Published by Tor on July 18, 2017
Genres: Adult, Crime, Mystery & Detective, Occult & Supernatural, Thrillers, Urban Fantasy
Reviewed by: Rebecca
Alex Menkaure, former pharaoh and mummy, and his vampire partner, Marcus, who was born in ancient Rome, once hunted evil vampires for UMBRA, a super-secret unit of the NSA. That was before the discovery of a blood substitute and a Supreme Court ruling allowed thousands of vampires to integrate into society.
Now, Alex and Marcus are vice cops in a special police unit. They fight to keep the streets safe from criminal vampires, shape-shifters, blood-dealers, and anti-vampire vigilantes.
When someone starts poisoning the artificial blood, race relations between vampires and humans deteriorate to the brink of anarchy. While the city threatens to tear itself apart, Alex and Marcus must form an unnatural alliance with a vigilante gang and a shape-shifter woman in a desperate battle against an ancient vampire conspiracy.
If they succeed, they'll be pariahs, hunted by everyone. If they fail, the result will be a race-war bloodierthan any the world has ever seen.
Gritty urban fantasy and hard-boiled noir packed into a hand grenade of awesome! Mario Acevedo, author of Werewolf Smackdown
A police procedural should investigate the main characters, just as the characters are investigating a crime. In GRAVEYARD SHIFT, there doesn’t seem to be much individuality between its investigators, when there should be worlds of difference. GRAVEYARD SHIFT has a great hook: Detective Alex Romer, née Menkaure, works in Nocturn Affairs, solving vampire-related cases. As a former pharaoh and Ancient, Alex has to douse himself in cologne to cover up the smell of mummified death that lingers around him. Vampires are told that Alex has a terminal illness in order to explain the strange scent.
Alex isn’t fond of vampires, but is working in a unit filled with them. He’s also partnered with Marcus, a vampire who used to be a Roman general. Alex tells us that Marcus is broody and serious. So there’s an expectation that Marcus’ POV will be sorrowful and filled with remorse. But it isn’t. In fact, there’s no tonal difference between Alex’s chapters and Marcus’. In fact, we later learn that Marcus is a seducer, content to hold vampire sex parties. There are several different POVs used throughout the book to explain the different factions involved but due to the growing list of terminology and sameness in the writing style, it’s difficult to remember who was important. There’s a lot of needlessly specialized terms in the novel. So much so that I wish there was an explanation at the start of the novel. Using the word ‘vampire’, is considered a slur in GRAVEYARD SHIFT. Nocturn is the new PC term for vampire. Sangers is slang for vampires. Sangri is the artificial blood. Thropes are shifters. It goes on.
Police procedurals are one of my favourite sub-genres in urban fantasy. I want methodical work, characters that are obsessed with finding the truth, even at personal or professional costs. Surprisingly, the police work in GRAVEYARD SHIFT felt dry. Sure there’s brutal murders and a city that’s tense with fear, but neither Alex nor Marcus seem overly stressed about their cases. With a serial killer loose, citizen mobs, and a tainted blood supply, you’d expect a little more desperation and rashness.
I felt lost with all the name-dropping and knowing glances between characters. I kept feeling like I missed a joke or important plot point because I didn’t know the previous 200 years of character history. For the first time, there was too much lived background between the characters. Both Alex, Marcus, and a few others, used to work for UMBRA, a secret organization that kept the supernatural in line. There are special terms for vampires. There’s Alex’s personal history. There’s the Lightbearer Society that used to wreak havoc. In fact, they’re mentioned in the first murder scene. There’s a villain called Abraham that both Alex and Marcus are sure is the killer. In short, there’s a lot of background information that leaves readers scratching their heads, wondering if they’ve missed a book. The complex mythology that GRAVEYARD SHIFT tries to create ends up overwhelming the reader and distracting from what should be the most important element of the novel: the characters.Series Titles:
For an urban fantasy police procedural that succeeds in making readers care about its characters, check out Clara Coulson’s City of Crows series.