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!