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on 21 January 2009
Quincey Morris is a paranormal investigator, sometimes working alone and at other times with colleagues and friends. Hired to help the LaRue family who are the victims of a centuries old curse, he reunites with Libby Chastain, white witch extraordinaire, to investigate the mysterious events that have been plaguing the family since the death of Mrs LaRue's mother. Following leads across the country, Morris and Chastain encounter black witches, demons and zombies in a race to lift the curse before it is too late.

Meanwhile, investigating a series of bloody and brutal murders, Agent Fenton has called in Van Dreenan, a detective who works for the South African Occult Crimes Unit, to assist him. With obvious signs of the murders relating to black magic, Van Dreenan and Fenton are on the hunt, but with only a limited time before the murderers have fulfilled their task will they find them in time?

One of the great things about running a blog is that you come across things, one way or another, that you normally wouldn't look twice at. Black Magic Woman is one of those. Justin Gustainis contacted me before Christmas about an excerpt from his new book, Evil Ways, that was available on Book Spot Central. I had a read of it and even though it's out of my comfort zone, it sounded intriguing and read really easily. Solaris were kind enough to send me a copy of Black Magic Woman, the first book in the series so I could start from the beginning and fully appreciate the story. I tore through the book in a few days and loved every minute of it!

As we join Quincey he's about to take on a house full of vampires in a little town. Not only does this start the ball rolling very nicely, but it also give a very good idea of things to come. Gustainis gets you hooked in quickly and shows you what he can do. Quincey as a character is great, he's got depth and is instantly likable, although not your typical hero type. With no supernatural powers he relies on his knowledge and wits to get him through these situations, he's basically your regular guy with a good idea and experience in what he does. Libby Chastain is very similar, although as a white witch she does have the paranormal on her side. She's also one of those characters that I liked straight away, I found her easy to read and also with a nice depth to her. When a book is about a certain character or characters, like Black Magic Woman, it really helps to like them, something I believe Gustainis has managed remarkably well here.

All the elements of the story are also well plotted, integrated and executed. Everything feels right, there are no wildly unexpected plot twists, although that isn't to say there aren't any surprises in there. The way that the supernatural elements are handled are, at least from a newcomers point of view, easy to grasp and follow. There are no in depth examinations of everything we come across, and that suits the story and characters very well. I was a little on the hesitant side when it comes to these things, but Gustainis is very adept at letting the story tell itself rather than a pause every few pages to go into unnecessary explanation. The narrative flows and this made Black Magic Woman a very hard book to put down.

I was very pleased with Black Magic Woman and enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. The pages kept turning and every time I had to put the book down I was eager to get straight back to it. Even the fact the Black Magic Woman is set in a genre that I don't usually read will make no difference on me keeping up with this series. As long as Justin Gustainis keeps the characters as interesting and enjoyable as they were here I'll be very happy.
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on 28 September 2011
I'm a big fan of urban fantasy novels and by that I specifically mean those stories where one of the main plot elements is not the romantic wrangling of the main character. To me, that very firmly would make such a novel paranormal romance and I've no interest in reading that kind of a story. Thankfully Black Magic Woman is not one of those books. It's a real urban fantasy novel, the sort of book I would put in the same category as Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, Mike Carey's Felix Castor books and Kate Griffin's Matthew Swift series. It's an supernatural investigation where the emphasis is on story and character, not getting a sparkly boyfriend.

It was only recently that I heard about Justin Gustainis from a friend who mentioned the third Quincey Morris novel and the recently released Hard Spell novel from Angry Robot books. I'm always keen to read a decent urban fantasy novel, one where there is lots of invention and the author doesn't just rely on existing tropes, and this is exactly what I found with this.

Black Magic Woman is a solid debut that really begins with a bang. Quincey Morris is the hero of the novel but despite being a professional hunter of creepy things in the night, he is not invulnerable. He comes from a famous family but that doesn't make him faster or smarter than anyone else, so he's not always one step ahead of the bad guys. It makes him feel more realistic and there is always the nagging possibility in the back of your mind that while he might not die, he could get seriously injured. He has experience and knowledge, and both of those help a great deal, but sometimes it just comes down to good old fashioned luck and gradually working your way through an investigation. He's a good guy trying to help out other people and overall is a thoroughly likeable sort of character. His history is fascinating and without spoiling it, he has quite a lot to live up to in terms of his ancestors.

Quincey doesn't possess any magic of his own but he is used to dealing with various supernatural beings and is well versed in the lore which comes in very handy. He sometimes works with a partner, Libby Chastain, a white witch and she lends him an expert hand from time to time. This partnership has obviously proven successful in the past and once again they team up to tackle something that involves black magic, a curse, ritual sacrifice and Salem.

Another difference from some of the other urban fantasy novels I've mentioned is that Black Magic Woman is not written in the first person. We follow the story with Quincey and Libby, but also see it from the perspective of two agents on the ritual murder case and those involved in causing all of the trouble. This approach allows us to see other parts of the story for ourselves and not hear about them after the fact or through a filter of someone else's perception.

