Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge
Like the cocktails that populate this novel, the story is an appealing blend of flavorful ingredients. Bailey is an overachiever who, out of college, doesn’t know what to do with herself. She’s moved back in with her parents while she tries to find a direction for her life.
The geek who had a crush on her in high school is now an attractive manager of a special bar with a nice collection of suits and a girlfriend, so he gives her a job as a barback. Oh, and cocktails, made precisely, are secretly magic potions. So Bailey becomes an apprentice bartender, learning to give herself powers in order to fight supernatural beasts on the streets of Chicago.
Plenty of drinkers have felt enhanced by a good beverage. Paul Krueger takes that a little farther in Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, his tale of a secret band of drink-makers protecting bar-goers from demons. I really liked spending time with Bailey, whether she’s coping with her changing feelings towards someone she rejected once or screwing up her courage to battle monsters or interviewing at a bro-ful tech startup.
There’s also a search for a new way to use magic by making the perfect Long Island Iced Tea, and the variety of colorful characters she works with, including the grizzled blind owner of a hole-in-the-wall gay bar and the mysterious warrior Mona, who seems much older than she appears. Of course, a band of magicians means some kind of controlling council, enforcing the rules. Bailey’s natural talent and determination comes into conflict with them, once she discovers a long-established conspiracy.
I thought it was a thrilling adventure with plenty of action, even if some of the plot twists were a bit too convenient. The other characters aren’t as fleshed out as Bailey, but they’re entertaining. In between chapters, there are cocktail recipes for the classics — martini, Irish coffee, old fashioned, mojito, and so on — done up in grimoire style, which really brings home the concept. Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge will be out at the beginning of June. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)