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Review: Morris and Chastain Investigations by Justin Gustainis

Title: Morris and Chastain Investigations: Playing with Fire & Midnight at the Oasis

Author: Justin Gustainis

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Quincy Morris (Book 4 & 5)

Publication Date: March 26, 2013

Format: Paperback, 496 Pages

ISBN-10: 1781080828 (Solaris Books)

ISBN-13: 978-1781080825  (Solaris Books)

Reviewed by: Emmy

Synopsis:

Two occult investigations featuring the much-loved urban fantasy sleuths Quincy Morris & Libby Chastain.

In Play With Fire houses of worship are burning around the U.S. From churches, to synagogues, to mosques. Usually while the places are full of people. Initially dismissed as random acts of violence, Morris and Chastain uncover the deadly meaning behind the fires, and the terrifying cause they seek to serve.

In Midnight at the Oasis Middle Eastern terrorists have conjured a deadly djin that will lay waste to America — unless Morris and Chastain can stop it first.

Quick & Dirty: While it’s got a solid supernatural police procedural, the characters and writing fall short of turning these novels into engrossing reads.

Opening Sentence: On the day that Quincey Morris got out of jail, Libby Chastain was waiting for him.

Excerpt: No

The Review

I wanted to like this book. I tried really hard to get into the characters, but the fact is Morris and Chastain never felt real. Our supernatural investigators Quincy Morris and Libby Chastain make saving the United States from paranormal monsters their day job, but it never felt real. Maybe it’s the way the world-building is info-dropped on us like an anvil every time something new appears, or maybe it’s just that in my mind Supernatural does it better, but I never bought into the stakes. I couldn’t bring myself to care about our heroes or the danger to the U.S.

Libby Chastain is our resident witch and a bada$$. Quincy Morris, who at the start of this novel only just gets out of jail for what happened in the last book, is following in his family’s business of supernatural investigations. Their banter feels forced a lot of the time, but their conversations help keep the pace from lagging. Gustainis tries really, really hard to avoid any sexual chemistry between them, which only made me more aware of the fact. I get he wanted to keep the partners in the friend-zone, but by keeping them so segregated the author only draws the readers attention to their gender.

As for the plot of this novel — it’s actually two. Play with Fire follows a cultic leader and his minions on their arson quest across America and Midnight at the Oasis is about terrorists who unleash a djin. The process Chastain and Morris went through to save the day reminded me a lot of Law & Order, which was only undercut by the fact the reader knows what every character is thinking. The omniscient viewpoint could have been used to build more suspense, which all in all was lacking in the stories, but Gustainis does a good job avoiding too much headhopping. While I’m not sure if the omniscient track was the right POV for the novel(s), with the exception of too much backstory for irrelevant characters it didn’t bother me as much as it normally would.

The world-building here isn’t that complex. If it was, if there was some intricacies that made it different from other urban fantasies, maybe I could excuse some of the info-dumping. As it is, every character we run into gets a backstory that’s not only unimportant, but irrelevant to the plot. Gustainis doesn’t just reference what happens in previous books, but goes over exactly what happened in the previous plot. Even though I only picked up the series on book four, I didn’t need to hear everything Morris and Chastain have ever done — I assumed any references happened on a previous case, probably in a previous novel, I didn’t need the three paragraph low-down on what happened to make that reference relevant. It doesn’t sound like much, but all together? The infodumps made the novel(s) twice as long as necessary.

All in all, even with two novels combined, it’s not a long book. Once I got past the over-abundance of backstory, I fell into the story like any self-respecting crime show junkie. While I wish there had been some more twists and turns in the plot, all in all it’s a satisfying, if not exceptional read.

Notable Scene:

Morris’s stomach felt as tight as one of the detective’s fists. Hereally hoped Libby’s spell would work as planned, because the closer that monster got – and it was closing rapidly now – the less confidence Morris had that his knife’s six-inch blade would do any good, silver plate and Bishop’s blessing notwithstanding.

The hellhound was fifty-feet away and closing fast. Libby touched the lighter’s flame to the doorframe where she had smeared her hastily-assembled magical concoction. The alcohol in the Scotch worked like a charm, as it were, and within a couple of seconds the doorway was surrounded by flame – but there was only enough fuel to keep the fire going for a few seconds, so Libby’d had to wait until the last possible moment.

The hellhound was, understandably, not deterred by fire, but as it stormed through the open door she finished her chant by shouting “D’Neenad!” which is ancient Aramaic for “Depart!”

An instant after crossing the threshold, the great beast disappeared, leaving nothing behind but the stink of sulphur and its final howl of frustration and rage.

Quincy Morris Series:

 1. Black Magic Woman

 2. Evil Ways

 3. Sympathy for the Devil

 4. & 5. Play with Fire & Midnight at the Oasis

FTC Advisory: Solaris provided me with a copy of Morris and Chastain Investigations: Play with Fire & Midnight at the Oasis. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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