All of the characters in the story are well rounded individuals and even the villains are believable in their motivation and not one dimensional caricatures. You might not sympathise or even like them but they are all fascinating. One of my favourite characters was actually someone who only appeared for a few chapters and I was sad to see him go, which tells you something about Gustainis's characters. The different parts of the story fit together very well and the threads pull tighter as it goes along into a real cohesive whole. Some authors are gardeners, those who write from their gut, and others are architects, working to a well-constructed plan. I might be wrong but it felt to me that Gustainis was the latter as nothing felt forced or inserted at the last minute and any plot twists felt natural in their evolution. Jim Butcher is well renowned for his planning and all of his books have a certain rhythm and it was the same with Black Magic Woman.

The book is well paced and the short punchy chapters with cliff-hangers meant I whipped through it in a few days. It was very easy to read, it wasn't exposition heavy and overall it was a really enjoyable and exciting read. Based on the strength of this novel I will definitely be picking up both the next two Morris and Chastain books and also Hard Spell which follows a different character that has a very minor cameo in this novel. Gustainis is an exciting new voice in urban fantasy and is definitely worth watching.
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on 12 April 2008
There is a new cool paranormal writer on the block and his name is 'Justin Gustaninis'. This first novel in the 'Quincey Morris Supernatural Investigation' series totally took me by surprise and has left me dying for more!

The prologue caught my attention. Then the first chapter (was apparentky also apeared iin a book called 'A Fistful of Fangs') made me realise that this was definitely going to be good. I was not wrong!

This book has everything from Black & White Magic to Voodoo. There are Vampires, Demons and some other nasty things that go bump in the night. Then there is Quincy Morris and Libby Chastain a pair of great Supernatural investigators that make the job look soooooo cool!

This book has alot of angles that come together nicely. Some amazing characters and a brilliant storyline that just had me completley hooked from page 1. I loved the style and I am really happy to see that we have another great male writer on the scene!

I am really looking forward to the next part in this series 'Evil Ways'. I haven't found a release date yet but it has earned a really high place on my 'must read asap' list.
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on 12 June 2016
Paranormal investigator Quincey Morris along with white witch Libby Chastain are called into help a family who are plagued by a curse going back to the Salem Witch trials.

I found this book quite a quirky read with a likeable duo, who are like a paranormal Mulder and Scully. Both characters gelled together and I would read more of them in the future.

The story did seem to have a lot of characters and did think how was they all going to fit into the story, but as the book progresses its all becomes clear.

The story was ok and plodded along with I think every supernatural demon thrown in for good measure.

I would recommend this read to anybody who likes the tv series Supernatural and The X files, and to anyone who likes a bit of the dark side or just something different.
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on 26 January 2015
I think the description is misleading as it suggests that there is a mystery element to it.There isn't , this is, as the blurb on the back cover says,a paranormal thriller. And I think that's the main problem for me. I'm not into thrillers and if that had been mentioned in the Amazon description I'd never have bought it. It jumps between different characters and events and I just found it very difficult to get into. I ended up not finishing it. If you're into thrillers and urban fantasy this may be for you, but if you prefer the more typical urban fantasy you might want to give this one a miss, maybe try his Occult Crimes Unit series instead.
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on 30 July 2013
A good read if a little heavy on religious imagery . Interesting characters a well paced plot solidly entertaining overall
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on 28 March 2015
For fans of Harry Dresden-thoroughly entertaining page turner with good characters and a well told story. if the rest of the series are nearly as good as this one I'll be happy. I had tried the author's anthology "Those who fight monsters", which was scarily bad, so this book was a risk , but luckily it's paid off. Lots of sex, violence, bad language and horror: what's not to love?
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on 7 February 2008
I'd read such good reviews about this book. I mean Jim Butcher, recommended it, along with Rachel Caine, authors that I love. But I guess I just didn't get it. The plot was there and reasonably fresh, but I felt the whole book was missing something. The writing style just felt flat. It's something that a lot of "Urban Fantasy" books are missing these days. I guess I was just disappointed by this book because I was so sure that it was going to be on a par with Mike Carey' Felix Castor books or Jim Butcher's Dresden books.

Maybe I'm being unfair with the three star review but I felt that the characters just lacked emotion or likability. If they're in pain I expect my characters to be in pain, feel the pain, for me it's just not good enough for it to be mentioned once then barely brought up again and likewise with them being scared or uncertain. I want to be in their head. There were just a few flaws that let this book down for me and stopped it from being a great book. Characterisation is a very tricky thing for an author to master but once Justin Gustainis manages it I have no doubt that he's going to be a fabulous writer. As for me, I'm going to miss out on his next few books but I'll be keeping an eye out for him to see if he manages to get his writing style up to match Jim's and Mike's.

As for recommendation; If you haven't read any of the above mentioned books then I'd definitely give them a go first as they're superb. But, by all means, give Black Magic Woman a shot, I just had to point out that it wasn't an instant love for me.
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on 13 November 2012
Good light read that contains enough substance to keep the reader enagaged. I have read this and the second book in the series Evil Ways and my interest was maintained via interesting character development which in my mind is as important as the story whn reading a fantasy series. Looking forward to the third book.
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on 1 May 2015
A slightly different take on urban fantasy with a private investigator and a white which. neither is superman and your really feel they at risk, so different from many others. I have just finished this, the first novel, and have ordered the second!
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