Urban Fantasy Review & Contest: HARD SPELL by Justin Gustainis

I have a new urban fantasy series to add to my list of favorites—how fun is that? Today, I’m looking at the first in a new series from Angry Robot Books and author Justin Gustainis. Welcome to the Occult Crimes Unit Investigation series…and read on to win a copy of Hard Spell.

THE OFFICIAL BLURB: 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.

MY THOUGHTS: I fell in like with Hard Spell with Stan Markowski’s recounting of the McCarthy Hearings in the 1950s, which weren’t really aimed at targeting “communists,” but, rather, supernaturals (“Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a coven?”). I fell in love with this book when Markowski had to arrest meth-addict goblins trying to knock over a liquor store.
            Hard Spell is set in Scranton, Pa., which—who knew?—is the intersection for a bunch of ley lines that attract all these supernaturals, or supes—vamps, werewolves, goblins. Markowski is a detective with the “Supe Squad.”
            So, there are other detectives-dealing-with-the-supernatural stories, and I admit I’m kind of a sucker for a good Supernatural Noir tale. I’m a huge fan of the Dresden series, for example, as well as Simon R. Green’s Nightside series, and comparisons are inevitable. This is in the same vein as those, but stands up just fine on its own. Gustainis’ writing is sharp, and he creates a great noir voice for Markowski—who just SOUNDS like he’d live in Scranton and chase down bad supes for a living. The humor is spot-on–dry and snarky. I can’t remember the last time I had this many put-down-the-book-and-laugh moments.
            There are tense moments, too, as Markowski works on a case tracking down someone who killed a vampire and stole the book the vamp was safeguarding—but left a pile of cash. Why would a book be more valuable than money? And why are there no clues? And the absence of clues means Markowski has to resort to consulting the local witch to help him out. Talk about an interesting relationship. 
            This is a really fun read, and is a great start to a new urban fantasy series if you like them dark and snarky.
Want to win a copy of Hard Spell? It’s the usual the drill: +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for Tweet or Retweet. Now, get to typing!
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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

18 thoughts on “Urban Fantasy Review & Contest: HARD SPELL by Justin Gustainis

  1. The comparison of my fiction to Jim Butcher’s is flattering in the extreme, although it’s one that I wouldn’t make, myself. Jim Butcher is a great guy, whose excellence as a writer is matched by his generosity of spirit. Jim was very kind to me when I was starting out. He gave me encouragement that I desperately needed, as well as a great “blurb” for my first book, THE HADES PROJECT. Jim rocks!

  2. Justin–thanks for stopping by! You don’t have to compare yourself to Jim; we can do it for you 🙂 This has that same noir feel and great humor. Terrific book, and all the best with it!

  3. Please enter me! This sounds great, I love fantasy. I am a GFC follower, a twitter follower and I tweeted the contest. Thanks, Dorine- dorwh at aol dot com

  4. I admit that ‘dark and snarky’ sucked me in, too. I haven’t read any Jim Butcher. Yet. I do have the first Dresden files just waiting to be read and it might be interesting to read that followed by Hard Spell. Or the other way ’round.

    I see Hard Spell is under $5 for the nook book. Totally buying!! So I guess no need to enter me in contest.

  5. Great review, the book sounds really interesting.

    +1 comment
    +1 blog follower
    +1 Twitter @annereeths

    areeths @ new DOT rr DOT com

  6. This sounds like a very interesting and unique story, and I would love to win a copy!! Thanks for a great review and giveaway:)

    +1 comment
    +1 blog follow
    +1 Twitter follower: @jwitt33

    jwitt33 at live dot com

  7. I have come across this book on a umber of websites where it was either reviewed or there was an author interview but I must admit I tended to skim those posts.

    Don’t really know why except that the cover was a total turn-off for me.

    It just looks cheap and amateurist to me.

    However after reading your brief review, I now think that perhaps I was mistaken and this could be a worthwhile new author and book.

    So please enter me in the giveaway.


    Carol T

    +1 for comment
    +1 I Follow via GFC.

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com