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Hard Spell: An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation by [Gustainis, Justin]
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Hard Spell: An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 120 customer reviews

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Length: 400 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews


“A cool mix of cop show and creature feature. Gustainis had me at ‘meth-addicted goblins’.” - Marcus Pelegrimas, author of the Skinners series

“A magical mystery tour of a murder case rife with supernatural suspects. Sit down for an enchanted evening of otherworldly entertainment!” - Laura Resnick, author of Unsympathetic Magic & Vamparazzi

“Hard Spell deals with hardened professionals looking for supernatural things hiding under rocks, and then dragging them out and giving them a good kicking. The cops act like real cops, the vampires act like real vampires, and the monsters aren’t messing about. The plot twists and turns like a twisty turny thing, and moves like a weasel on speed. The real things feel real, and the supernatural things feel like they might be. The prose is a joy to read, and the whole thing was more fun than is probably legal.” - Simon R Green

“Punchy dialogue, a fun alternate history, explosive action, and a hero whose monsters haunt him even beyond the job… Gustainis has given us a fantastic supernatural cop story that just dares you to put it down!” - Chris Marie Green, author of the Vampire Babylon and Bloodlands books

“I enjoyed every page of Hard Spell. If Sam Spade and Jack Fleming were somehow melted together, you’d get Stan Markowski. I can’t wait to see what Gustainis does next.” - Lilith Saintcrow, author of Night Shift and Working for the Devil

“A winning mix of urban fantasy and hard-boiled detective fiction.” - Jennifer Estep, author of the Elemental Assassin series

"If you’re looking for an author who does gritty cop thriller blended with film noir accompanied by a good helping of Urban Fantasy then you really can’t do better than Justin Gustainis." -Falcata Times

"I was hooked on the very first page." -Lesa's Book Critiques

"Gustainis has had plenty of practice with his art, and here he shows off his exemplar writing skills in a truly entertaining novel." -Theresa Derwin,

"Hard-hitting, gritty detective novel meets the paranormal in a witty and entertaining read."

"Hard Spell is hugely entertaining, enjoyable and just downright awesome."

"Hard Spell is a very good read, one I recommend to fans of Urban Fantasy, paranormal, or even cop dramas." -

"This is definitely a book I will read over and over again!" - The Bibliophilic Book Blog

"Genre mash-ups seem to be all the rage these days, and Justin Gustainis' Hard Spell is a perfect example of how to do them right." - Kate Sherrod,

"...non-stop cop drama with a nice dose of paranormal." - Sara's Urban Fantasy Blog

"This is a really fun read, and is a great start to a new urban fantasy series..." - Suzanne Johnson, author of the upcoming Royal Street

"Hard Spell is a good bit of paranormal fiction that is more crime novel than paranormal one. The two elements are mixed well together, and I would certainly enjoy reading another mystery of the Occult Crimes unit in the future." -John Ottinger,

"Justin Gustainis has given us one of the best supernatural cop stories I’ve ever read."

"Full of suspense, drama, and magic, Gustainis has created another fine fantasy series with interesting characters and riveting mystery. With fast-paced adventure and plenty of twists, the novel was impossible to put down. This new series debut is a must-read for urban fantasy fans."

"Much to my surprise, this was a story that worked well as both an urban fantasy and as a police procedural. Take away the supernatural elements, and there is still a good detective story here, but it's the mix of the two that make this such a great read."

"Gustainis writes with the kind of economy that you might expect in the more standard brand of hard-boiled tale, but he also has a knack for invoking the eerie menace of the supernatural – without going all florid and purple prose on the reader. He skillfully introduces the history of his world’s supernatural elements and brings together his cast of characters in a way that would make Dashiell Hammett or Robert B. Parker proud. His villain’s plan is audacious and well thought out." -Sheldon A. Wiebe, Eclipse Magazine

About the Author

A former Army officer, speechwriter and professional bodyguard, Justin Gustainis is a college professor living in upstate New York. He is the author of The Hades Project (a semi-finalist for the 2003 Stoker award for Best First Novel), Black Magic Woman, Evil Ways and two forthcoming novels: Hard Spell and Sympathy for the Devil. He has also published a number of short stories, two of which won the Graverson Award for Horror in consecutive years. He is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop.

