My thanks go out to Polly, representing publisher Head of Zeus, for saving me a place on this lovely Blog Tour schedule.
THE NIGHT SHIFT
It’s New Year’s Eve 1999. Y2K is expected to end in chaos: planes falling from the sky, elevators plunging to earth, world markets collapsing. A digital apocalypse. None of that happens. But at a Blockbuster Video in Linden, New Jersey, four teenage girls working the night shift are attacked. Only one survives. Police quickly identify a suspect who flees and is never seen again.
Fifteen years later, in the same town, four teenage employees working late at an ice cream store are attacked, and again only one makes it out alive.
Both surviving victims recall the killer speaking only a few final words… “Goodnight, pretty girl.”
In the aftermath, three lives intersect: the survivor of the Blockbuster massacre who’s forced to relive her tragedy; the brother of the original suspect, who’s convinced the police have it wrong; and the FBI agent, who’s determined to solve both cases.
On a collision course toward the truth, all three lives will forever be changed, and not everyone will make it out alive.
Alex Finlay is the pseudonym of Anthony Franze, an author who lives in Washington, D.C.
Born in the American South, Alex spent years traversing the globe, from a tropical island in the Pacific, to a small village in the UK, then on to a remote region in the Far East.
He has garnered national praise for his work as a lawyer in the Appellate and Supreme Court practice of a prominent Washington, D.C. law firm and he has been a commentator on high-court issues for The New Republic, Bloomberg, National Law Journal.
It was on a trip to Tulum, Mexico that Alex was inspired to write his breakout thriller, Every Last Fear, which became an Indie Next pick, a LibraryReads selection, an Amazon Editor’s Best Thriller, as well as a CNN, Newsweek, E!, BuzzFeed, Business Week, Goodreads, Parade, PopSugar, Scribd, and Reader’s Digest, best or most anticipated thriller of the year.
His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages and Every Last Fear is in development for a major television series.
You can keep up to date with Alex’s latest news at his website
You can connect with Alex on Facebook
NEW YEAR’S EVE 1999
The night was expected to bring tragedy. Planes falling from the sky. Elevators plunging to earth. World markets collapsing. A digital apocalypse.
But year 2K was an otherwise typical Friday night at the Blockbuster Video in Linden, New Jersey. Steve had been store manager for six months now, and it was sure as shit a step up from his last job at the Taco Bell. Where his clothes always smelled of cooked meat and grease, and where cadres of drunken teens arrived loudly around eleven until he kicked them out at 2am. Here, they closed at ten, sharp. The customers were polite. Tonight, mostly couples looking for a rom-com or “something scary.”
DAY 1 – FIFTEEN YEARS LATER
CHAPTER ONE – ELLA – APRIL 2015
Ella pops a Xanax as she waits for the valet to take her keys. Driving into Manhattan always stresses her out. The frenetic confluence of cabbies rage-driving, cops jetting by with sirens blaring, pedestrians all but challenging you to run them over as they step defiantly into the street.
What the fuck is she doing here? Last time, she’d promised herself that it would be the last time.
“A good boss deletes annoyed messages before sending them”
“Keller thinks about this. It makes sense. A trauma survivor wanting to help other trauma survivors”
“Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission”
“The ingenuity of criminals never ceases to amaze. It also dumbfounds her – why don’t the smart ones take their talents and go legit?”
“Nico’s a good man, but like many men, he treats pregnant women like fragile flowers. They overlook the fact that, over the course of history, through famines, epidemics, and other extreme conditions, women survived longer and better than men. Having babies? A walk in the park next to what most men could endure. But whatever”
“It’s not like Phyllis to be at a loss for words. Her wealth has given her the confidence, no, the sense of entitlement to say whatever comes to mind, without filter”
“All these years, he was a monster in plain sight”
“The legacy of trauma and how the broken can come out on the other side”
Wow! I need a few moments to get my breath back, after that explosive, whirlwind journey, through a whole rollercoaster ride of emotions.
I gave Alex’s debut novel Every Last Fear, 5 stars right across the board and wasn’t sure exactly how he was going to produce another storyline which could compete with it, let alone better it. But he has, and how spectacularly has he hit that 5 star plus ceiling for me! If Every Last Fear is in development for a major television series, then The Night Shift definitely has to be on the cards for a full length film option.
FBI agent Sarah Keller, also made her debut appearance in Every Last Fear and I remember commenting at the time, that she really should get a series of her own. Well, she makes a return to the action in this latest thriller and despite her temporary and very obvious physical limitations, is pivotal in bringing events to a conclusion, although she almost breaks my golden rule that the main protagonist in the stories I read, shouldn’t end up dead. That she survives by the skin of her teeth, is hopefully an omen that we shall see more of her in future books, although that depends on whether her husband gets his silent wish that she might not need to live up to her “Agent Badass” reputation for too much longer, as he quite likes her alive and in one piece, although he is always willing to support her in making her job as fulfilling as possible, so will back whatever final decision she makes.
