Evil Dark: An Occult Crime Unit Investigation Mass Market Paperback – Apr 24 2012
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"Another hit for Sergeant Stan!" - Paul Simpson, SciFi Bulletin
"Great writing, well paced, with twists and turns at every angle, it throws a spotlight on our own society, making you question your own choices in life." - Geek Syndicate
"Gustainis has proved himself time and time again, and it is no surprise to me that Evil Dark is another cracking novel." - Terror-Tree
About the Author
Justin Gustainis was born in Northeast Pennsylvania in 1951. He attended college at the University of Scranton, a Jesuit university that figures prominently in several of his writings. After earning both Bachelor's and Master's degrees, he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Following military service, he held a variety of jobs, including speechwriter and professional bodyguard, before earning a Ph.D. at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
Mr. Gustainis currently lives in Plattsburgh, New York. He is a Professor of Communication at Plattsburgh State University, where he earned the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2002. His academic publications include the book American Rhetoric and the Vietnam War, published in 1993, and a number of scholarly articles that hardly anybody has ever read. The author lives in Plattsburgh, NY.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The atmosphere Gustainis creates with his writing is fabulous. From the first page you get a feel for not only who Stan Markowski is, but also in what kind of town he operates. While some of the characters were archetypal, the fact that I thought them so might be due to the fact that I've read and watched a lot of police procedurals. There is the rugged, older main character, with his younger, slightly goofy partner, the gruff squad captain with his heart in the right place and the sexy, sassy female cop love interest among others. And naturally, the cops and the FBI have a hard time playing nice with each other. But archetypal or no, these characters are definitely a bit different, as they are part of a police squad that deals with occult crimes, that means crimes involving or committed by supernatural creatures ranging from vampires to ghouls and goblins. In fact, Stan's partner Karl and his daughter Christine are vampires themselves. Not having read the first book in the Occult Crimes Unit series, I'm not sure about much of Stan, Karl and Christine's back story, other than that it involved getting Karl and Christine turned into vampires to save their lives - or undeath, such as it is - but we do see Stan having mixed feelings about this change in his partner and daughter. There is a lot of hidden depth to Markowski's calm exterior, which makes him interesting to read about, even if a lot of that depth remains unilluminated, though I can't be sure whether it's truly unknown or things revealed in the previous book. Karl, with his James Bond obsession and his rather unique perspective on their case, is a good foil for Stan's serious demeanour and their verbal exchanges are some of the highlights of the book.
The different supernatural creatures found in Evil Dark are a natural part of the story's world, not monsters hidden from human society, but integrated and every day. In fact, I loved the alternate world Gustainis has created. His Cranston is a place unlike our own, but at the same time it could still be the next town over from ours. The supernatural creatures aren't just an everyday part of life; they even have their own history, such as ogres and goblins being distantly-related. They have even penetrated popular culture; there is a website called Drac's List, where vampires can meet potential 'donors', James Bond starred in From Transylvania with Love, Steinbeck's bestseller is Of Elves and Men and Stan buys his daughter something special for dinner at Sup'r-Natural Foods or the local Vlad-Mart. The little details Gustainis manages to drop into the narrative in this manner are awesome and add up to a very convincing alternate reality.
In this very real supernatural environment, we are presented with a frightening case which Stan and Karl get handed by the FBI; there are people making supernatural snuff films, not the urban-myth kind, the real deal. With such a big case on their plate, Stan and Karl get busy, but it seems that every day sees more cases added to their workload as the unit is inundated with cases. Gustainis manages to make all of the cases fit together in a way that leads to a surprising conclusion, one I very much enjoyed.
Evil Dark was a terrifically entertaining read, which kept me invested in its characters from beginning to end. Now I want to read Hard Spell, just so I can spend some more time with Stan, Karl, Christine and the rest, after which I'll eagerly await the as-yet untitled third book. A fun, fast read centred on an interesting case to solve, Evil Dark is a recommended read for anyone who likes police procedurals or the supernatural without sparkles or tramp stamps and leather pants.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.
Quick & Dirty: Suspense driven, crime stopping, sarcasm slinging detective duo out to stop an unprecedented supe-human war.
Opening Sentence: The City is Scranton.
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.
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.
This book could be subtitled Law & Order: OCU (Occult Crime Unit). If you are a fan of police procedural stories and also enjoy horror, this is an interesting mixture of the two genres.
"My name's Markowski. I carry a badge. Also a crucifix, some wooden stakes, 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 of Scranton.
Markowski wouldn't normally have much of a problem with that, but his daughter may be next on the killer's list...
The main plot involves the investigation into a mystery surrounding a series of demonic snuff films. Markowski must work with and interact both normal human criminals, cops and civilians but also Supes. Markowski's world is populated by the full range of supernatural beings, vampires, werewolves, witches, demons, trolls, etc. It is curious to see how these different groups of supernatural beings have adapted to living in the real world.
Detective Markowski has to juggle his personal life that features a vampire daughter and a number of interesting female potential love interests, all of whom could be in danger from the villains i the story.
What Gustainis does really well is integrating the Supes into the gritty reality of Scranton. What he failed at to this reader was in some of his characterization, particularly of the female characters. At times it felt like the female characters where doing and saying what a teenage boy would want them to do and say and not what they should actually end up doing. This issue was most glaring at the books end, but I'd be interested to hear if others had the same issues that I do after reading.
