Hard Spell: An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation

by Mk

in Fantasy & Supernatural,Fiction,Mysteries & Thrillers

Hard SpellI got a chance recently to read Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis. It’s Book #1 in the new Occult Crimes Unit Investigation series being published by Angry Robot, a relatively new Harper Collins imprint. If this one is an indication of their releases, I’m really looking forward to reviewing more novels from Angry Robot in the coming months.

Stan Markowski is the man – to be more precise he’s a detective sergeant in the Scranton, PA, police department’s supernatural crimes investigation unit a.k.a. the Supe Squad. I love that this novel takes place in an alternative Scranton because for some reason it just makes me snicker to think of supes (supernaturals) roaming the streets of a place like Scranton.

In Markowski’s America, the end of World War II saw soldiers bringing a little something extra back with them from the war. In the 50 intervening years people have been coming to terms with the fact that supernaturals now walk among them. And that’s become accepted as long as those supes obey the laws like everybody else.

“When a vampire puts the bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that’s when they call me. My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge. Also a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets. I was never a Boy Scout, but ‘Be prepared’ is still a good motto to live by. Especially if you plan to keep on living.”

Thanks to Justin for letting me know about the book trailer. He’s right, it does rock!

Big Paul di Napoli was Markowski’s partner for four years and they worked well together until they ran into some goblins on meth during a burglary investigation. Now Markowski has a rookie replacement partner, Karl Renfer, who’s only been on the squad for 6 months. Markowski is definitely not thrilled by the prospect of having a kid who’s about 30 years old as a partner, especially one that O’Brien basically said was a coward. Renfer and Markwoski are like oil and water but they make a pretty good team, adding tension and a lot of laughs to Hard Spell.

Someone in Scranton is killing supes and our fearless crime fighters are assigned to this serial killer case. I’m not going to tell you about the case because it would give away too many spoilers but it makes for a very nice roller coaster ride.

And now for a treat – You can read a sample chapter of Hard Spell here to see how you like it. You won’t be taken away from our web site. When you click on the book cover, it will pop up into a full screen for reading. When you finish, hit ESC and you’ll come back to this part of our web site.

Hard Spell is a mixture of hard-boiled buddy-cop adventure, fantasy, and thriller all rolled into one, and it works seamlessly. I laughed out loud a lot while reading it. It managed to be funny and one hell of a roller coaster ride while feeling authentic and realistic. It was very refreshing to read about supernatural characters who are three-dimensional instead of just good or evil.

I can’t wait to see what happens in Book #2, Evil Dark! I’m not sure if I can wait until its release next Spring (bites nails). Yep, this one’s a keeper!

Hard Spell is being released as a $7.99 paperback book on June 26, 2011, but can be pre-ordered now. I believe the 99-cent e-book may be available now, if not then it can be pre-ordered. If you’d like to buy it, just click on your online bookseller of choice in the upper right column.

If you’ve read Hard Spell, or anything by Justin Gustainis, we’d love to get your comments. We’d also love to hear your comments about this review.

If you like our review, please +1 it and/or share it with your friends!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Justin Gustainis July 23, 2011 at 10:35 am

The book also has a *totally kick-ass* video trailer, which can be found here:


It rocks. Seriously.


Mk July 23, 2011 at 10:56 am

Of course it rocks Justin! Thanks for the book trailer link! Glaring omission on my part. I just watched it and it really does rock, so I’m adding it to the review. Thanks for the heads up!


Kimberly Oswalt October 23, 2011 at 5:37 pm

This seems like it would be a great Halloween read. It’s a little different than an average supernatural tale.


Lisa Richards October 26, 2011 at 5:24 am

Omg! I can so see this as an upcoming TV series! I love the sound of it.


MUKTA October 18, 2013 at 10:34 am

Do u deal with psycic crimes?? What can be done about psycic attacks with knives and needles???


Mk October 18, 2013 at 10:42 am

I don’t deal with crime at all – I just read and review books. Best of luck to you – maybe consult a psychic? No clue…


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