Black Magic Woman – Justin Gustainis

This is the first book featuring the supernatural detective team of Quincey Morris, “occult investigator”, and Libby Chastain, a white witch. Two main plot strands are entwined: a powerful curse against the descendants of a woman who denounced another at the Salem witch trials, which Morris and Chastain are hired to combat; and an attempt to obtain powers through Zulu fetish magic and the killing of children for an evil billionaire – for what purpose, though, is unexplained (I guess to come in the sequel, Evil Ways).

This books joins the many in the “urban fantasy” genre, where magic really does exist – though in this one most people disbelieve its presence and its practitioners’ abilities, unlike, say Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, or Kelley Armstrong’s books.

Gustainis does a good job in following the plot strands, and throwing in a few outlandish incidents to keep the reader hooked – demons, buildings set on fire by witchcraft, vampire killing (which appears in the prologue, and is rather too obviously not part of the plot), seduction by succubus/incubus – and his characters sit just the right side of stereotype. But only just. It’s an entertaining read, but rather superficial: I didn’t get any sense of what motivated any of the characters, apart from the South African detective, van Dreenan, detailed to help the FBI, who is seeking to get revenge on the killer of his daughter.

Recommended alternative reads:
Laurell K. Hamilton – Guilty Pleasures; The Laughing Corpse; Obsidian Butterfly;
Kelley Armstrong – Industrial Magic; No Humans Involved.

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