This was very much a story of two halves, beginning in 1999 and fast forwarding to 2015, with the intervening years seeming to have been rather calm and ordinary, although as events unfold, we discover that all was not as it might have at first appeared and a much more subtle form of coercion has continued to bubble away silently and undetected, beneath the surface. Are the two horrendous crime scenes, separated by almost two decades, linked and perpetrated by the same person, or is there a copycat killer on the loose with a totally different agenda?
That’s the scary and highly emotional dilemma now facing both Ella, the sole survivor of the first attack and Chris, younger brother of the accused perpetrator of the first attack, Vince, who is still reportedly on the run from the law all these years later. The one thing that Ella and Chris have in common, apart from the fact that after all the time which has lapsed, they have only just managed to get their individual lives back on track and are able to move forward in the right head space; is that they both believe that Vince was innocent of such heinous crimes, despite evidence to the contrary. Yes, he was no angel, on that they are both agreed, but his small time misdemeanours pale into insignificance alongside the witch-hunt stirred up against him by some of the townsfolk.
When the second attack also yields one sole survivor, Jesse, the FBI are called in to help bring about a speedy conclusion to events, although it is Jesse herself, who seems determined to thwart their efforts with her own disruptive agenda. The social care system has not been kind to Jesse over the years and the people who are charged with her wellbeing and keeping her safe, are in fact those who she most needs to mistrust and fear. It is not until the stubborn combination of Ella and Sarah, finally manage to break down her defences and show Jesse that they really are on her side, does she open up and the fractured pieces of this shattered jigsaw, begin to make sense and fit together.
This powerful and gripping storyline is so well structured and multi-layered, that I was still peeling the many strands back right until the eleventh hour, in an effort to uncover the final truth and to be honest, my suspect list had almost everyone’s name on it at some time or another. Although this barrel of humanity contained some pretty rotten apples, I never did mange to isolate the murderer who mattered the most, almost right up until the time that the penny began to drop for Sarah Keller, but by then there was nothing left for the perpetrator to lose, in their final frenzied attack, with their reputation already in tatters and nothing but a lifetime behind bars waiting for them.
Events were thankfully presented in short, seamless chapters, as the often frenetically intense action and narrative, tended to randomly drop in and out of the two timelines and was told in the voices of several different people. The twists and double twists in this storyline, just kept on coming and red herrings were spread liberally to trip me up every time I thought I was getting on top of things. When writing, how Alex managed to keep a track of who was doing what to whom, how, why, where and when, was a complete mystery to me, as my poor little brain was constantly fuddled and tied up in knots. The lies, duplicity and all those dirty little secrets, are so widespread and attributed to so many different individuals, all with their own agendas, that melding them together into such a highly textured and cohesive storyline, was wickedly clever, slick and polished, and pulled off to perfection. The physical footprint of the story was quite small, however the fluently written narrative and dialogue was crisp and visually descriptive, affording a real sense of time and place, as the characters moved around within their location.
Alex created a vast, sprawling and diverse cast of characters, who although they were all compelling and afforded a good strong voice with which to tell their story, did in fact spend much of their time vying to be the lucky ones left standing, when the dust had finally settled and the total body count was added up. The only people who never really had an axe to grind, or ulterior motives and personal agendas to service, were Agent Sarah Keller and her protegee Atticus. The vibrant energy and synergy between them was like a breath of fresh air, in an otherwise claustrophobic atmosphere and I found it easy to relate to and invest in this new pairing, however short lived it may have been. From the unreliable, vulnerable and complex; to the raw, passionate, authentic and believable; just about every emotion played out a storyline where the fragility and frailty of the youthful mind, were played on and manipulated by figures who had been entrusted to nurture them and encourage them to reach their full potential.
There are glimmers of some happy endings to be found, although they may still be fragile and a little raw, but time is a great healer, or so they say. For some, there will be no new beginnings. Theirs will forever be the silent voices.
What makes reading such a wonderful experience for me, is that with each and every new book, I am taken on a unique and individual journey, by authors who fire my imagination and stimulate my senses. This story pushed so many buttons on the failings of the system and the social mores of the individual timelines in which it is written, it had the power to evoke strong emotions which were almost overwhelming. This really is a journey you need to make for yourself, to see where it leads you and how it leaves you feeling when it is all over!
A complimentary copy for review, was kindly provided by Head of Zeus, and facilitated by NetGalley, for which I thank them both.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!