Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Review – “Evil Ways” by Justin Gustainis

Supernatural investigator Quincey Morris and his partner Libby Chastain, investigate a series of murders where white witches are being hunted and killed - and Libby may be next on the list. From Iraq to America, a trail of clues is pointing to eccentric billionaire, Walter Grobius, a man fascinated with a devastating evil that can be traced back to biblical times. What's more, it seems he may well be involved in a sick scheme for white supremacy across the USA, and Morris and Chastain find themselves in their most epic case as they look to prevent the apocalypse from being unleashed…
Evil Ways is the second dark urban fantasy outing for the investigation team of Morris and Chastain. Morris is a savvy supernaturally aware human and Libby is a white witch. Together they make a formidable team solving supernatural whodunits. In Evil Ways we have an egomaniacal billionaire bent on extending his life by any means possible, employing the services of a megalomaniacal black witch with visions of world domination and a score to settle with Libby.

Gustainis writes a compelling detective thriller, dark and violent, with murders described in cold and unapologetic terms creating an irresistible frisson of horror. This serves to anchor the actions of the bigger-then-life villain and his accomplices, ensuring that they are more than mere caricatures. Despite the dark nature of the material, the author frequently shows a lighter side; with quirky humour and other ‘bring a smile to your face’ situations. When attacked by thousands of demonic bats, one latches on to Quincey’s arm and he pulls an Ozzy Osbourne –
He brought his arm up to his face, and with one desperate snap of his teeth bit the damn thing’s head off.
And it’s hard to resist an opening line such as the one that opens chapter two –
Libby Chastain, white witch extraordinaire, was naked, wet, and horny.
And he is not above an inside reference when at one point in the story Allie (a professor and witch) tells her students –
“And don’t forget to read Gordon Dickson’s ‘The Amulet’ for Friday.”
that of course is a short story by the veteran SF author about witches and the seduction of power.

The action and events of the story are presented from multiple points of view, allowing us insight into the adversaries and other back story details, creating a complex and engaging narrative. Two new characters are introduced to the mix; a team of FBI agents, Colleen O’Donnell (a witch like Libby) and Dale Fenton (a human recently assigned to the Behavioral Sciences Division and supernaturally aware). Less experienced than Libby and Quincey and more constrained by legalities, they offer an alternative perspective on the action.

Evil Ways commences with the robbery of an ancient grimoire from the Natural History Museum in Baghdad during the Gulf War and continues through to the present where a trail of murders against white witches is designed to distract and prevent interference with a culminating act of ultimate evil that may unleash Satan into the modern world. The dynamics between the couples are refreshing and entertaining. These are people you would like to get to know. The plot is tension-filled and fast-paced as they rush to save lives and find the killers while the clock ticks.

Inevitably many will compare this to Jim Butcher’s excellent Harry Dresden series which is a fair comparison. In fact, in a conversation Quincey remarks on a consultant they need to visit –
“This guy doesn’t do too well around machinery. It tends to malfunction”

“Right, okay. I know who you mean, now. Chicago’s resident wizard.”
Gee, whoever could they be talking about.

Evil Ways is a superlative urban fantasy with enough mystery, murder, mayhem and magic for readers of all interests. No previous familiarity with the series is required. Of course, the Chastain and Morris series of adventures continue in Sympathy for the Devil due out later this year (there is a sample chapter at the back of Evil Ways). Recommended.

AUTHOR AND BOOK SHOWCASEOfficial Justin Gustainis Website

Read an excerpt of Chapter 2.

Interview at Vampire Wire
Interview at Darque Reviews
Interview at Urban Fantasy Land

BL Publishing/Solaris
Published: December 2008
ISBN #: 9781844165933
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 336

The Morris/Chastain Investigations:

  1. Black Magic Woman (2008)
  2. Evil Ways (2008)
  3. Sympathy for the Devil (2009)


  1. I did like this and yes I'm one of the ones that tend to compare Morris to Dresden, but I find Gustainis' writing to be a lot lighter than Butcher. I'm not sure why, but I do.

  2. Your review was perfect! I so need to go get this book.

  3. Hey Jackie, I'd agree that they do have points of similarity but of course Chastain/Morris are their own entity. The nature of the team lends itself to a different lighter dynamic kind of like the old Emma Peel/John Steed vibe from The Avengers whereas Harry's humour is more self-deprecating. Lots of room for supernatural detective stories.

    Katie thanks for for the kind words. All the credit for the work is Justin's.

  4. This sounds like a really interesting book. I agree with KB, excellent review. I definitely will look into this author and his books (=

  5. Thanks Mishel, hope you enjoy them!


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