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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis

Title: Hard Spell
Author: Justin Gustainis
Series: Occult Crimes Unit Investigation #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 07/26/11
Reviewed by: Sara
But the Book:
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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.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Dial V For Vampire | Forbidden Spells | Bite Club | Scranton By Night ]

Plot: 4.5 Stars
This was my first Angry Robot title (although I have a few waiting on my TBR pile), and I definitely wasn't disappointed. I'm always drawn to their books when browsing because of the little box on the back where they explain the genre it should be filed as and include four buzz-phrases that are always amusing. It makes them stand out and guarantees I'll pick a new title up. But back to Hard Spell. This novel was non-stop cop drama with a nice dose of paranormal. I liked that the paranormal elements didn't take over, which allowed the cop drama to shine through. I also liked that the paranormal creatures were frightening and not to be messed with. I also love a good Urban Fantasy with a male main character.

Pace: 4.5 Stars
This novel has no chapters. As mind boggling as that sounds, you did not read that wrong. This novel had no chapters at all. I put off reading this novel a little due to this fact, but it ended up not being a problem because there were tons of page breaks. The longest the novel ever goes between page breaks is 16-17 pages. I've read chapters twice that length. It took maybe fifty pages for me overcome my issue with the lack of chapters, and then I was hooked and couldn't put the novel down. This novel had more twists and turns than I knew what to do with, and kept me guessing until the very end.

Characters: 5 Stars
Stan had so many layers. It seemed like every time I thought I had figured him out, he peeled back another layer and surprised me again. I really liked that the beginning of the novel gives a bit of background into Stan's career. The reader gets to meet his first partner, and read some of the events that brought him up to the present investigation. His family life, or lack there of, will definitely take readers by surprise. Karl, Stan's partner, was a great character to balance Stan. Sometimes it seemed like Karl was a friend to Stan, and not just a partner, which Stan definitely needed at some point. I wish Rachel had played a larger part in the novel, because it was a predominantly male novel, and I hope she comes back with a bigger role in the next novel.

Cover: 4 Stars
This cover describes the novel perfectly. The two detectives on the cover are a great fit for Stan and his partner. I love that the cover is an image from a crime scene. It tells you right away that police procedural will be highlighted in this novel. And it wasn't just a crime scene, it was a paranormal crime scene, which makes sense given the department Stan works for. The only element (and it's very tiny) that didn't completely work for me was the vampire victim. Not gonna lie, his expression freaks me out a tiny bit. Luckily, the image is small enough that he doesn't freak me out too much. The bright yellow title will definitely draw the eye, and stand out against the novels next to it on the shelf.

Overall: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel for review from Angry Robot.

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