While I did have some issues with Gustainis' characterizations, overall I found it to be a very fun novel. Evil Dark feels like one of those old pulp magazine stories, set your expectations accordingly and enjoy the ride.
For more on the book visit: Angry Robot Books and to purchase the book you can visit Amazon.com
Review for LightsaberRattling.com
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.
In the previous volume, Stan and Big Paul were dispatched to a liquor store robbery with hostages situation. The goblins were demanding powder, i.e., meth. Stan asked Rachel to prepare a special powder.
The goblins sniffed the powder and released the hostages. Then they came to the front to be cuffed. Everything was working out fine until a third goblin charged Paul with a knife.
Paul pulled his weapon, but it misfired. He tried again and again. Stan could not get a clear line of fire because Paul was in the way. So Paul was stabbed by the goblin and bled out before they got him to the hospital.
Karl failed to get to his partner before a shooting incident and his partner said he was a coward. Unfortunately, Stan needed a new partner and got Karl. Stans considered Karl as a conditional partner until his courage was proven.
In this novel, Stanley Markowski is a Detective Sergeant in the Scranton Police Department. Stan works in the Occult and Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit. He was married to Rita and they had a daughter, Christine.
Christine is Stan's daughter and a vampire. Stan had gotten her turned to save her from leukemia.
Karl Renfer is a Detective in the SPD. He is Stan's partner and a vampire.
Rachel Proctor is the Occult Squad consulting witch. She had been possessed by the spirit of a wizard until he finally released her.
McGuire is a Lieutenant in the SPD. He commands the Occult Crimes Unit.
Linda Thorwald is a senior FBI Special Agent for the Behavioral Sciences division, the serial killer unit. Her partner is Brian Greer.
Victor Castle replaced Ernst Vollman as the head man in the local occult community. He is a wizard.
Sharkey is a hitman who is a dhampir. The half vampire has some human weaknesses.
In this story, Karl is a vampire. He was turned as an alternative to dying after an raid. Now he has super senses and a lust for blood. He is also even more interested in Christine.
Stan is beginning to change his attitude toward vampires. Naturally, he still doesn't trust all of them. Yet having a daughter and a partner who are vamps does open the door to some acceptance.
Stan gets up early one afternoon and heads for his favorite Italian restaurant. He gets curious about a group of flashing blue and red lights and stops to check out the action. Somebody is standing on a ledge working up the courage to jump.
Stan borrows a pair of opera glasses from a gawker and identifies the person as a wingless fairy. He talks to the Ranking Officer on Scene and asks to talk to the man. But first he talks to the fire department personnel.
The fairy is supercilious as usual. Yet he is also anxious and keeps his eyes closed for most of the conversation. Stan grabs him and they fall together into a giant air pillow from the twelfth floor. Stan's gut has a little to say about that.
Stan reaches the office without breakfast and with a bloody nose. Karl is already there. Stan is told that they have an FBI briefing in the media room.
The Feds are looking for the producers of a snuff film. While such films have been talked about for decades, no one has ever seen an actual killing in a porn movie. Simulated killings are rampant, but the FBI or other police have never seen the real thing before.
Now they have an actual snuff film. Moreover, it is a torture film. A demon is invoked and possesses one of the victims. Then the possessed person kills the other victim in a very painful and terminal way.
Two of the eleven Scranton cops leave before the end of the DVD. Stan is grateful that he wasn't among them. Then Thorwald and Greer explain the distribution of at least four snuff movies.
Thorvald mentions that one of the victims was from the Scranton area. He had been recognized by a cousin, who is an FBI agent. Karl suggests that all the films were made in Scranton. The Feebies agree that it is likely for logistical reasons.
Thorwald and Greer set up an operation center in the Scranton FBI field office. They frequently consult with McGuire. The Lieutenant usually calls Stan into such conferences.
Afterward, McGuire sends Stan and Karl on another witch burning. Stan immediately thinks of Rachel, but she is at a conference in San Diego. The witch was tied to a tree, doused in gasoline and set afire. The smell is almost worst than the sight of the victim.
Later, they check an ogre who got mad in a bar. Then Stan learns that Sharkey is back. The hitman always gets his man, but has little consideration for bystanders.
Stan has a discussion with Castle. They don't get along as well as Stan did with Vollman. Yet Castle does consult several times with Stan.
This tale jars several ideas loose from Stan's subconscious by remarks made by Christine, Karl and others. Christine has a major insight in the case. McGuire even offers her a job if she gets tired of working the 911 lines.
This story was more interesting than the last. Maybe it is just getting used to the new characters, but the Morris/Chastain series seemed more open than this series. Since I am more familiar with Texas and (vicariously) even New York City, the small city settings could have been putting me off a bit.
OTOH, I have lived in several small cities in Texas (Austin is basically a small city) as wall as Chattanooga, Tennessee, and suburbs of Atlanta. I even lived in Garland, a small town now within the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area. Yet I have essentially lived in the old Confederacy states for most of my life; Pennsylvania is just so different.
At least the Dragnet theme was less explicit. The next installment in this sequence is Known Devil.
Recommended for Gustainis fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of paranormal creatures, human fanatics, and a bit of romance. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin