Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis

  Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Stan Markowski is a Detective Sergeant on the Scranton PD's Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit.
Like the rest of America, Scranton's got an uneasy 'live and let unlive' relationship with the supernatural. But when a vamp puts the bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that's when they call Markowski. He carries a badge. Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Dial V For Vampire | Forbidden Spells | Bite Club | Scranton By Night ]

And here's what I thought:  Hard-hitting, gritty detective novel meets the paranormal in a witty and entertaining read.  I really liked how the author crafted this book, giving me an imperfect main character that I cared about, a police procedural, and some supernatural elements mixed in.  There's also some wry humor, just to keep things interesting.

Gustianis creates a world that seems pretty similar to our own, except for the "supes", or supernaturals.  In this story, the supes are seen as a part of society (since President Lyndon Johnson guaranteed them their civil rights), and basically, everyone gets along ... until some dark magic starts happening and vampires turn up dead (and carved up).   Stan Markowski is the kind of guy you'd expect to find on a show like NYPD Blue (or Hill Street Blues, if your television knowledge goes back that far).  He's pretty no-nonsense, and well-versed in the supe world.   He doesn't hold back when he's got something to say (even if that means a bit of strong language).  I never felt like the author made him into a caricature, however, and that's important.  I could totally see how this story could go in that direction, in the hands of a less talented author.

Instead, what we get is a fast-paced story that keeps you guessing on who the bad guys really are, and whether or not Markowski and his partner are going to save the day.  I wouldn't say that this book is for every reader (especially those who don't like detective novels), but I thought it was an entertaining read.

This is another title from Angry Robot, a publisher whose books I've found to be consistently good reads.

First sentences:   This is the city - Scranton, Pennsylvania.  It used to be a coal town, back int he days when anthracite was king.... It's a good place to raise a family - apart from vampires, werewolves, ghouls, wizards and the occasional demon.

Thoughts on the Cover:   I reads this as an e-book, so the first time I saw the cover was when I went to GoodReads to grab the summary for this post.  It definitely conveys what the book is about -- you won't mistake this story for anything other than a gritty detective novel.


Jo K said...

Wow, this sounds intriguing - crime fiction meets paranormal! Detective Markowski sounds like the guy I'd like to read about. Great review!

Amanda Makepeace said...

I have the ebook for this one too (fellow Angry Robot Recruit) but haven't gotten around to it yet. I'll have to change that soon! Great review. :)

Jen (@ Jens Book Closet) said...

I actually heard about this book and thought it sounded pretty good. I think it was because I saw a guest post by the author and it made me laugh. I enjoy those kind of genre books, so I think I'll give it a try.

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