Review: Black Magic Woman

Black Magic Woman is the first in a new series by author Justin Gustainis, "The Quincey Morris Supernatural Investigations". It's a wonderful read, and wonderful introduction to a world that's all too familiar to long-time readers of fantasy and dark fantasy like myself.

The Story: Quincey Morris is an investigator of the occult and the supernatural. He's a descendant and namesake of the Texan who died in the Carpathian Mountains, helping Abraham Van Helsing and John Seward rid the world of a cursed and vicious Count. Libby Chastain is a white witch, close friend and sometimes contractor for Quincey, helping him out whenever a little magic needs to be worked.

This time, what starts out as a "simple" assignment to free a family from a curse that dates back to the Salem Witch Trials turns into a deadly cross-country pursuit to uncover the power behind it and end the threat. Once the witch responsible for the black magic feeding the curse discovers that Morris and Chastain are coming after her, she decides to take the battle to them, hard and fast.

In a second story line, Garth Van Dreenan, a South African detective from their Occult Crimes Bureau, comes to the States and is teamed with African-American FBI agent Dale Fenton in the search for a serial killer who's been abducting children and killing them for their organs.

Both storylines converge in whirlwind fashion, bringing resolution to one aspect of what they've discovered. But all of our heroes are unaware that another door is still open...

The Good: The title and the back cover blurb intrigued me from the start. It didn't hurt that our friend Jim Butcher has a stunning blurb on the front cover, either.

The story starts out fast and furious, with Quincey "filling in" for a rescue job in a small Texas town, cleaning out a newly formed nest of vampires, and the pace flies along for the rest of the book. The tension never seems to give Our Heroes much time to rest, but the ride as we follow them along is truly enjoyable.

I think this series will appeal to fans of Tanya Huff's "Blood Ties" series, and Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files". Before you think that Quincey and his network of contacts reminds one a teeny bit of Harry Dresden's world and work, their respective worlds are very different. Quincey doesn't possess any supernatural or magickal gifts... just the benefit of personal experience and a family history of dealing with such matters. If the book's opening gambit is any indicator of what Quincey's done before and what we'll get to see him do, it'd be more accurate to call him the John McClane of supernatural problem-solving: the right guy in the right place at the right time.

The Bad: As far as the story is concerned, not one thing! Minor character nits: I thought the initial racial tension between Van Dreenan and Fenton felt a little forced when introduced, but the urgency of their investigation turned that aside soon enough. Also, my minor irritation at not learning as much about all of the antagonists as I'd hoped was quickly sated by learning that the real power directing that particular crop of bad guys is still at large, and that we'll definitely be seeing more of him in the next book (and beyond?).

The Ugly: Having to wait until December to read the next book in the series, Evil Ways! It's a rare thing when a series hooks me so deeply from the start that I want to start reading the next book as soon as I'm done with the current one.

Black Magic Woman (A Quincey Morris Supernatural Investigation)
by Justin Gustainis
Published by: Solaris (January 29, 2008)
ISBN-10: 1844165418
ISBN-13: 978-1844165414
Genre: Dark Fantasy

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