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I Belong

Review: Evil Dark by Justin Gustainis

Evil Dark (#2) by Justin GustainisTitleEvil Dark

Author: Justin Gustainis

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Occult Crimes Unit Investigation (Book 2)

Publication Date: April 24, 2012

Format: Paperback, 400 Pages

ISBN-10: 0857661361 (Angry Robot)

ISBN-13: 978-0857661364 (Angry Robot)

Reviewed by: Sheila


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.

A series of seemingly motiveless murders of supernatural creatures points to a vigilante targeting the supe community. Markowski wouldn’t normally have much of a problem with that, but his daughter may be next on the killer’s list…

Quick & Dirty: Suspense driven, crime stopping, sarcasm slinging detective duo out to stop an unprecedented supe-human war.

Opening SentenceThe City is Scranton.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Evil Dark, the second installment in the Occult Crimes Unit Investigation series, continues to follow the overworked and underappreciated detectives, Stan Markowski and Karl Renfer.  Their caseload is high, their sarcasm strong, and all their interagency cooperation mojo is running out quickly.  Have I piqued your interest, yet?

Markowski and his recently turned undead partner, Renfer, have been asked to work with the FBI in finding out the origin of recently discovered black market supernatural “snuff” films.  A wizard is summoning demons to torture and kill people on video for entertainment.  Even though the cops and FBI may not be united under normal conditions, they all agree that the people making these films must be stopped.  The detectives must deal with demons, witch-burnings, dodge assassination attempts, all while they try to stop a potential supe-human war.  And that is just the problems they have to deal with at work, not their personal lives.

The reason I really enjoy this series is due to its character realism and relatability.  The characters seem like real people and respond in ways that I would expect any one of us would, cop or not.  Lots of police novels out there seem more along the lines of a television show than true to life.  I appreciate Mr. Gustainis taking the effort to make each of his characters unforgettable.

The dynamics between Markowski and Renfer are amazing.  In the previous book, they hadn’t been partners that long.  Now, 18 months later, the two men have a great repertoire.  There are many more jokes and jabs between them; what I would expect from men that count on each other in life and death situations.  I was also happy to see that their partnership is not without its problems.

The other big dynamic is Markowski’s relationship with the women in his life.  He has a vampire daughter that he is still trying to reconcile with.  Though he knows that she is an adult and has to make her own choices, he still can’t let go of his fatherly instincts to protect.  Markowski’s object of fascination, Lacey, is also furthered.  His personal code of ethics doesn’t allow him to act on his feelings for her, but that doesn’t mean he can’t think about her.  Though Markowski plays it cool, Lacey brings up his “interest” without it creating a wedge in their personal and professional relationship.  And last but not least, we get to see a good looking woman offer him “benefits”.  It is refreshing to read about during the harder and darker overtones of the cases he is working on.  It just goes to prove that cops are people too.

Even though the cases are paranormal in content, the overall procedures just scream out “normal”.  The entire process of working the case is very detailed; giving the reader the feel of realism in an unrealistic world.  I particularly liked that Markowski and Renfer work on multiple cases at once.  I do not expect real detectives to handle only one case at a time, so this adds to the overall effect of the book for me.  I do not expect real interagency cooperation to be without some grumblings on both ends.  Nor do I expect real clues to fall into the laps of the detectives, like they would in the movies.  And while I may not have personal experience with working in any law enforcement job, I can believe in “Spook Squad” and its officers without it being too much of a stretch of the imagination.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Evil Dark and would recommend it to those readers that enjoy paranormal crime novels.  Justin Gustainis has made it onto my must-read-author list and I look forward to what he has in store for us next.

Notable Scene:

I reached into a pocket for my keys. “His partner’s not too bad, though. For a Feebie.”

Karl looked at me. “You think she’s hot?”

“I didn’t say that. I just meant that she doesn’t seem to be a revolving asshole like her buddy.”


“From whatever angle the object is viewed,” I said.

“She likes you, though,” Karl said.

“Yeah, right,” I said. “And where did that revelation come from, O wise man?”

“Her heartbeat. It speeded up a little every time she talked to you.”

I didn’t bother to ask him how he knew that. He’d just say, “It’s a vamp thing – you wouldn’t understand.”

“I probably just remind her of her ex-husband,” I said. “And not in a good way, either.”

He shrugged. “Believe what you want.”

“Think you could use some vampire Influence on Greer, maybe get him to stop being such a prick?”

“I’m a vampire,” Karl said. “Not a miracle worker.”

The Occult Crimes Unit Investigations Series:

1. Hard Spell

2. Evil Dark

FTC Advisory: The author graciously provided me with a copy of Evil Dark.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.  The only payments I receive are hugs and kisses from my little boys.

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