Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander
Edie Spence has a degree in nursing and a job at the County Hospital, in the Y4 ward. County Hospital, the public hospital that treats everyone, insured or not, is a tough gig at any time — Y4 is both tougher and weirder, being the floor that treats daylight servants of vampires, vampires themselves, shapeshifters, and all sorts of were-folk. Oh, and did I mention zombies? The work is hard and dangerous, the pay is abysmal, but by working here, Edie guarantees protection for her junkie brother. As Nightshifted opens, Edie is consigning her decision to just one more in a long list of bad life choices.
Then a vampire patient dies, but not before giving Edie a puzzle, or perhaps placing her under a compulsion. When the night shift is over, Edie goes out searching for a person named Anna, the vampire’s dying request. She finds a dark apartment with a wall of pictures of young girls being abused… and then the story gets creepy.
This first outing of the EDIE SPENCE series introduces both the Y4 floor and the paranormal world Edie inhabits, while dishing out a pretty good story. Anna is a nine-year-old girl, but she’s been one for about a hundred years. Once Edie finds her — I should say once Edie finds her the first time — Edie’s problems are only beginning. She’s being tracked by a vampire bounty hunter, and expected to appear before a vampire court where the verdict has already been decided. (Spoiler alert: It’s not in her favor.) She’s inherited a German ghost who speaks through a CD player. The ghost wants to be helpful, but unfortunately, Edie speaks no German. On the bright side, she meets a sexy Englishman at a bar and has a steamy one-night-stand, but also hooks up with an equally sexy zombie firefighter.
In between the plot points, Edie shares with us the experiences of a nurse. Cassie Alexander is the pseudonym of a working nurse. Even though the patients are paranormal beings — including a memorable dragon — Alexander captures the camaraderie, professionalism and cynicism of nurses, and the complete gonzo-ness of the profession. I mean, her patients are supernatural, but they wouldn’t have to be.
Edie’s challenging relationship with Anna and the vampire court is exciting, but what the book did best was provide a new kind of urban fantasy protagonist, with a narrative voice that manages to be fresh and world-weary at the same time, while laying out the rules of this paranormal world. According to Amazon, there are currently five books in the series.
The adventures are tense and scary, the tone is sometimes snarky, sometimes wistful, the world is believable, and the sex is steamy. Paranormal romance is not my go-to subgenre, but I enjoyed Nightshifted and I’ll check out a few more, just to see what kind of trouble Edie gets herself into. And I hope she takes a class in conversational German!