**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
Published by Pocket Books on October 21, 2013
AMAZON • B&N • Goodreads
For centuries an ancient evil has slept beneath the streets of New Harbor. This Halloween, it wakes up.
An action-packed debut horror novel from talented new writer Matthew Quinn Martin, Nightlife pits a feisty bartender and a mysterious loner against bloodthirsty terrors as alluring as they are deadly.
Nightclub bartender and serial heartbreaker Beth Becker might be a cynic. But when her best friend goes missing Halloween night, Beth knows it's up to her to find out what happened.
Her quest will take her on an odyssey through the crumbling city of New Harbor, Connecticut. Along the way she meets a homeless prophet warning of something he calls the "Night Angel"-a bloodthirsty creature that feeds on the forgotten. And she will form an unlikely bond with a hunted stranger who knows all too well what stalks the streets at night.
Nightlife is a creepy new horror novel by author Matthew Quinn Martin. There’s a lot to recommend about this book, particularly the strong lead characters and Martin’s unsettling take on vampires. However, there were some issues I had with secondary characters and multiple POVs that kept Nightlife from really shining for me.
Nightlife takes place in New Harbor, CT, a town that has a distinct line drawn between the haves and the have nots. The majority of the story takes place in the section of New Harbor that has seen better days — lots of empty buildings, abandoned gentrification projects, and the like. It’s here where a growing number of people have “last been seen,” missing person fliers litter lampposts and are papered all over the university grounds that border the area. This is something that local bartender Beth Becker doesn’t notice until her best friend goes missing Halloween night. As Beth begins her search for her friend, she soon realizes that the increasing number of missing persons is not a coincidence and that there is a larger threat to the town, one she never imagined. Along this journey she meets Jack Jackson, a man with a tortured past, who knows the truth of what’s happening. He’s the only one who can help her find her friend, and the only one who can save New Harbor from total destruction.
I really liked Beth. Brave, smart, funny, and ballsy…She’s not a larger than life character but rather an everyday Jane who has learned to take care of herself at the School of Hard Knocks. Martin introduces us to Beth in a fantastic scene where she saves a dog from a pack of sadistic teens. You think the scene will go one way, but Beth has real grit and can take care of herself. Right away, Martin lets you know Beth is no shrinking violet. Mess with her at your own risk. But she’s not perfect. Beth drinks a little too much and is emotionally unavailable to people who just might care about her. For all her faults, she has your back when it counts and I connected with her sense of loyalty and admired her courage in the face of real fear.
Couple her with Jack who is hunting something you aren’t quite sure about. A creature is preying on the innocent people of New Harbor and Jack is one of the few people who knows what’s going on. He’s got his own demons, he’s emotionally cut-off, and he operates like every day is his last. These two become an unlikely duo and they each end up being just what the other needs. An emotional bridge starts forming between them but they are both so hurt they’re hesitant to cross it. It’s a nice dynamic that I wish had been played out a little more in the book.
The creatures were creepy. They have the ability for illusion that I thought created some wonderfully disturbing moments though the science behind that ability confused me. Regardless, they represent an original take on vampires and they were definitely of the scary, non-sexy variety. Add to that a shadowy organization and government agency that seems to be hunting Jack and you have a fun but dark conspiracy tinted horror story.
There are a string of other characters namely a homeless Vietnam vet nicknamed the Prophet. He’s teed up as a central character but then disappears for half of the book. I felt the Prophet bordered on being a bit cliché — the spiritual black man who recognizes a mystical truth. There’s also a brief scene with another African-American character who is most definitely stereotyped — a street thug who threatens to rape Beth. I was worried that these characterizations would litter the book but they didn’t play as central a role as I thought they would. There is also a very brief appearance by an Agent Ross who you learn is also African-American; he seemed to play against stereotype so this was a positive. It might seem odd that I highlight these issues but since there tends to be so few people of color in horror and fantasy that, while I crave representation, I do hate stereotypes.
The issues that bogged Nightlife down for me were the pacing and the constantly shifting POVs. The book starts slow. It doesn’t really get going until about 50% (I read this on my Kindle). This doesn’t normally bother me but I felt the nature of the story required some action to come in sooner.
The numerous and constantly shifting POVs were also an issue. These POVs include Zoe (Beth’s friend), Ryan (Beth’s boyfriend), a little girl with a lisp, the Prophet, a police officer, a jerk customer at Beth’s bar…There were a lot. I think multiple POVs work, in fact, I tend to like them but in Nightlife, when those POVs essentially ended mid-way through the book and Beth and Jack became the main focus, the POVs felt more unbalanced than anything else. They would have been much stronger had they been integrated throughout the book. In the end, I felt confused as some of those characters seemed to be setup as important but then disappeared from the storyline.
Overall, Nightlife is a dark and creepy horror story that I think will appeal to a lot of people. The two main characters, Beth and Jack, are a fantastic duo that are ripe with future story potential. For me, it felt a bit too slow in parts, some of the characterizations were stereotyped, and the multiple POVs felt unbalanced. Nightlife hits the mark in terms of original horror but I’m not sure this book was for me. A true split down the middle. 2.5 howls!
The author has been very generous in offering an e-book of Nightlife to a lucky reader. Creepy horror story and Halloween? Perfect! Please enter the Rafflecopter widget below for your chance to win!