Peter grew up all around New England and graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. An early love for storytelling comes from his dads' magic lantern shows. This obsession led to single-handedly voicing all 32 of his Batman comic books (in his home studio behind the couch). Peter has voiced numerous audiobooks and, although covering many genres, he tends to gravitate to the wildly improbable. His career also includes film, TV, radio, and video games.

Product Details

  • File Size: 828 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Angry Robot (July 7, 2011)
  • Publication Date: July 7, 2011
  • Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J4WMHW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,576 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
In Hard Spell, the first book of the Occult Crimes Unit Investigation series, Stan, his partner, their boss, and their other associates work to ensure that normal and supernatural people (aka `supes') get along by whatever means necessary. After dealing with some difficult cases, Stan Markowski finds himself investigating a series of gruesome vampire murders that might be part of a sacrificial ritual while also dealing with wizards, a cursed book, witchfinders, even more vampires, and a cultist out for revenge.

Despite the backwards way that information was occasionally passed on,* Gustainis' writing was very solid and very engaging throughout. There were also a few typos, but that was nothing compared to a terrific amount of details, an excellent pace, the flow of events, and Stan Markowski and Karl Renfer's partnership. Stan was very much a loner and very much -and somewhat desperately- married to his work. I loved his first person point of view. His sarcastic, more-than-slightly jaded take on things made sense given his job and really just the dangers lurking around every corner of Scranton. However, I was very thankful for Karl being there. He was able to provide a really great sidekick element to the book and also prevented Stan from retreating too deeply in on himself.

Over all, the world-building was excellent and wonderfully well-executed. Gustainis paints a very dark, gritty, edgy picture of a town swarming with supernatural and paranormal activity. While there are plenty of gray areas throughout the novel in regards to supes and several aspects of Stan's primary case, I liked that the vampires, werewolves, ghouls, witches, and cultists were a lot more complicated than simply being good or evil.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Received via Netgalley thanks to Angry Robot publishing.

Release Date: July 26, 2011

To see the publishing blurb for Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis

Grade: Solid B+ or 4 Stars

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 Markowski is a Sergeant with the Scranton, PA Supe Squad. Supes are everywhere, and have converged on Scranton due to it's ley lines. Most are pretty bad, but occasionally you find a supe with an honor code.
I like that Stanley wasn't perfect. He made mistakes and he owns up to them and tries his damnedest to make them right.

When a series of gruesome torture murders shows up on the grid, Stan and his partner Karl, set off to investigate.

There were a lot of surprises in this novel. One was Christine the other was his wife. I felt for Stan, I really did. He had it rough for a while.

Hard Spell is a fairly dark and gritty book. It has it's gruesome moments, along with some funny lines. I love books that combine horror and humor. You need that balance sometimes.

There is no romance in this novel. (Bummer, no sex!)

Overall, if you are a fan of Male Leads, and Harry Dresden type novels, then you will most likely enjoy this novel.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Since discovering Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series a few years ago I've been getting into the whole urban fantasy genre. The trick for me at least is finding a series that's well written and not overly focused on romance. When I saw Hard Spell, the first volume in Justin Gustainis' Occult Crimes Unit series, it looked like a book that was right up my alley.

Like Mike Carey's Felix Castor series, Gustainis introduces a world where supernatural elements such as vampires, wizards and werewolves are a regular part of society. This would, of course, require a specialized police unit to deal with crimes involving these "supes." This is where we meet Detective Stan Markowski, a member of the Scranton, PA Occult Crimes Unit. Stan and his partner are called to investigate the gruesome murder of a local wizard, only to find that the crime is merely the first in a series of ritual murders involving vampires.

Gustainis does a good job introducing his characters and establishing the parameters of the world in which they inhabit. It's not hard to identify with Stan and his supporting characters, and their dialogue is fairly believable considering the subject matter. The story has a brisk pace and a final confrontation that really pays off, while setting the stage for future installments in the series. The only real drawback is that there's a Law & Order-style progression of events that's fairly predictable, and some of the actions Stan and his partner take just don't seem plausible for police officers - supernatural or otherwise. I expect this to some degree this early in a series, so it's not a deal-breaker.

I'd give Hard Spell a solid 3.5 star rating (the same rating I gave the first Dresden Files novel). Despite some flaws, it is a very enjoyable start to what promises to be an enjoyable urban fantasy series. I know I'll be on board for book two.
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