The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack


Supernatural Bounty Hunter

Supernatural Bounty Hunter

Series Review

Supernatural Bounty Hunter Files by Craig Halloran

I’d be very curious to know how much of this series Craig Halloran plotted out in advance of writing the first book, because all ten novels hang together very well, and the climatic conclusion depends very much on character development begun in book one.

On the surface, this is an urban fantasy about an ex-special forces soldier and an FBI agent who find themselves in the unenviable position of trying to hunt down supernatural creatures that they (and everyone else in the world) don’t believe exist. But this isn’t the X Files. While there is a lot of investigation, there is also a ton of simply wonderful action and some tremendously enjoyable banter that keeps the novels more on the fun side than on the serious side.

At its heart, the story is about character. Can people resist the temptations of great power, remain true to themselves, and fight the good fight no matter what the cost. Their ability to do that depends very heavily on the relationships they forge, but of course, that is also a great weakness for them as the bad guys are more than happy to use loved ones against our heroes.

I am really glad I stumbled across this series. And highly recommend it for anyone looking for an action-packed, playful, romp through the supernatural world. It’s also great for any lover of urban fantasy tired of seeing only the same old werewolves and vampires appear in every novel. There are a lot of rarely used supernatural creatures here—giants, minotaurs, harpies, and gargoyles to name a few. So if you’re looking for a character driven, guns blazing, urban fantasy with lots of great monsters, join forces with Smoke and Sydney. It’s a heck of a ride.

In Series Order

1 Smoke Rising by Craig Halloran

John Smoke is an ex-special-forces-soldier turned bounty hunter turned ex-con who has a reputation for being hard to control but extremely capable in tracking down difficult to find targets. Sydney Shaw is a by-the-book FBI agent who is smart, driven, and competent. Together they get roped into trying to track down a suspect on the FBI’s mysterious black slate list. No one seems to know quite where the black slate came from and why people are on it—but Smoke and Shaw are about to find out why no one listed on the slate ever gets brought in for arrest.

This is a great urban fantasy series with a really enjoyable (non-romantic so far) chemistry between Smoke and Shaw as they are forced to come to grips with the idea that supernatural creatures do exist and that they are not only running criminal enterprises in the U.S. but manipulating its politics. That discovery was very well handled, as is the skepticism of the rest of the law enforcement community. There is a ton of action in addition to the basic mystery of what the heck is the bad guy.

I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.

I received this book free from Free Audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

2 I Smell Smoke by Craig Halloran

One of the things that makes an urban fantasy series stand out for me is when the author chooses to get away from the classic monsters (vampires and werewolves) and spotlight a creature we don’t see so often. That’s what we get in I Smell Smoke when Sidney Shaw and John Smoke tackle the second name on their Black Slate list and find a monster I certainly wasn’t expecting. It makes for a great adventure.

Then there are all the other things that make this series so much fun. Sidney’s FBI boss continues to be as irritating as ever (and we find out why he dislikes Sidney so much). Her family reappears to add their own measure of tension and frustration to Sidney. The Drake corporation grows more threatening. And finally, there’s the nonstop banter between Sidney and Smoke as she continues to be attracted to him even as he irritates the heck out of her.

This book is just as much fun as the first novel in the series and raises my expectations for book 3.

3 Where There’s Smoke by Craig Halloran

Halloran comes up with yet another monster rarely seen in urban fantasy novels to make this one of the most exciting books in the series yet. Sidney Shaw is becoming obsessed with the Black Slate files even as her superior (and ex-boyfriend) in the FBI is isolating and ridiculing her for her successes because he thinks being the first person to successfully complete Black Slate missions will damage her career because it involves the supernatural.

Sidney moves forward with her new case anyway and quickly discovers that there are personal prices to be paid for confronting these bad guys. Her sister and niece are kidnapped by her latest quarry and this leads to a long and involved end game scenario against a very cool monster. As if this wasn’t enough, there’s also a big surprise at the end. This one is good all around.

4 Smoke on the Water by Craig Halloran

Smoke and Sydney are back to tackle two supernatural assassins who appear to be immortal. That would be bad enough, but Sydney quit the FBI in the last book and doesn’t have even the minimal support the FBI used to give her. Her ex-fiancé has taken over her role on the Black Slate with his current girlfriend and they are not happy that Sydney is also investigating the case—and making more progress than they are. That means that the work is twice as hard as the only progress that’s going to get made is by working around their FBI counterparts.

