Hard Spell: An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation — book review

Hard Spell: An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation by Justin Gustainis. Angry Robot ‘7.99

Reviewed by Jan Edwards

Hard Spell can be neatly summed up with this line from the first page: ‘My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge. Also a crucifix … and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.’

Sergeant Stan Markowski is a Pennsylvania cop attached to the Occult Crimes Unit and he is on the trail of that most dangerous of villains, a vampire-wizard.  Going into the intricacies of plotting would give too much away, but you get the picture. Very much in the Sam Spade style, our hero strolls through the pages with a string of laconic one-liners, dispensing justice the way he sees fit. Interestingly, with a narrative very much in ‘camera obscura’ mode, portraying events precisely as they unfold, yet despite being told in first person, Markowski reveals very little of himself ‘ which can be both a great delight and a huge frustration.

On the whole, however, I think I have to come down on the side of delight. Yes I would have liked to see more of how Markowski thinks through his actions. As a BIG plus this vampire hunter does not, by and large, go around lusting after his supernatural suspects. If he can’t arrest them, he’ll stake them and then he’ll move on. This I like.

Great tongue-in-cheek crime fantasy with a dark and sometimes violent edge. If you like your urban fantasy played out on the mean streets of the city, you will find Hard Spell a lot of fun.

Hard Spell: An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation by Justin Gustainis. Angry Robot ‘7.99

Reviewed by Jan Edwards

Hard Spell can be neatly summed up with this line from the first page: ‘My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge. Also a crucifix … and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.’

Sergeant Stan Markowski is a Pennsylvania cop attached to the Occult Crimes Unit and he is on the trail of that most dangerous of villains, a vampire-wizard.  Going into the intricacies of plotting would give too much away, but you get the picture. Very much in the Sam Spade style, our hero strolls through the pages with a string of laconic one-liners, dispensing justice the way he sees fit. Interestingly, with a narrative very much in ‘camera obscura’ mode, portraying events precisely as they unfold, yet despite being told in first person, Markowski reveals very little of himself ‘ which can be both a great delight and a huge frustration.

On the whole, however, I think I have to come down on the side of delight. Yes I would have liked to see more of how Markowski thinks through his actions. As a BIG plus this vampire hunter does not, by and large, go around lusting after his supernatural suspects. If he can’t arrest them, he’ll stake them and then he’ll move on. This I like.

Great tongue-in-cheek crime fantasy with a dark and sometimes violent edge. If you like your urban fantasy played out on the mean streets of the city, you will find Hard Spell a lot of fun.