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Evil Dark by Justin Gustainis
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Evil Dark is the second entry in the Occult Crime Unit Series. Where I found the first book a little hard to get into (though I really liked it once it got going) this one starts with a bang. Stan Markowski, and Karl Renfer are cops in the Unit faced with two seemingly unrelated cases. In one, the FBI visits the Unit with an example of an authentic snuff film involving a human being possessed by a demon, and the demon then killing another human. It's one of four known such films, but more could be out there. In the other, several witches have been burned alive, apparently for nothing more than simply being witches. Stan and Karl have drawn both cases and have to figure out why Scranton is seeing more than its fair share of supernatural crime. The boys start to think there is a faction trying to start a race war between the supernaturals and the humans.

As with the first book, this one is filled with great cop banter, plenty of action, and a few complicated personal relationships. The violence is somewhat graphic, clearly depicting the evil that can exist in everyone, regardless of who or what they are. I again really enjoyed the vast array of types of supernaturals in Markowski's world. I'm also glad the issue of Stan making life (or death) changing decisions for the people in his life without consulting them was addressed, albeit a bit cursorily. If I had one thing to complain about, it would be that the author sometimes hammers a point home a little too much. The repeated Helter Skelter and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot references were the worst offenders. That said, this is a very enjoyable book and I definitely recommend it if you like a good paranormal mystery. There were some surprises throughout, and a very satisfying ending. I'm looking forward to reading book three.

This book was received free with the request for an honest review. ( )
  DVKov | Feb 10, 2014 |
“Fresh Meat” by Scott D. Parker for Criminal Element

All fiction is a journey into the fantastic. Whether it is the fog-shrouded streets of Sherlock Holmes’s London or the magical world of NBC’s paranormal police procedural, Grimm, a tinge of unreality surrounds the tale. These worlds, after all, do not really exist.

When we readers or viewers are introduced to a particular universe, the narration can take two courses. The Grimm example (as well as the exploits of Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, or the early episodes of ABC’s Castle) shows a character experiencing the new world for the first time. There’s a palpable sense of wonder as the events unfold. On the other hand, there is the “lived in” pattern. In this version, the world being described is not necessarily old, but familiar and understood. The large majority of private eye fiction falls into this camp. Think just about any story in which the detective tells you the story in first person, be it Phillip Marlowe, Nick Charles, or Patrick Kenzie.

Justin Gustainis’s Detective Sgt. Stan Markowski falls firmly into the latter group. He is a cop, true, but he is no ordinary cop. He is a member of the Occult Crimes Unit. Now, with an organization like that, you might expect the action to take place in New York, Chicago, or LA. Maybe New Orleans. Nope. Scranton, Pennsylvania. I’ve never been to Scranton, but it’s an unlikely locale for a book involving monsters, fairies, and all the other nightmarish creations of your imagination.

Read the rest at: http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2012/04/fresh-meat-evil-dark-by-justin-gust...
  CrimeHQ | May 14, 2013 |
Review Courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

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

Opening Sentence: The City is Scranton.

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.”

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. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Jun 26, 2012 |
Review courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy:

Neither as hard-boiled as most police procedurals, nor as arcane as pure urban fantasy, EVIL DARK is a blend that does justice to both genres without taking either too seriously. The dry police banter, methodical exploration of crimes, and a story and world that were easy to jump into make this a great introduction to the series as well as a satisfying stand alone.

I enjoyed the casual humor and camaraderie between Markowski and Karl. These two swing from good-natured jockeying to bad puns and dirty asides in a way that is authentically masculine. Their relationship was both entertaining and believable, and I’m looking forward to reading HARD SPELL to see how their partnership began. Gustainis also made sure that not all supernatural crimes were exotic mysteries. On the contrary, the “business as usual” nature of arresting an ogre that smashed up a bar and other little details were excellent counterpoints to the complex conspiracy of the main mystery.

Perhaps the most difficult part of any mystery is balancing an ending between surprise and believability, a feat that Gustainis pulls off with flare. EVIL DARK wraps up with action, a little luck, good police work, and a touch of male fantasy come to life. I finished the book with a smile and a chuckle, looking forward to my next ride along with Markowski and Karl.

Sexual Content: References to sex, rape, child abuse, and a threesome. ( )
  Capnrandm | May 13, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0857661361, Mass Market Paperback)

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...

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Unnatural Law | Thicker Than Water | The Bite Stuff | Duty Calls ]

e-book ISBN: 978-0-85766-137-1

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:44 -0400)

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