Known Devil is the third instalment in Gustainis’ Occult Crime Unit urban fantasy series. Though I had not read the first two books, this one was completely stand-alone and didn’t make me feel I was missing anything. I have, however, read other books from Gustainis in the past (Evil Ways, Black Magic Woman and Sympathy for the Devil), and thoroughly enjoyed them. He is a fabulous writer.
In this exciting new series, Detective Sergeant Stanley Markowski of the Scranton PD’s Occult Crimes Unit, and his partner, vampire detective Karl Renfer, try to keep law and order in a world where supernaturals — or supes — have come out of the closet and walk the streets with humans. Markowski’s daughter, a vampire witch, is eager to help and offer her expertise, especially because she’s attracted to Karl.
A new drug has hit the streets, Haemoglobin Plus — better known as Slide — the first drug that addicts supes, and as a result, a new wave of crimes has risen in Scranton. Stan and Karl are right on the case, interrogating both humans and supes alike, trying to find out who is behind the new drug: Pietro Calabrese, the Godfather of the local vampire family? Wizard Victor Castle, the unofficial head of the city’s whole supernatural community? The Delatasso family? Or the new Patriot Party, who has declared supes “abominations before the Lord?”
If you love urban fantasy a la crime noir, you’ll love this book. Gustainis is smart, gritty, snarky. I just love his sharp, witty descriptions. Take a look at a few:
“He had salt-and-pepper hair, wide-set brown eyes, and a thin moustache in the middle of a face that was no harder than your average concrete wall.”
“He stared at me with eyes that had probably looked dead even before he became a vampire.”
“The terrace outside the front door is open in warmer weather, for those who like sharing their food with the local bugs. I prefer to eat inside, where the only insects I’m likely to encounter have two legs.”
“I saw a puzzled look on his face — maybe because Karl’s grip, like every vampire’s, is colder than a banker’s heart.”
Gustainis is also a master at providing comic relief. I laughed out loud at times. Stan is a likable, sympathetic character, tough yet kind when needed. The world building, the setting, and all the supernatural details come through in a genuine, realistic way. I also enjoyed all the police procedural, showing once more, as in his other books, that Gustainis has done his research well.
The story moves at a fairly quick pace, propelled by entertaining dialogue and lots of action scenes. Particularly interesting is the dynamics between humans and supernaturals now that they have to co-exist side by side. But best of all, is the author’s gifted prose, a pleasure to read. Highly recommended for fans of detective urban fantasy!
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