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Hard Spell

(Occult Crimes Unit Investigation #1)

by
3.63  ·  Rating details ·  2,450 ratings  ·  230 reviews
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
...more
Paperback, 382 pages
Published July 26th 2011 by Angry Robot (first published July 1st 2011)
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Paul Wells Police procedural with a limited range of supernatural entities. But if you're reading Butcher I think you'd not object to read this as well.

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Average rating 3.63  · 
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 ·  2,450 ratings  ·  230 reviews


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carol.
Jul 02, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of A.Martinez

So I'm perusing the shelves of the half-price bookstore and happen to find Hard Spell, which I was pretty sure was on my TBR list under a special category for some reason. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember why. Was it because the author was a troll? Because a librarian said it kicked butt? Because it was the next best thing since sliced Harry Potter? I took the risk, bought it and as soon as I was home, checked my GR TBR list.

Well.

The answers were no, no, and most certainly no.

But it was fun,
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Jeffrey Keeten
Feb 07, 2013 rated it liked it
This is the city--Scranton, Pennsylvania.
It’s a good place to live and raise a family--apart from vampires, werewolves, ghouls, wizards, and the occasional demon.
Scranton’s got a “live and let unlive” relationship with the supernatural, just like everyplace else. But when a vamp puts the bit 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
...more
Maja (The Nocturnal Library)
The city of Scranton, Pennsylvania abounds with supernatural beings of all sorts – vampires, werewolves, ghouls, wizards and the occasional demon. Of course, with all this magic out in the open, the ‘live and let unlive’ policy the city is so proud of doesn’t always work out very well. There are witches who use black magic, a vampire is likely to bite an unwilling victim (especially if he thinks he can get away with it) and goblins have developed a liking for bank robberies and meth. The Occult ...more
ᴥ Irena ᴥ
Imagine a supernatural stereotype. You can probably find it here. I thought I'd like this more than I did.

I have to try very hard to think of characters from other books that talk more than these do. A reader needs an explanation? Two people start talking about a thing even though they both know about it. World information? There is a small flood of info-dumping in the beginning, but it is later spread equally throughout the book (conversations, Markowski's inner thoughts and so on). They are in
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Jennifer Estep
Apr 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis is the first book in his Occult Crimes Unit Investigation urban fantasy series.

Stan Markowski is a detective in Scranton, Pennsylvania, who's responsible for policing all the things that go bump in the night, like vampires, werewolves, goblins, wizards, and other supernatural creatures, aka supes. In fact, Stan is on what's known as the Supe Squad (the Occult and Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit). Stan has his hands full with his job, and he has some other
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Nikki
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, mystery
Hard Spell isn't the best thing I've ever read, but it was fun -- fairly typical in some ways, for urban fantasy, but still, compelling enough that I finished it and have grabbed the second book from my TBR pile. There's a lot of male gaze-y stuff going on, with a couple of blatant male fantasy characters, but there are some surprises too -- the main character starts with some prejudices pretty well fixed, but he's able to change with the circumstances, which makes for a pretty satisfying end.

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Mike (the Paladin)
I was a little stressed....ambivalent about the rating here. had we half stars I'd have gone 2.5. On the other hand I didn't want to go a simple 2 as that means (for me) that it's verging between almost dislike and dislike. The book itself is pretty good but there are things about it that truly bug me.

First just so you know some of what I don't care for comes from my own pet peeve list. I'm reading the book(s) (at least the first couple) but I really don't care for "sympathetic" vampires. I
...more
Blodeuedd Finland
Jun 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Original review posted over at Book Lovers Inc

I always say that you should try all kinds of genres and books that are out there, but do I follow it? Not really and that is why I wanted to try this book. It is urban fantasy but not the kind I am used to. No kick-ass woman in leather and sexual tension between her and whoever alpha hottie that is around. Instead we have an older guy, a detective in this more old school detective novel with supernatural elements. I am thinking of that more
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Mrs. Badass
This was a fast paced, interesting novel. It reminded me a lot of Harry Dresden by Jim Butcher, which was a good thing as I love Harry. It's not that Stan reminded me of Harry per say, just the way the novel was written. Justin has a very loose style of writing. It flows naturally out of the MC. There are not a lot of Male protagonists--written by a man-- which was I requested to read this novel from Angry Robot via Netgalley. I'm glad I did!

