Black Magic Woman

by Justin Gustainis

Reviewed by Scott T. Barnes

2008 Odyssey graduate Justin Gustainis had already published two novels before attending the six week science fiction and fantasy workshop. His first book, The Hades Project, was reviewed in an earlier issue of New Myths, and an interview with Gustainis appears here.

Black Magic Woman has investigator Quincey Morris and his white witch partner Elizabeth Chastain investigating a series of magical attacks against an innocent family. They travel across the country, gathering clues as to why a black witch might wish to attack this particular family – and how to stop her. As you might guess, ancient curses have everything to do with it.

Morris is a distant relative of Van Helsing of Dracula fame, while Chastain is a powerful white witch. Chastain is the more endearing of the two, and in fact in the third book will receive equal billing with Morris.

Parallel to the heroes’ investigations, two cops are investigating the ritual murders of children, which always seem to take place next to water. A troubled South African cop named Garth Van Dreenan teams up with a doubting Dale Fenton, FBI to track down the murderers. It turns out they are harvesting the children for the black witch’s final curse.

It is a very fun book, though I would not call it a perfect book. On the positive, the characters are engaging, especially the White Witch, the story is interesting and the action never lets up. Gustainis has developed extensive backgrounds for all his characters. Every major character, hero and villain, gets his turn carrying the point of view. On the negative side: The police officers’ investigation never satisfactorily links up to the Morris investigation (turns out the police officer subplot was added to meet page requirements from the publisher); chapter one seems out of place because the vampire villains never make a repeat appearance; and the resolution is a near deus ex machina ending, though I will not give it away.

Perhaps the ultimate test of this kind of book is whether or not you want to read more. The answer here is a resounding yes. Quincey and Elizabeth are heroes worth quite a few more adventures.

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