The action is fast paced, the dialogue is fun, and the bad guys are still bad. On top of that, Halloran gives us yet another unusual supernatural problem to resolve. There’s also some genuine tragedy in this book which reminds us that the danger is real and the stakes are huge.

5 Smoke and Mirrors by Craig Halloran

Lots of different monsters fill the pages of the fifth book in the Supernatural Bounty Hunter series, as did several surprises—not the least of which is that the Drake Corporation would like to recruit Sydney to work for them. This twist, corrupting their most dangerous adversaries, was a good one as we have run into corrupted agents before and this helped to explain how that happened. There are also growing troubles at the FBI as what looks to me to be more Drake Corporation influence affecting the agency that is supposed to be bringing them down. Overall, this is probably the best book since the first one because of the surprises and the wider variety of threats. I’m looking forward to seeing what Smoke and Sydney do next.

6 Up in Smoke by Craig Halloran

Sydney was coerced into joining the Drake Corporation at the end of the last book and Smoke isn’t dealing with it very well. That’s bad for him—and, as you might imagine—bad for Sydney’s new bosses.

This time we also see some of the Drake Corporation’s supernatural competition, but the enemy of his enemy is not necessarily Smoke’s friend. Smoke’s in it up to his ears and every time you think it can’t get any worse for him—it does.

If you’ve been wanting one of these novels to be all Smoke all the time, you’ve finally gotten your wish.

7 Smoke Signals by Craig Halloran

Smoke rescued Sydney from the Drake in the last installment of this series and proposed. In this one, she accepts and they make it to the altar. In between, a new player gets involved trying to capture Smoke with lots of special forces types and a cool helicopter to help them. Despite the part about Smoke and Sydney getting married, there is a ton of action in this book. And the shift in their banter worked. There’s no Moonlighting moment here where it turns out that the fans actually didn’t want the stars to tie the knot.

And lest I forget, there is an important revelation at the end of the book about what happens to black slate arrests. Combine that with how hard they are to actually kill and the rest of the series is looking even tougher than the first seven books.

8 Holy Smoke by Craig Halloran

Smoke and Sydney sneak into the giant secret federal holding facility for monsters arrested in black slate operations only to find out that it’s a big trap to catch them. Also, the villains at the heart of many of the books are on the loose again and everything is looking worse than ever. Smoke and Sydney with their very small support team take the fight to the enemy again but it’s starting to look like nothing can stop the Drake. This one had an especially strong ending.

9 Smoke Happens by Craig Halloran

Smoke has been captured by the Drake and is being turned into a shifter. This is the one plotline that really doesn’t make sense despite a pretty serious effort on the part of Halloran to make it so. Apparently there are so few shifters that they want to cultivate all possible shifters, trusting in the process to corrupt them. But with Smoke and Sydney actually successfully killing shifters—including a really big one in the last book—that doesn’t really make sense. What it seems like is that Halloran wants to give Smoke a cool new set of powers and he certainly does that, even as much of the focus reverts to Sydney and the coming baby.

Towards the end of the book, we learn about the source of a great secret of the Drake that looks like it will somehow be critical to the conclusion of this epic. The ending of the book is little more than a set up for a prolonged (book long?) final battle between Smoke and Sydney and all of the surviving bad guys in the final novel. It’s going to be tremendous!

10 Smoke Out by Craig Halloran

This is it! The conclusion to the series! And it’s one long battle from start to finish as Smoke, Sydney and their friends struggle to take down Kane and the Drake. Just about every bad guy who ever appeared in the series shows up again here as our heroes attempt to end the threat of the Drake for good.

And yet, as a factor of pure strength, that seems to be impossible. And as they finally find out that an Egyptian moon god is behind the Drake’s rise to power, things begin to look even worse for them. There are two big battles that have been building here for a long time—Smoke versus Kane and Sydney versus her sister, Alison. But the biggest battle has always been whether or not Smoke and Sydney could continue to resist the allure of becoming a shifter. Unsurprisingly, Kane cheats to stack the deck against them, but Halloran has been building toward this climax from page one of the series and I found the conclusion to this struggle both expected and well written. The final battle with Kane wasn’t as good as the one with Reginald, but it was very Smoke so I don’t think I’m going to complain about it.

This is a great conclusion to a very enjoyable series.