Stanley is a Sergeant with the Scranton, PA Supe
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Cathy
Social networking in action! This one has had quite a buzz on Twitter and I was eager to try it. It lived up to the rep, I enjoyed it very much. It has a neat style, coming across primarily as a sort of cool police procedural, with lots of rough language, dry with, very old cop show style. Plus vampire and witches and goblins and many more supernatural things. And taking place in Scranton, PA, a departure in and of itself. It started off a bit, well, not slow by any means, it was interesting ...more
Ken B
Jun 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Hard Spell" was a great introduction to "new to me" author, Justin Gustainis.

Gustainis' detective, Stan Markowski, operates in a world where vampires, ghouls, trolls and werewolves are common place. Markowski's job on the Scranton Police Department's Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit has him investigating crimes that cross into the supernatural (supe) community or often where the supe community and the human world collide. He walks a philosophical tightrope, balancing the intricacies of
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Angela Verdenius
Aug 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely enjoyed this story! It's got it all - magic, supernaturals, cops & crime. The main character doesn't have any magic at all, which is a big change as most UF heroes have magic of some form. I'm off to check out the rest of the books in the series - highly recommend this read if you're looking for something different in the crime/UF genre.
Ben Babcock
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dean
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dean by: Justin Gustainis
"Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent."

OK, I know, that's from "Dragnet."

That was my first take when I started reading this book.
I was hearing Joe Friday in my head.
"This is the city - Scranton, Pennsylvania." - Stan Markowski-Police Officer-Occult Crimes Unit
Get it?
I think Gustainis did.

First disclosure: I received a copy of this book/series from the author requesting an "honest review."
Mr. Gustainis hit me up in the
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Trekscribbler
Mar 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
HARD SPELL Ain't No 'Hard Sell'

“My name is Markowski. I carry a badge.” And so it begins, the continuing saga of Scranton PD’s Occult Crimes Unit lead detective, Stan Markowski, as detailed by author Justin Gustainis in the Angry Robot imprint, HARD SPELL.

To be fair, this is the second book I’ve read off the Angry Robot imprint. The first one? Well, let’s just leave it at it was written by another author, and I found it so confusing that I didn’t even write a review. HARD SPELL, on the other
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Mike
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
The first thing that drew me to Justin Gustainis’ Hard Spell is the cover. The layout, title and art style are all explicitly designed to mimic that of Hard Case Crime, itself a recent imprint (founded in 2004) whose covers are known to mimic pulp covers of the 40s and 50s. Always on the lookout for clever use of the fantastic combined with pulpish fun Hard Spell quickly jumped to the top of my read list. While Gustainis has written several other novels in the Urban Fantasy vein this is my first ...more
Jen
Jul 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: x-read-in-2011
Its a real honest to goodness Detective story! When I first got this book in the mail, one look at the cover and the voice of Dan Aykroyd from Dragnet (1987) popped in my head - and THAT is the voice of Stan :)

This book is awesome! It starts off explaining the way the Supernatural’s (Supes) came to be known to the world (when Vamps and Were's came home from WW II ) and now living in an everyday life with the rest of us plain old humans .

Stan Markowski is a human - and he's a Decective - but he
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jD
Hard Spell was so much more than what I expected. I have not read any other work by Justin Gustainis but I can tell by this offering that he is a talented writer.

The hero and main character is Officer Stan Markowski. He is a Detective Sergeant on the Scranton PD's Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit. In Markowski's world supernatural beings such as weres, vamps, gobblins, witches, and nightmare creatures are real and have civil rights. I purchased this book earlier in the summer shortly after
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Stephanie
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Sadly, I am about to "date myself"by referencing a TV show actually older I am! Stan Markowski, the Detective Sergeant who wrote the How to Recognize a Vampire Guest Post yesterday is a lot of Dragnet's Joe Friday and a lot of CSI or another modern police procedural drama. Now, Dragnet's Joe Friday, played by the shows creator and producer, Jack Webb, would start each episode off by describing a person and a crime then he would say, My name is Friday. I carry a badge

This is a good example of
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So, I Read This Book Today
Mar 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Urban Fantasy
Recommended to So, I Read This Book Today by: Publisher
"My name’s Markowski, a Detective Sergeant on the Scranton PD’s Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit. I carry a badge. Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets." - Markowski, Hard Spell

Death is when the monsters get you. - Stephen King

Scranton, Pennsylvania fifty years after WWII is a different place than one might expect. When millions of Americans poured into Europe to fight in the war, they picked up a little something
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Mike (the Paladin)
Mar 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: urban-fantasy
I was a little stressed....ambivalent about the rating here. had we half stars I'd have gone 2.5. On the other hand I didn't want to go a simple 2 as that means (for me) that it's verging between almost dislike and dislike. The book itself is pretty good but there are things about it that truly bug me.

