Play with Fire/Midnight at the Oasis by Justin Gustainis. Book review

play_with_fire_and_midnight_at_the_oasis_250x384PLAY WITH FIRE and MIDNIGHT AT THE OASIS by Justin Gustainis,

Solaris, p/b, £7.99/ebook, £5.99,

Reviewed by David Brzeski

This is actually an omnibus edition of books four and five of the series. They were originally released as two individual Kindle editions, which are also still available. Both stories are shorter than the previous books in the series (in fact at least one of the previous books is longer than these two stories combined) so they were combined for the paperback release. Although this is a review of the omnibus collection of books four and five, I actually read (and enjoyed) the entire series straight through, before embarking on this review.

There are many stories set in a world, where the existence of supernatural creatures is treated as a fact, known by many, if not all. It’s unusual to find an author who has two such worlds, running simultaneously. In his ‘Occult Crimes Unit’ series, which I reviewed some time back, the supes are an established fact. Everyone knows they exist and they have special police departments to oversee supernatural affairs. In the Quincy Morris/Libby Chastain series, however, the knowledge of such things is much more limited. There are people within the intelligence services who are aware and South Africa does actually have a sort of Occult Crimes Unit within its police force, but for the most part, the general population are kept in blissful ignorance.

While Quincy Morris, who most of you will work out is a direct ancestor of the character in Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula, is the lead character, I found myself much more taken with Libby Chastain, a white witch and his partner in many of his cases. In the first three books they go up against assorted evil witches and demons. Apart from a brief intro in the first book, Gustainis has so far avoided the obvious idea of pitting them against vampires.

In ‘Play With Fire’, houses of worship—of all denominations—are being burned to the ground, often while full of people. Morris and Chastain find themselves in a race against time to prevent Hell on Earth becoming a grim reality. Apparently, not all the denizens of Hell think it would be a good idea, so Morris and Chastain acquire some unlikely help in the form of a remarkably likeable demon.

Then, in ‘Midnight at the Oasis’ (I really don’t have to point out the rock song origins of all the Morris and Chastain story titles, do I?), they take on an Afreet, a Djinn fire-demon, which I guess would be an obvious supernatural weapon in the arsenal of Middle-Eastern terrorists in this world.

Gustainis’ writing is never less than gripping and lots of fun. Fans of the crossover will love the many hints of various other authors’ work which pepper the series to varying degrees. Ranging from a New York cop named something-wicz, to an incident which takes place outside Del Floria’s Tailor Shop. Among the more blatant, are the references to his friend, Jim Butcher’s regular character, Harry Dresden, which will have fans hoping for a full-fledged team-up someday.

I read all four (five) books in three days. Recommended without reservation.