If you read this blog regularly, you’ll think I’m in a million book clubs based on how I start these intros, but I promise you that I’m only in two. The Night Shift was one group’s pick for March, and though I couldn’t get my hands on a copy until now, I still wanted to read it because the premise sounded interesting to me—hello revisiting the 90s! I don’t generally tend to read a lot of heavier stuff (especially lately), but I find with the right plot, I can definitely get into a thriller/murder mystery, especially if there’s not a lot of description about the murders themselves, which there isn’t in this case. Oh, and little kids can’t be hurt—I just can’t get past that as a mom to a two-year-old.
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.
Twisty, poignant, and redemptive, The Night Shift is a story about the legacy of trauma and how the broken can come out on the other side, and it solidifies Alex Finlay as one of the new leading voices in the world of thrillers.
I’m not going to write any spoilers in this review because I want to encourage people to read it (it was really good!). I know I don’t read a lot of thrillers, so take this with a grain of salt, but I only figured out who the murderer was a little bit before it was revealed, so in my opinion, it was well done. There were so many moving parts and things being discovered that I was constantly in it—it didn’t plateau for me at all. Plus, with three narrators and short chapters, it made it easy to fly through.
It was interesting to me that this was written by a man, because two of the three main characters were women, and they were surprisingly well developed. The women were flawed but realistic, but I found Chris’s (the male POV) story to be a little far-fetched. I didn’t really care as much about him, but I see why he was necessary to the plot. Sarah Keller, the FBI agent, was my favourite by far (and she was pregnant, which I adored because pregnant ladies are never really ever written about doing their bad-ass jobs) and I would love to read a series about her solving murders. There was one side character in particular that I was drawn to and I was truly upset with Finlay for how their story progressed, but I’m just going to leave it at that—let me know who you think I’m talking about!
My only critique is that there was a lot of sameness happening between the characters, meaning a lot of them had similar backstories once we got into it. It’s very possible that it was intentional to try and explain the various murders and motives, but it made it that I wasn’t as drawn into these people as I probably could have been—I was actually kind of hoping one (or more!) of the MCs were going to die to see where that took the plot. There was one unexpected storyline involving some dads, however, that I totally didn’t see coming and that added an extra layer that brought my rating up a half star.
I loved Blockbuster as a kid, and I think having that as part of the backdrop was intentionally nostalgic for the writer, drawing us in and making us think that these stories could take place in our own backyard. I love that The Night Shift wasn’t too graphic, too, so I didn’t have to be in a particular headspace to read it. From what I’ve read, regular thriller readers will appreciate the writing—even if the plot seemed a bit predictable to them—and we less-regular thriller readers will be on the edge of our seats waiting to see what happens next.
“The ingenuity of criminals never ceases to amaze. It also dumbfounds her—why don’t the smart ones take their talents and go legit?”—Alex Finlay, The Night Shift
Thank you to Dylan Ferreira on Unsplash for the featured photo.