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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping hardly covers it.
This is a combined review of the first two books in the series, based on review copies supplied by the publisher.

Books set in an alternate reality, where vampires, werewolves, witches and other supernatural beings are not only real, but are known to exist by the general populace, are not uncommon these days. They are rarely this well handled. Gustainis...
Published on 4 July 2013 by David L. Brzeski

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Poor Second Instalment.
I really loved the first book in this series and I suggest you read it: "Hard Spell". This book "Evil Dark" seems quite different from the first as I don't remember the casual homophobic and misogynistic attitude of the main players in the first book. The writer has in my opinion given the book a 1950's noire feel and it doesn't work. I hated the wise cracks; they weren't...
Published on 8 May 2012 by Amazon Customer


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping hardly covers it., 4 July 2013
This is a combined review of the first two books in the series, based on review copies supplied by the publisher.

Books set in an alternate reality, where vampires, werewolves, witches and other supernatural beings are not only real, but are known to exist by the general populace, are not uncommon these days. They are rarely this well handled. Gustainis cleverly rewrites our history in the light of the existence of "supes". The McCarthy witch-hunt, for instance, was actually a witch hunt. The civil rights movement fought for the rights of supernatural beings. There are endless cultural (and pop cultural) references which help in creating a believable background for these books.
'Hard Spell', introduces us to Stan Markowski of Scranton PD's Occult Crimes Unit. We also have meth addicted goblins, a vampire wizard and a serial killer who is targeting "supes". As the book progresses, we meet the new partner he has to break in, the department's consulting witch, a very different sort of SWAT team and eventually find out just why Markowski hates vampires.
It's fast paced, witty and scary and would get a good review from me on its own.
'Evil Dark', however, is even better. Despite all the fantasy supernatural elements, Gustainis never loses the authentic feel of the Scranton Police department and the people who work there. They act like real cops, working in a real precinct. The story is as hard-bitten and scary as any classic serial killer novel.
Someone is making a truly twisted variant on "snuff films", and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Markowski has to deal with his partner's new status, the FBI, neo-nazi human supremacists and a new top dog in the supernatural community, all the while trying to avoid being murdered himself.
Things get genuinely nasty and Gustainis builds the tension brilliantly. Gripping hardly covers it. I simply couldn't put the book down until I'd finished it. It has to be said that Gustainis has a slightly annoying habit of not bothering with numbered, or titled chapters, which means every time you get to a point where you might have stopped reading for a bit, you've already gone beyond it without noticing.
I think he does that on purpose!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A terrifically entertaining read, 8 May 2012
I seem to be developing a taste for supernatural police procedurals. After discovering and loving Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London and Moon over Soho last year and Scott Sigler's Nocturnal last month, this month it was Justin Gustainis' Evil Dark and its protagonist Stan Markowski's turn. I had a tremendous amount of fun with this book. Its writing and tone of voice hooked me from the first page and by the end of the book I was disappointed that it was over so soon, as I would have happily spent another three hundred pages with its characters.

The atmosphere Gustainis creates with his writing is fabulous. From the first page you get a feel for not only who Stan Markowski is, but also in what kind of town he operates. While some of the characters were archetypal, the fact that I thought them so might be due to the fact that I've read and watched a lot of police procedurals. There is the rugged, older main character, with his younger, slightly goofy partner, the gruff squad captain with his heart in the right place and the sexy, sassy female cop love interest among others. And naturally, the cops and the FBI have a hard time playing nice with each other. But archetypal or no, these characters are definitely a bit different, as they are part of a police squad that deals with occult crimes, that means crimes involving or committed by supernatural creatures ranging from vampires to ghouls and goblins. In fact, Stan's partner Karl and his daughter Christine are vampires themselves. Not having read the first book in the Occult Crimes Unit series, I'm not sure about much of Stan, Karl and Christine's back story, other than that it involved getting Karl and Christine turned into vampires to save their lives - or undeath, such as it is - but we do see Stan having mixed feelings about this change in his partner and daughter. There is a lot of hidden depth to Markowski's calm exterior, which makes him interesting to read about, even if a lot of that depth remains unilluminated, though I can't be sure whether it's truly unknown or things revealed in the previous book. Karl, with his James Bond obsession and his rather unique perspective on their case, is a good foil for Stan's serious demeanour and their verbal exchanges are some of the highlights of the book.

The different supernatural creatures found in Evil Dark are a natural part of the story's world, not monsters hidden from human society, but integrated and every day. In fact, I loved the alternate world Gustainis has created. His Cranston is a place unlike our own, but at the same time it could still be the next town over from ours. The supernatural creatures aren't just an everyday part of life; they even have their own history, such as ogres and goblins being distantly-related. They have even penetrated popular culture; there is a website called Drac's List, where vampires can meet potential 'donors', James Bond starred in From Transylvania with Love, Steinbeck's bestseller is Of Elves and Men and Stan buys his daughter something special for dinner at Sup'r-Natural Foods or the local Vlad-Mart. The little details Gustainis manages to drop into the narrative in this manner are awesome and add up to a very convincing alternate reality.

In this very real supernatural environment, we are presented with a frightening case which Stan and Karl get handed by the FBI; there are people making supernatural snuff films, not the urban-myth kind, the real deal. With such a big case on their plate, Stan and Karl get busy, but it seems that every day sees more cases added to their workload as the unit is inundated with cases. Gustainis manages to make all of the cases fit together in a way that leads to a surprising conclusion, one I very much enjoyed.

