isn't a witch, she's a possessed little girl. And, in the meantime, kids have been disappearing, and the demon's got something to do with it. What started out as a quick little job turns into a full on forces of hell in the black hats versus Jimmy, Greg, their best friend who's a priest, and a fallen Angel in the white hats.
The characters may not be breathtakingly original, but once again, they're perfectly done. Just like the chocolate chip cookie, it doesn't have to be original to make you happy, it has to be good.
John Hartness' strength is great dialog, and he compounds that strength by telling the story from Jimmy's point of view. Jimmy is literally telling us the story, which means John gets to use his best skill through the entire tale. And once again, someone who's really good at a skill, using that skill, makes me very happy.
I'll leave one final bit of praise here, before I go from enthusiastic reviewer to mad fan girl: Dad, the priest, is actually a good guy. Lately it seems like every third paranormal book has an evil priest in it, like the whole point of being Catholic and joining the priesthood is to rain terror and unholy pain down on innocents everywhere. So, I'm pretty happy when I see a book that shows a man of faith using that faith to make the world a better place.
Hard Day's Knight is my first five star review of 2011, and it's well earned it.