A PARANORMAL POLICE PROCEDURALHARD SPELL by Justin Gustainis is funny and spooky

HARD SPELL (An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation)
Hard Spell
By Justin Gustainis
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Angry Robot (June 16, 2011)
Language: English
KindleEdition: 438 KB
Print Length for Kindle: 400 pages
Publisher: Angry Robot; Original edition (July 7, 2011)
Book provided by publisher in anticipation of a fair review. No financial remuneration was exchanged. The opinions in my reviews are mine unless otherwise specified.

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.”

Jack Webb, Postage Stamp commemorating the TV Show Dragnet.

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 Urban Fantasy mixed with Police Procedural. There is no sex, although body parts are referenced, but there is violence. It is on a level with the Anita Blake series.

I enjoyed the story. It is well written and there were a few times I had to look a word up in a dictionary.  One regionalism is used that I found in the Urban Dictionary: Haina is a word common in the Wyoming Valley where Scranton (the books locale) is located. It derives from, and means, Ain’t It. At first I thought it was Hawaiian.

The characters are well-defined. Some are straight-forward and some we don’t know much about except salient facts.  Stan is a Joe Friday character—a cop’s cop. He has a hard side but knows when something has to be let go. Recovering from the loss of a partner, he is a little wary. His new partner Karl Renfer is also partner is young, interested in the job, and he and Marklowski suit each other well as they share an an equally dry sense of humor. He usually knows what to say to turn Markowski’s head around. Karl, I believe, is a sensitive, I mean in the psychic sense. That sense makes him perceptive and  allows him to haul Markowski’s fat out of the fire a couple of times. Interesting but not overpowering details are given for several incidental characters.  Such detail helps place Stan in a community; and I really felt he was part of this Alternate-Scranton. This adds to the “realness” of this Urban Fantasy. That seems to be a gift the author brings to the story.

The story is interesting, and very creative. The prose is well written and droll, which especially suits the cops. The interactions between the cops is realistic banter at times and serious at others. Gustainis makes the impossible believable partly through that important comic acting skill, not acting as if you are acting funny. In this case it would be don’t act like you know how much disbelief is being suspended, and on the other hand there is a definite time before which the regular humans didn’t know these things that go bump in the night are really here and are very bumpy. Sometimes the language is crude, especially in reference to women by male officers and by one female officer to, as far as I could tell, everyone.

The books pace was good. The story had enough twists to make it unpredictable. It was fun and nostalgic, a bit edgy but not enough that I wasn’t able to put it down.  I recommend the book and think it may be a book men enjoy as well as women.

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