As a geek who mostly grew up in the 1990s and early 2000s, video stores were a type of personal paradise. In fact, I wouldn’t be lying or exaggerating if I were to say that I was a regular at close to ten different ones, including two Blockbusters. You may balk at that, but it was true. Sure, I favoured different video stores at different times in my life, but I still visited all of them pretty regularly when I was nearby, and knew the pros and cons of each one. That said, a couple of these were also two and a half hours away, near my grandparents’ house, but we’d stay with them often.
I’ll never forget turning in movie tickets to Jumbo Video, so that I could rent two N64 games for the price of one, or going with my Grandpa to pick out five VHS tapes at a rate of $5 for 5 movies, which could be kept for five days. Nor will I ever forget when Blockbuster first opened its doors, and the many, many trips I took there both alone and with family or friends. It was at such places where my love of gaming and movies flourished, as I’d rent at least one thing each and every week.
Why am I reminiscing about Blockbuster, and better times? Well, Alex Finlay’s new novel, The Night Shift, brought back lots of such memories. It’s the reason I’m writing these words, and we’ll shift focus to it now.
When I first saw the cover of The Night Shift, I was intrigued. However, it wasn’t until I read the summary and noticed that it centred on a mass murder at a Blockbuster Video store that I knew I had to read it. After all, they knew me by name at two of them over the course of more than a decade, and once even told me I could pay for my copy of Splinter Cell: Double Agent (a $70+ purchase) the next time I was in, because I’d forgotten my wallet.
It wasn’t long after being approved to read the as-yet-unreleased novel that I eagerly started it at five in the morning one day. I couldn’t sleep, and curiosity got the best of me. Now that I’ve seen the story to the end, I’m glad that I did both — requested it and started it. However, I will admit that this wasn’t exactly the book I’d gone in expecting it to be.
This is certainly on me, but what I read of the summary made me think that the whole story would take place in the 90s, or at least right at the start of the new millennium. A time when folks were worried that the new year would usher in the dawn of Y2K, which would wreak havoc on the world’s outdated computer systems. I never really bought into that hype, and I’m glad I didn’t, because it never came true and was all for naught.
Instead, the majority of this Linden, New Jersey-based novel took place in 2015. Why is that? Well, the Blockbuster murders of December 31, 19999, ended up going unsolved, and a similar slaying just occurred at the local Dairy Creamery. Once again, at least three teenaged girls were murdered, while another survived for mysterious reasons. She says she was in the bathroom, and caught the killer by surprise, but is that true? What really happened?
Thankfully, some chapters do take place in the past, during the latter portion of 1999. Thus, while I enjoyed this novel as a whole, I appreciated it most for taking me back to a simpler time. That is, the time before everything went digital.
The main characters include an eight month pregnant junior FBI agent and her partner, the survivor of the original killings who is now working as a therapist, and a young public defender whose brother was originally charged with the Blockbuster murders before being let go. It’s through these different viewpoints that the story is told, as those involved try to piece together what happened at the Dairy Creamery, discover who the responsible party was and face their own darkest secrets.
Overall,The Night Shift is a pretty well written and interesting who-done-it, which will keep you glued to its pages (or your Kindle screen) until you’ve discovered its secrets. It didn’t take me long to read this one, and while it started slowly, I eventually grew to like it quite a bit. That said, it was predictable, and I wasn’t surprised by how things ended. The killer was pretty obvious from early on. Still, even though it can be predictable, it’s still a book that’s well worth reading, and one that you may even have a hard time putting down.
If you’re looking for a new mystery/thriller to read away the cold weather with, The Night Shift by Alex Finlay is a solid choice.
**This review is based on a copy of the book that we were provided via NetGalley, Minotaur Books and St. Martin’s press. Receiving this early, uncorrected e-Pub did not sway my opinion.**