August 12, 2011

Review: Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis

Hard Spell (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation) Hard Spell (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation, book 1) by Justin Gustainis

Genre: Urban Fantasy

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


The first 20 to 30 pages of this book were an utter fail for me. The potential was there, but the book kept jumping around all willy-nilly. To me a good book doesn’t need to throw things out randomly at the beginning to build the story and the world, the author reveals it bit by bit through the eyes of the character. Despite this terrible start, Hard Spell pulls out beautifully and delivers a fantastic investigative story that gives readers a gritty insight to being a Detective. Not just any detective but a Detective Sergeant on the Scranton PD's Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit.

Stan Markowski is said detective. He’s seen everything from Goblins hyped up on meth holding a liquor store up, to grizzly scenes that give senior officer nightmares. He’s not the standard lead for an urban fantasy read (unbearably hot and dominating, with all the ladies falling all over the place). Stan is middle aged and waving good bye to his prime. Stan’s sly wit on a case and flashy comebacks balance out the darker side of him. He’s suffered and it’s not of that dramatic stuff that ladies woo over. It’s hard core real world loss that makes you get a little teary eyed.

Justin Gustainis has created an authentic world where monsters and mankind coexist. Being human doesn’t always equal being good, and the true monsters aren’t always the things with fangs. The paranormal have always existed alongside humans. When World War II occurred troops returning home came back “changed” and with the advancement of technology the paranormal creatures could finally immigrate to the USA. From there Gustainis has merged his history and world together well, the religions and how it’s affected the people. (Not to say there aren’t a few gaping questions.)

We can’t forget the crime fighting forces! It’s so fun finding out what an author has chosen to name their versions of the FBI, CIA, and so on. My favorite for Hard Spell was the SWAT (or Sacred Weapons and Tactics unit). Let’s just say even if this book was a fail, I’d still push onward just for more information on the SWAT team.

After the terrible beginnings there is a rainbow! In Hard Spells case there’s an amazing mystery, heart pounding action, and enough twist and turns to make a reader feel like they’re the ones getting beaten to death instead of the characters. Stan Markowski is a refreshing male lead in a genre where male leads are sparse and poorly written. The cast of characters are ones a reader can care about and look forward to meeting up with in the next book. In all honesty, there's no excuse to not get this one!

Sexual content: Some sexual humor and such. There is some gritty talk about “working” women on the streets. On the whole pretty clean.

Rating:   4/5- Great! Really enjoyed it.

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