Author: Justin Gustainis
I had no idea what to expect from this story, being new to both the author and the Haunted Scranton series, but it truly was a lot of fun to read. Following Detective Sergeant Stan Markowski and his vampire partner, Karl Renfer, as they face down the latest threat to their city, Known Devil sets off at a lively pace and doesn’t slow down for the duration of the novel. Unlike other suspense novels I’ve had the opportunity to read, this story includes nearly every supernatural creature imaginable. From vamps and elves to witches, sirens, and ghouls, they’re all here, each of them having a significant role to play in the outcome of the narrative.
At its root, Known Devil is a detective story complete with gangsters and hostile takeovers and more twists than a bag of Twizzlers. Stan is a good detective who’s dealing with his own baggage as best he can, as well as trying to save the city he’s vowed to protect, all while trying not to get any of his extremely loyal (and generally well-intentioned) co-workers and family killed in the process. It isn’t an easy job, especially in a world where bigotry and hatred are alive and well, and fear makes easy tools of those who readily embrace the empty promises of false comfort.
Aside from being a captivating whodunit, Known Devil has a good lesson about change and tolerance within its chapters, and Mr. Gustainis uses familiar stereotypes to valuable, yet never overbearing, effect. Unsurprisingly, religious fanaticism is a major culprit in the ongoing chaos, those who seek to take over the city government, and ultimately eradicate a large sector of its population, using it to terrifyingly successful results. There are quite a few good digs in Known Devil, however, and, rather than trivialize the major issues presented in the story, I felt that they added to my enjoyment of each and every victory Stan and Karl have.
Although I was fortunate to have a synopsis of the two other novels in this series, Hard Spell and Evil Dark, now that I’ve experienced the many details the author puts into every page, I’m very sorry I missed reading them both from cover to cover. I like Stan and Karl a great deal, the sarcasm that is more of a native tongue throughout the story lending the entire narrative a gritty, yet resignedly amused feel that I really appreciated. With this many different kinds of creatures in play there seems to be no end to the possibilities in this series, and I would very much like to see what Mr. Gustainis might have in store for Stan and Karl in the future.
This time out, things are looking pretty bad in my “alternative” Scranton: for the first time, a street drug has proven addictive to supernaturals, with a resulting crime wave as the creatures of the night struggle to get drug money. The first Stan and Karl learn about this is when a couple of elves stick up Jerry’s Diner while they are inside on their coffee break. Further, the local Mafia “family” is under attack from a group of interlopers who seek to take over, resulting in gun battles and car bombs in the city streets. And then there’s the Patriot Party, a group of proto-fascists who seek to gain control of this city government in the forthcoming election. Stan Markowski has his hands full—and he doesn’t even know who the real enemy is yet.
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Angry Robot
Series: Haunted Scranton #3
Occult Crimes Unit Investigation #3
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format(s): Paperback (384 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Author
Known Devil (Haunted Scranton #3)