Nightshades by Melissa F. Olson

Read September 2018
Recommended for fans of FBI, vamps
★     1/2   

Cross The X-Files with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and you’ll about have it.

I kind of liked Olson’s book, Midnight Curse, so when a fellow reader mentioned this as one of her favorite books of the year, I was tempted, then further interested by the description of ‘gritty,’ which would, I felt, potentially cancel out some of the silliness in Midnight Curse. While this was not silly, it was also not that interesting.

I can totally see it as a pilot for a new television series starring a pair of hunky young best friends and FBI agents, and an attractive, willowy, curvy (both descriptors are used) vampire woman who acts as their ‘consultant’ on a recent spate of kidnappings and killings, presumably done by vampires. It’s surprisingly generic storyline: substitute ‘serial killer’ for ‘vampire’ (there’s even a scene that overtly references Hannibal Lector) and it would flow as readily.

World-building is straightforward, although vamps are for some reason called ‘shades.’ It’s a time where the public is aware of them, vaguely, yet somehow doesn’t care all that much. The government is vaguely working on defining as to whether or not they are ‘human’ and thus citizens (apparently this process is limited because they don’t have a dead vamp to autopsy). They are super-human fast, can live centuries, and their eyes turn red with blood-lust. 

Plot points include the creepy serial killer vampire who is a prisoner and indirect ‘consultant,’ the mandatory speech by the Head Bad Guy in which he reveals his bizarro plans for world domination, and obligatory attraction between leads (sadly, not the two FBI BFFs).

Oh, and let’s not forget the predominantly white, male cast.C haracterization falls along the lines of television-episode generic, with one or two characteristics standing in for personhood. Interestingly, there’s a lot of description given to a Chinese woman who is their tech consultant, and an African American guy who is in charge of the vamp prisoner, but very little description given to Alex, the male lead. So Olson fails the awareness test by only bothering to make sex/description a point when people are different

I think what makes it ‘gritty’ is that there’s a very high body count of good guys, bad guys, and innocents, and people feel bad about it at the end. But there’s no shades of grey here, or moral ambiguity, or dusty Western wind, or whatever makes something ‘gritty.’ It’s straightforward and clean as a crew cut.

So the last chapter has a mild cliff-hanger, and the epilogue has a major one. This seems to be a novella length book, capitalizing on the recent spate of Tor-published books made for quick reads, à la Murderbot and The Dispatcher. This, while competently written, doesn’t really bring any new ideas to the table, but if you are a vampire fan, or fan of the FBI investigation set-up, you could do worse.


The day-after update: not for me. Definitely not for me. 

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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