Evil Dark was a terrifically entertaining read, which kept me invested in its characters from beginning to end. Now I want to read Hard Spell, just so I can spend some more time with Stan, Karl, Christine and the rest, after which I'll eagerly await the as-yet untitled third book. A fun, fast read centred on an interesting case to solve, Evil Dark is a recommended read for anyone who likes police procedurals or the supernatural without sparkles or tramp stamps and leather pants.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking Evil, 26 April 2012
By 
Ms. Theresa M. Derwin (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Evil Dark
Author: Justin Gustainis
Publisher: Angry Robot
Page count: 416pp
Release date: 3rd May 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

"My name's Markowski. I carry a badge. Also a crucifix, some wooden stakes, big vial of holy water and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets."
Detective Stan Markowski, first seen in Hard Spell returns in Evil Dark, a supernatural murder mystery thriller. With a cool noir vibe and lively characters, Stan in particular, Evil Dark is a welcome return to Gustainis' world. Stan has a daughter Christine, who is a vampire and his partner Detective Renfer is also a recently turned vampire.

In the midst of a series of murders, the FBI visits the Occult Crimes Team to show them something disturbing and new; a supernatural snuff film. One of a number of these films, it seems Markowski has something new to investigate. The victims are varied but evidence shows that the snuff films, featuring a possessed person torturing the victim, were filmed in Markowski's home town of Scranton.
At the same time, a serial killer has been kidnapping witches and literally burning them at the stake.

This novel at its core is a supernatural police procedural however, it is so much more. Filled with witty quips and clever one-liners, pop culture references set in this alternative universe and more importantly, highlighting discrimination against the `other', in this case vampires and witches, the novel is funny yet food for serious thought. Gustainis uses the novel to consider religion and racism whilst still retaining a sense of fun, and some rather gruesome bits too.

Gustainis has proved himself time and time again, and it is no surprise to me that Evil Dark is another cracking novel. Featuring meth-addicted goblins, suicidal fairies and ogres in bar fights this is well worth investing in.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Name to Test UF by, 28 April 2012
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
The Occult Crimes Unit returns in a new tale that not only hits the spot but pokes fun at the real world with this cracking new title. It has everything a reader could want, beautiful women, treacherous twists and when backed with Justin's tongue in cheek style alongside a cracking lead character, it's a tale of absolute Urban Fantasy delight.

Back this up with great prose, a wonderful twist of fate that keeps you guessing and of course a whole host of colourful supporting cast members and all in it's a book that satisfies on so many levels. All in a cracking read and a tale that demonstrates why I'm such a huge Gustainis fan. Finally on a final note, if you're finding waiting for the new Dresden book hard, then please give Justin a try, for me, he's a wonderful diversion and another name to watch.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jules, Bath, 30 July 2012
I loved this second instalment as much as I loved the first book. The story was engrossing right from the outset, with a strong plot line, well developed characters, smart and snappy dialogue, danger, humour and lots of action - what more could you want?! So glad to see that there`s going to be at least another book in the series.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great second installment, 26 July 2012
By 
Jp Hanson "halfday35" (uk) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
this is the second in the series and carries on from the first. the characters are fleshed out more and the ground work for great series is laid. no idea why another review slated it but its efinitely a good read and kept me turning the pages. no spoilers read it yourself and enjoy.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Police Procedural in an alternate reality, 19 April 2013
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This is the first book that I have read by this author and I'm impressed. Before buying I read the reviews and thought that I'd enjoy it and it was worth every penny. I only regret is that I read book two before book one (which I have now got,) so I know more or less what is due to happen to the characters. It's interesting to have a cop-based supernatural thriller as a lot of the occult detectives in other works can be a bit irritating like Carnacki and John Silence. If my town was invaded by the Undead, I'd feel safe in the hands of the Scranton PD.

Peter Birchwood
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Evil Dark, 31 Mar. 2013
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These detectives belong to a branch of the police department that has been set up to deal with the unusual. Well written, like his first novel in this series, it has the feel of a dark police thriller but with the twist that the crimes they investigate are spawned by the supernatural. Vampires, witches, etc are treated as equal citizens with equal rights, but with just a few quirks that makes them slightly different from the average Joe. Have to admit I loved the first novel more, this one is just a leetle bit too bloody, but doesn't alter the fact that I like this series.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great read, 2 Feb. 2013
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the series continues at great pace well recommended cant wait for the next installment cant wait to read more from this author
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Poor Second Instalment., 8 May 2012
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I really loved the first book in this series and I suggest you read it: "Hard Spell". This book "Evil Dark" seems quite different from the first as I don't remember the casual homophobic and misogynistic attitude of the main players in the first book. The writer has in my opinion given the book a 1950's noire feel and it doesn't work. I hated the wise cracks; they weren't wise or funny, they continually fell flat to me. An uninteresting cliché ridden story and plot. The main character Markowski will make a comment about something and feel the need to explain why, this was constant and really irritated me. The dialogue is clunky and cliché after cliché follows. The dialogue between Markowski and his vampire partner Karl, doesn't flow naturally and is trite to the point of incredulity, yes I was bored by the book and was glad to finish it. Mr Gustainis is obviously a very good author but this is a poorly written book -is the publisher sure he wrote it? I'm so disappointed by this book and I hope the next one has moved from a 1950's conceit with all the baggage that brings.
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Evil Dark: An Occult Crime Unit Investigation
Evil Dark: An Occult Crime Unit Investigation by Justin Gustainis (Mass Market Paperback - 24 April 2012)
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