Laura Summers's Reviews > Hard Spell

Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis
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's review
Apr 02, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: bcc-received, read-in-2012, urban-fantasy, bcc-reviewed
Read from April 18 to May 14, 2012

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HARD SPELL read like an American cop TV show with a supernatural twist. The book follows Stan Markowski a Detective Sergeant on the Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit, a man with a particular hate for vampires, but had his own personal reasons for doing so.

A stolen magical book, some dark black magic sacrifices and vampire killings leaves Stan teaming up with a vampire, much to his distaste. Stan and his very likeable partner Karl, are left desperately trying to stop the sinister killing spree before anything even worse happens.

The book is quite masculine in its tone, this is not a criticism more a comment on style. It’s just a step away from book I usually pick it up, that have a strong female heroine. Stan is one of the good guys, a straight and honourable cop with a wry sense of humour. He has his issues, but in a way that does not make him too troubled or dark, it just flavours his outlook and gives him an edge.

HARD SPELL opens with a tragedy which doesn’t add to the overall story, but gives us a greater understanding of Stan’s character, but also the challenges faced work on the ‘Supe Squad’. It takes a serious amount of guts and a certain degree of creativity! (apologies in advance if you’re offended by swearing, as both my quotes include them):

As we hurried back to the police lines, Paul said, “I ain’t gonna ask if you’re fucking nuts, ’cause I already know the answer to that one. You’re going to try something tricky, right?”

Gustainis seems to be aware of the cop show feel to it, and even digs lightly at the style:

“You know, vampires and wizards and shit – that’s weird enough. But now, we’re in the middle of a fucking ‘buddy cop’ movie.”

The kind of CSI/ Supernatural/ Lethal Weapon (without the comedy) cross worked for me.

Part of the writing that was unusual was the lack of chapters. While there were distinct narrative breaks, I missed my good old friend the chapter as I think it affected the pacing of the novel. The story seemed to move around a lot also with crime scenes in different jurisdictions, getting lost in a little bureaucracy etc. I’m not really sure what the point of this was, perhaps other than the need to introduce different characters, I don’t think it would have detracted from the story to have them all in one place.

I’ve read a few book lately with cracking endings and HARD SPELL is definitely one of these. An explosive, fast paced adrenalin fix with a nice twist to boot. By the end of it, I found myself thinking I definitely will be picking up book two in the series, even if I wasn’t so sure in the middle of it.


HARD SPELL was a nice sojourn from my usual urban fantasy style. Gritty, dark, with a mystery that kept you guessing. I really liked Stan and his sidekick partner Karl, I also would like to see and learn about Stan’s daughter Christine in the next instalment. An enjoyable read for urban fantasy and police drama fans alike.

RATING: 3.5/5

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04/21/2012 page 60
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