Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis

No, I haven't gone to the dark side. Just because I've read a few urban fantasies lately doesn't mean I'm turning to books about vampires and werewolves. I'm a fan of those urban fantasies that clearly define good vs. evil, and, often, have a detective searching for answers. In my mind, Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden is just as much a detective as he is a wizard. And, I love the dark humor in so many of these books.

Justin Gustainis' Hard Spell is scheduled for release next Tuesday. It's called "An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation." What fan of Dragnet or crime fiction can turn down a book that starts like this? 'This is the city - Scranton, Pennsylvania....Scranton's got a "live and let unlive" relationship with the supernatural, just like everyplace else. But when a vamp puts a bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that's when they call me.'

"My name's Markowski. I carry a badge.

"Also a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets."

I was hooked on the very first page. Markowski, a Detective Sergeant who chose to work in the Occult Crimes Unit Investigation, partners with other officers to investigate crimes involving "supes," the supernatural element. After WWII, vampires, werewolves, witches, and others found it easy to get to the U.S., and they can be victims of crime as much as they can be the villains. It's a crime against a supe that brings Markowski into the worst case he's ever investigated. A wizard has been tortured and killed to give up a valuable item that could prove to be a powerful weapon for the killer.

The death of that wizard is a case that bothers Markowski, and it only gets worse as it spirals out of control. Between a white witch that disappears, dead vampires, and a wizard Markowski doesn't quite trust, he has his hands full. It's going to take all the skills and knowledge he's acquired over the years, along with cooperation from other police departments to bring this case to a successful conclusion without allowing a killer to have unlimited power.

Stanley Markowski is a fascinating person, a man whose history has a darkness to it, secrets he seldom shares. But, he's also a good detective, a solid cop who knows how to work the system, and make it work for him. And, that means he works the police system, as well as the supernatural system.

Hard Spell combines the best of a police procedural with the grittiness and dark humor of urban fantasy. The body count is high, and the deaths are gory and brutal. This is a blue collar police department, with plenty of coarse language and sexual innuendos. The female detectives are as libel to be crude as the men. But, then there's the wonderful, irreverent humor. Scranton's SWAT team is the Sacred Weapons & Tactics Unit. And, when they're working, The SWAT team is accompanied by a Prayer Team, three clergymen who work together to pray while the police work. Markowski's take on that is, "How somebody figured that God would pay more attention to a group effort than if each of these guys prayed separately wasn't real clear to me, but I'm just a simple cop, not a theologian."

Justin Gustainis' Hard Spell isn't for everyone. But, anyone who appreciates the darkness, the perverse humor, and the solid police work of a good urban fantasy will welcome this first book in the Occult Crimes Unit Investigation series.

If you'd like to see the book trailer for Hard Spell, I'm sharing it here.

Justin Gustainis' website is http://www.justingustainis.com/

Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis. Angry Robot. ©2011. ISBN 9780857661159 (paperback), 394p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a copy of the book, hoping I'd review it.


Kay said...

I enjoyed reading your comments. I have his other two titles, and have this new book on my 'want' list.

Now I'm certain I want to read it because you enjoyed it. We seem to have similar tastes on a lot of books/authors.

Lesa said...

Oh, good, Kay. I hadn't read his other books, so I took a chance on this one. I'm glad I did, though. Loved the main character and his partner. And, I really enjoyed the humor in the book.