First just so you know some of what I don't care for comes from my own pet peeve list. I'm reading the book(s) (at least the first couple) but I really don't care for "sympathetic" vampires. I
...more
Beth Cato
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013, fantasy, urban
I used to be a Law & Order junkie. I watched every incarnation of the show. As soon as I started reading this book, I had to laugh, as it immediately struck me as Law & Order detectives investigate the paranormal. The voice is thick and heavy, abounding with profanity and dry wit, with a gravelly noire feel. Sure, it's a cliche, but one that has some truth to it from what I've seen. Plus, why mess with a good formula? You have a cop who recently lost his partner. You have the new ...more
Laurie
I loved this book! Set in Scanton, Pennsylvania, a veritable hotbed of paranormal activity, Stan Markowski and his new partner, Karl Renfer, race the clock trying to find out who ritualistically killed a powerful vampire magician. When a spell goes seriously awry, Stan is unwittingly responsible for putting another close friend and colleague in terrible danger.

The uneasy, untested relationship between Stan and Karl was realistic and believable. As their partnership gained cohesion there
...more
Sheila
In a world where the paranormal is just another dark part of normal, cops will surely need a specialized crime squad to deal with magic and myth. Author Justin Gustainis provides just the team, with Detective Stan Markowski , who carries badge and crucifix, wooden stakes and more. SWAT team takes on a whole new meaning (Sacred Weapons and Tactics) but works the same way, and violence and politics continue their underhand agreements, just as in the real world. Just read the Scranton Times-Tribune ...more
Ladiibbug
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
#1 Occult Crimes Unit Investigation - Urban Fantasy

Strong 5 stars! Superb hard boiled UF, exceptionally well written, outstanding complex plot, fast moving, characters sharply described -- BRAVO!

Highly Recommend to UF fans.

Kicking myself for having this on the shelf for so long.

Stan Markowski and Karl Renfer are with Scranton, PA's Occult Crime Unit. "America has an uneasy 'live and let unlive' relationship with the supernaturals. The OCU steps in when the a witch casts a forbidden spell, or a
...more
Nancy D   Miz-Firefly aka Sparky
I'm loving this new trend - The Para Police Procedural. Think Dragnet with Vampires and Werewolfs and you won't be far off. Hard Spell is a whole lotta fun
Dark Faerie Tales
Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Review Courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: A suspense filled supernatural detective story, with a little day-to-day realism thrown in for good measure.

Opening Sentence: This is the city – Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The Review:

Here is what I like about Hard Spell; the detectives come across like their real counterparts. Real police officers have to put themselves into real danger, and are forced to make split second decisions with lasting consequences. Given their inherently important
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Paul
Jun 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meet Stan Markowski of the Scranton PD’s Occult Crimes 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 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…

When I read an author’s work for the first time I tend to go
...more
Shera (Book Whispers)
Genre: Urban Fantasy

The first 20 to 30 pages of this book were an utter fail for me. The potential was there, but the book kept jumping around all willy-nilly. To me a good book doesn’t need to throw things out randomly at the beginning to build the story and the world, the author reveals it bit by bit through the eyes of the character. Despite this terrible start, Hard Spell pulls out beautifully and delivers a fantastic investigative story that gives readers a gritty insight to being a
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Qwill / The Qwillery
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Hard Spell is the first book in the Occult Crimes Unit Investigations series by Justin Gustainis. I've read a lot of books recently that include some sort of supernatural crime investigation unit - either with humans policing supernaturals, with supernaturals as police/law enforcement or both. I have not read anything quite like this.

While I am not an expert on noir, Hard Spell is definitely noirish. Stan Markowski, the main character, is fairly hard-boiled, he's got an air of desperation about
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Justin Gustainis was born in Northeast Pennsylvania in 1951. He attended college at the University of Scranton, a Jesuit university that figures prominently in several of his writings.

After earning both Bachelor's and Master's degrees, he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the U. S. Army.

Mr. Gustainis currently lives in Plattsburgh, New York. He is a Professor of Communication at Plattsburgh State
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Other books in the series

Occult Crimes Unit Investigation (3 books)
  • Evil Dark (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation, #2)
  • Known Devil (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation, #3)
“My name is 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 living.”
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“on meth." Matthews shook his head. "Just what we fuckin' need.” 3 likes
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