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.
Things are moving a little slowly around SNS here lately and I apologize for that. Sarah is still not up to doing much because of her hand injury and I am afraid that the Real World ™ has been keeping me hopping more than usual lately. Still, though, we have some interesting material in the pipeline and, while it may come out a little more slowly than normal (and certainly more slowly than WE want it to), it will come out as soon as can possibly be managed. And we may even get a chance to hear from Sarah herself soon. She mentioned to me the other day that she might try to arrange a podcast post or perhaps a video update. I will pass along more info about that when/if it is forthcoming.
Today, we have a review by Minion Victoria Price of s book that sounds most interesting, indeed. IT sounds like… well, I will let her tell you all about it.
When I sat down to read HARD SPELL by Justin Gustainis, I went in thinking the idea of an “Occult Crimes Unit” was cute… for maybe a short story, a short story that would most likely end up being kind of stupid. Not only is it longer than a short story, but it is 382 page book. WELL. I figured about halfway through I’d roll my eyes and flatly exclaim, “LAME” and unenthusiastically trudge through the rest. But I kept an open mind and started reading.
It starts out as you’d expect: a run-down of what this group of supernatural crime-busting cops does and why they have to do it, a couple of scenarios are thrown in involving some non-human lawbreakers, and of course a bit of drama between characters. Expected as it may have been, it was still entertaining, very entertaining, actually, and a lot more creative and well written than I had imagined. Reading about these werewolves, goblins, wizards, and vampires getting mixed up in the law was a fun enough idea for mere amusement, but to my delighted amazement, Gustainis made it not only captivating, but as believable as this sort of thing can get. His writing style as the narrator/Occult Crimes cop protagonist keeps a perfect balance of sarcasm and seriousness. Throughout the story, the use of black magic and supernatural shenanigans are ridiculed and scoffed at by many of the characters enough so that the reader isn’t alone in his or her potential eye-rolling, canceling out any comedic element the book may have otherwise had against itself. Still, these subjects are taken seriously as part of the story’s reality, which the reader gets sucked into quite easily.
HARD SPELL is full of fun ideas, and by no means are they wasted in a sea of dullness. There isn’t a page that allows boredom; you are right with this sleep-deprived cop at his wit’s end with all these sacrificial murders, demon possessions, evil spells, etc. The interactions between the human characters are just as fascinating as the ones with the non-humans, and somehow they all fit perfectly together in this story.
As stunned as I was that the content of the book stayed strong for its nearly 400 pages, I was even more surprised that it still didn’t seem long enough! I would have loved to read a page -or fifty- more about a certain scene towards the end, but I shan’t be giving away any spoilers. I’d say my only complaint was that the climax was a little rushed, but it may only have seemed that way because of how glued I was to it. After all, it’s better to wish for more than to be stuck with too much. I give this book a 3.5 out of 5 tentacles!
And with that (and an enthusiastic recommendation for this book), I shall end this review!
Victoria Price, Minion (Reviewer)