I suppose I'm writing this review to round out the glowing ones I've seen; it's not really that finishing this title made me yearn to talk about it. 'Black Magic Woman' was enjoyable, and both adheres to and breaks certain standards of the genre. As to how successfully it breaks them... well, I suppose it depends on what you're looking for, but for my money it's a mixed bag.
The main characters of Quincy and Libby never did come alive for me. Who knows, maybe it's because Quincy is from Texas and I'm a Yankee, but the main way we know he's from Texas is that he says 'podner' and stuff like that. In general, I felt the slang use was detrimental in terms of flow, but that's just a side-note. With Libby, well, we know she's a good, 'white' witch, the repetition of which sort of made me think of the Wizard of Oz or a pious amateur Wicca meet more than a sophisticated fantasy setting. One of my biggest issues was the rather over-simplified 'good vs evil' set-up in an adult novel; what's acceptable in a popular children's book isn't something I find equally acceptable in an adult urban fantasy. Thus, the very evil bad guys and the rain of frogs and the heartless child-killers... never really hit home with me.
I think mystery and blanks not filled in about the main characters is perfectly fine, but I prefer my blanks to have a sense of life to them, rather than a simple absence of information. That is to say, I never got a real (to me) dynamic off Quincy and Libby, what kind of relationship they have. They've only worked with each other a few times before, so there's that, but it felt like neither the ease of partnership nor true friendship was there, and yet Quincy was highly devoted to Libby in times of danger in true knightly style. Sometimes there's a half-hearted attempt at banter which never quite materializes, so it's just kind of awkward (for me). It's okay if they're just good acquaintances with two different lives doing a job, but Quincy's emotional involvement just seems off in that light. That said, I fully appreciated how much I like partnerships/friendships that do involve higher interaction levels in stories (ie, people who share the main character's life to some extent are highly useful in a book to help you connect with the character).
I also think it's a matter of taste, but I was somewhat uncomfortable with how the book was structured-- specifically, the focus on a number of characters besides the two intrepid investigators. I was highly aware that the type of story being written (an investigative 'episodic' type story) usually gets written in first person or third-person-limited, and there's a reason for that-- it makes you more invested in the character's survival if your knowledge is limited by theirs. I felt like the focus on others, bad guys and good guys, distanced me from the characters to the point where the most 'real' character to me was the African cop. Not coincidentally, he was the only one with an emotional arc in the story.
The connection between Quincy and the novel 'Dracula', as well as other bits of mythos in the book directly lifted from what I'd call 'traditional' sources, kind of disappointed me as well. Again, this is a matter of tastes, but I've grown so used to innovation and reinterpretation of the 'traditional' takes on vampires, ghouls and witches that to have such a by-the-book (literally) approach was... unnerving. It's not like black witches wore black pointy hats and cackled and vampires looked like Bela Lugosi, but it kind of felt like 'everything but'.
Just to let loose my last quibble, I was brought up short continuously by the awkwardness of the actual writing; I guess I'd say it reads like a typical early novel, stiff and a bit cliched and flowery in places. The awkward use of slang/regional dialect is something else that new writers do which I'm not thrilled about. Nothing that is consistently noticeable, but I kept having the urge to edit or thinking it wasn't edited thoroughly enough. Well, most readers probably wouldn't, so this is perhaps not an issue for them.
My favorite part of the book was the pacing-- the action never let up, so it was hard to stop-- and the bits on African magic and voodoo, which was actually central to the plot moreso than vampires or witches. I learned new things about African tribal magic, which I appreciate. I also did like Quincy, appearances to the contrary; he's a likable guy, even if I could've done without the surface Texan shtick and the devotion to his Dracula-related great-grandpa or whatever. Not that he stands out in my mind or I could even tell you who he is in general terms, but he's a 'good guy', and if you like good guys you'd like him. Oh, and the succubus was a definite highlight, what can I say.