Series: OCCULT CRIMES UNIT INVESTIGATION/HAUNTED SCRANTON
Plot Type: Urban Fantasy (UF), Police Procedural
Ratings: Violence—5; Sensuality—1-3; Humor—2-3
Publisher and Titles: Angry Robot
Hard Spell (7/2011)
Evil Dark (4/2012)
NOVEL 3: Known Devil
Scranton is in the middle of a major municipal election campaign, and the anti-supernatural Patriot Party is making huge gains because they are playing up the drug-fueled rise in the city's crime rate. Additionally, a mob war has broken out between Scranton's Mafia, the Calabrese vampire "family," and a gang of interlopers from Philadelphia. Both mobs (aka Fangsters) are run by powerful vampfathers or supefathers (the supernatural names for vampire-mob godfathers). This dispute results in a series of gun battles and bombings that provide even more fuel for the Patriot Party's anti-supernatural campaign ads.
Then, Victor Castle, the wizard who is the unofficial head of Scranton's supernatural community, is killed by a powerful bomb blast, leaving a power vacuum that may be filled by Dimitri Kaspar, an unscrupulous, human-hating vampire who seems to have large sums of money at his disposal.
The plot centers on detectives Stan Markowski and Karl Renfer (who is now a vampire) as they investigate the situation. At first, they concentrate on the drug problem, but that soon leads them to a consultation with the head of the Calabrese mob. As Stan follows the clues, he gets caught several times by the bad guys. Each time this happens, he is saved by an unknown "guardian angel" just as he is about to be shot and killed. So…Stan has to find the answers to a number of questions: Who is his guardian angel and why is he or she saving Stan's life? Who is distributing the drugs? Is there a way to counteract the drug's effects on the supes? Who is bankrolling the Patriot Party? Who is bankrolling Kaspar? As Stan searches for the answers to these questions, he gets himself involved with a second possible love interest. (His earlier love interest, Lacey, is out of town visiting her sister and giving their relationship some thought.)
Needless to say, all of Stan's questions are answered in the final chapters in yet another neatly woven resolution. This time around, though, I have to admit that Stan's bad jokes and his supposedly humorous references to various literary and pop culture elements aren't nearly as funny as they were back in the first novel. I do enjoy the way that Gustainis begins with seemingly separate story lines and then gradually ties them all up in a neat package, although some of the connections were obvious to me long before Stan and Karl figured them out.
On the author's Facebook page, Gustainis states the following: "I'm a little worried that if Known Devil doesn't sell well, it will be the last book in the series. Therefore, I'm offering a free digital copy (either Mobi or ePub) to anyone who is willing to post an honest review on Amazon (and anywhere else you write reviews). If you're unfamiliar with the series, I'll even send you all three books in digital format—no cost, and no obligation beyond a review. I don't expect you to post a review by the publication date—whenever you get to it is fine. If you're interested, contact me via email…at firstname.lastname@example.org." I don't know whether his offer is still good, but you might want to send him an email if you're interested.