At the heart of Hard Spell is a fairly obvious premise, and one that has been done almost to death over the last few years. Magic and monsters are real and someone has to protect those who can't protect themselves. Still, there must be some life left in the genre yet, as Justin Gustainis proves with his dark and broody novel that pitches a run of the mill human cop against the forces of darkness.
OK, so "run of the mill" may be a little harsh. Our protagonist, Markowski, may be human, but he packs a punch thanks to his crucifix, stakes, holy water, 9mm Beretta with silver bullets and badge. Out magicked but never out gunned, it would seem.
I really did like Hard Spell. I started reading expecting an OK story, but one that I had read countless times before. There are aspects that are so obvious they should maybe have been left out, but Gustainis manages to make the rest seem fresh, and throws in one or two nice twists - such as the only magical good guy getting incapacitated within a couple of chapters, leaving the human cops even more out of their depths. And maybe that is what gives the book such a charm, us Brits love an underdog, and that is certainly what the human police force are in this story. Constantly out of their depths trying to solve a string of gruesome murders and having to take advice from an ancient vampire who is more than likely the killer, the likeable cast of characters never give up.
Highlights include a nice take on the magical communities "coming out" and some great scenes of Markowski getting his head kicked in. Hard Spell is an easy to read blood-fest with a heart. Lovers of good Urban Fantasy are in for a treat.