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Mystery Monday – A Taste of the Nightlife


A Taste of the Nightlife by Sarah Zettel

Review by (reacherfan1909)


Paranormal mysteries have become increasingly popular and the line between ‘mystery’ and ‘urban fantasy’ is blurred with many, especially those written by science fiction/fantasy authors like Simon Green, Jim Butcher, or Marc Del FrancoCharlie Huston has straddled the classic noir mystery and paranormal mystery genres better than anyone, writing two different styles so well, I am in a bit of awe.  Sarah Zettel’s resume is solidly in the science fiction/fantasy, but this time, but I’d put A Taste of the Nightlife is in the paranormal cozy genre, though  many Amazon folks beg to differ and class it UF.

New York City is a tough town for restauranteurs.  Businesses rise and fall on a single review and tonight, famed vampire food critic, Anatole Sevarin, arrives at Nightlife with no reservation and sets Chef Charlotte Cain’s already busy Friday night kitchen into overdrive.  Naturally, just to make things complete, they have a loudly complaining customer insisting the Chef herself attend the problem – and fire her best server, a werewolf.  The loud, obnoxious woman makes a major scene, Chef Cain is just walking away, thinking the night couldn’t get worse, when an angry, drunk warlock bursts in and tries shoot a fireball at the complaining woman.  Now fire and vampires decidedly do NOT mix, so Charlotte marches over and demands he stop, but before he listens, the sensitive fire alarm and sprinkler/fire suppressant system are triggered, sending customers running out – and firemen and police running in.

After hours of apologizing to everyone, then more hours cleaning up, an exhausted Charlotte has another stranger at her door, only this time Brendon Maddox, of the famous Maddox family of witches and warlocks, is there to apologize for fire wielding cousin, Dylan.  Seems the loudly complaining blond was another cousin, Pam Maddox, who has become estranged from the family and Dylan was hunting for her.  Brendon is handsome and charming, but the Maddox’s made their fame and money hunting vampires before the nightbloods came out to the public and got legislation passed that gives them citizen rights.  Since Charlotte’s brother, and restaurant partner, Chet, is a vampire, she could only allow the charm to go so far.  Then Anatole Sevarin is there as well.  Terrific.

Now Friday night might have been the worst night of her professional life, until Saturday finds a still exhausted Charlotte opening the restaurant’s front door to find a very dead Dylan Maddox on the floor with two puncture wounds in his neck and no blood in his body.  Now her problems are really starting.

Anatole and Brendon both show a lot of personal interest in Charlotte, though separating personal and professional is hard to to do when each of them seem to have a stake (no pun intended) in what’s happening.  Swirling around this is the possibility that her brother Chet is using her restaurant as front for an illegal blood-running business.  She has only 4 days till the restaurant she’s worked so hard for collapses financially.  She’s determined to figure out what’s really going on – and to protect Chet.

Paranormal elements aside, the basic plot, 4 lead characters (Charlotte, Chet, Brendon, and Anatole), and story arc are true to the cozy genre.  Ms Zettle captures the tenuous nature of the restaurant business in NYC, the constant financial tightrope they walk, the complex nature of a working kitchen, and even a clever riff on vampire dining.  She also does a really good job with the guilt complicated relationship between Charlotte and Chet.  The mystery actually ended up being a bit more complex than the average cozy and for a first book in a series, a good start.

Ms Zettel’s experience as a writer kept the pacing and dialogue moving well and with wit.  Her weak spot was depth of world building and creating the kind of integrated social web with both ‘daybloods’ and nightbloods’ that would have given the story the kind of complex depth I look for in a good mystery, especially one that incorporates so many paranormal aspects.  Within the confines of the ‘fluff’ nature of cozy limits, it was OK, but as a major paranormal/UF fan myself, I felt I was left a bit flat.   Regardless of the frequent UF classification by Amazon readers, A Taste of the Nightlife lacks the noir edginess that hallmarks true UF to me, so this remains a cozy mystery and I’m judging it within those expectations.

A Taste of the Nightlife earns a 3.5* B- rating from me.  It’s worth a read and I will try book two, but other than capturing the sense of the whole restaurant business, there was nothing sufficiently unique about this book to make it truly remarkable.  The framework is there for something better, and I’m hoping the Vampire Chef series holds up over the next few books.



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3 Responses to “Mystery Monday – A Taste of the Nightlife”

  1. Robin K. (jubead) says:

    I have this book, I think I will move it up the TBR list. Thanks for the review.

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