Since I was in the mood for something more comedic for this month’s book review, I decided to pick up the first book in John G. Hartness‘ Black Knight Chronicles series. Hard Day’s Knight is a brisk, vampire buddy comedy centered around James (Jimmy to everyone) Black. Along with his best friend and fellow vampire private investigator, Gregory W. Knightwood IV, they make up Black Knight Investigations.
I got the impression most of their cases do not involve the supernatural but the case in this first book does. Set around Halloween, Jimmy and Greg are approached by a teenager desperate to be turned into a vampire so that he can save his family from a witch’s curse. It’s easy to dismiss the kid’s claim until Jimmy and Greg encounter the fourteen-year-old girl who put the curse on the kid and his family. It’s immediately apparent that something is off with her beyond some bored teenager messing around with magic. All hell begins breaking loose once they confront her as they learn a string of kidnapped kids is connected to the demon Baal being summoned. From there the book rapidly progresses toward trying to prevent Hell on Earth from happening.
My favorite part, and where I think the strength of the book lies, was Jimmy and Greg. I loved that while they are vampires, they don’t fit into any of the stereotypes. In fact they fit more in with the nerd/geek stereotype more than vampire although they do have typical vampire enhancements like speed and strength. Also, they aren’t bad guys. And while they became vampires against their wills, they don’t mope about it at all. Instead they have embraced it and view it anything else. Just shit they’ve got to deal with. There are lots of other spins on the vampire trope that I enjoyed including how their best friend is a priest, their special vampire powers are not distributed equally between the two of them, and how Greg stays away from feeding off of people choosing instead to stick with the packets of blood they get from the hospital.
Another thing I enjoyed were many of the supporting characters. Mike, their priest best friend that they’ve known since childhood, is a nice companion to Jimmy and Greg. Because they grew up together, Jimmy and Greg don’t really treat Mike any differently just because of his association with all that is good in the world. Nor does Mike view either of his friends as evil and abominations despite their undead status. I also liked Detective Law even though she does come across as somewhat stereotypical hard-nosed, no nonsense cop. I also found it a little hard to buy into how quickly she accepted being around vampires, fallen angels, and actual witches before encountering demons.
The plot of the book was easy and mostly straight forward although I thought the pacing was a bit too brisk at times for me. I found myself re-reading some parts because of confusing action sequences or because people would just randomly pop in. I know that Jimmy and Greg have only a few days to stop Hell from bubbling up, but I would have liked the book a more if parts of it had been slowed down. The beginning was paced quite well it was once we got into what was going on and who was possibly behind it that things became too frantic and a little hard to follow. Also, I think the brisk pace didn’t allow for the kind of character development I typically like especially for the first book in a series. Jimmy, Greg, and Mike we get a good picture of, which makes sense. It’s the supporting characters like Phil, Lilith, and even Detective Law that would have benefited from a slightly slower pace.
Overall, if you are looking for a fun, quick read with characters that don’t take themselves seriously, except when the situation requires it and even then, Hard Day’s Knight would be a good choice. I’m definitely interested in reading more books in the series especially when I’m in the mood for something light. On a scale of one to five pencils, I give it three pencils.