Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger is published by one of my favorite go to publisher’s of the absurb and original. Quirk Books. It is Quirk Books who you have to thank for Ransom Riggs and his tales of Peculiar Children and the Ben H. Winters trilogy of The Last Policeman as well as E. B. Hudspeth’s tale of The Resurrectionist: The Last Work of Dr. Spencer Black. Into this wonderful mix comes Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge.
Consider this; Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter walk into a bar….
The punchline is that the best demon ass kicking slayer and most powerful magician is neither one of these two. No, its the person tending bar. The bartender whose mixing drinks and with the right mix, can create powers for him and his crew to battle the demons who attack at night. The demons who wait for last call.
“…Sparks. Jim shoved himself to his feet. Something was barreling toward him, grating out sparks in its wake.
‘Police!’ he yelled with what little breath he had left. ‘Clear the street! Police!’ He might’ve been in his fifties and still not making sergeant, but if he was going to die, at least he would die a cop.
It was a person-black female, tall, dreadlocks-and she was dragging a stop sign, a chunk of concrete still attached to the bottom. She hefted it as she sprinted, even though there was no way her skinny arms could’ve lifted it, and the sparks and the noise stopped.
‘Pol—‘ Jim couldn’t even get the word out before she jumped—right over his head—and sliced the stop sign through the thing’s neck like an executioner’s ax.
The head bounced into the darkness as the girl landed with a soft thump. The thing’s body swayed, collapsed onto its haunches, and then exploded in a burst of thick, ugly smoke…”
Like most college grads, Bailey Chen has a cool degree but no where to go. With no job, little parental support and a confusing and rocky relationship with her childhood friend Zane; she takes a job working as a bar back for Zane at the Nightshade Lounge. But what she comes to find out one evening is that the bartenders do more than just mix drinks for the locals.
“…Humans have sensed the connection between alcohol and magic for a long, long time.’ Zane began. ‘Dionysic wines that granted women superstrength. Ayurvedic arishtas that cured you with fermented herbs. Sake offered to the Shinto gods for ritual purification.’
‘Those dogs with the barrels around their necks…”
When Bailey shows a gift for mixing drinks and killing demons, she is inducted into the secret society of monster fighting bartenders. But soon Bailey discovers that the demons may be the least of her problems as there is a drink so powerful, it can give everlasting life and power. Now she must protect the world and her friends from the greed and madness of one of their own as they try to discover the secret behind the Long Island Ice Tea.
“…He disappeared into the kitchen. She heard a machine whirr and buzz to life, and the smell of coffee hit the air. He reappeared soon after, carrying a steaming mug. ‘Drink it slowly,’ he said, handing her a cappuccino topped with a perfect tuft of foam. He’d sprinkled powdered cinnamon over top in the shape of a cross, like on the side of a first-aid kit.
Bailey eyed it. ‘This coffee can heal me?’
‘That cappuccino can replenish your stores of innate magic, and then some…if you drink it slowly.’
‘What happens if I drink it fast?’
‘Then you burn the roof of your mouth….”
Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge is a young adult novel of demon killers and magicians, as well as some very cool drink recipes that start off each chapter; that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Mixing in humor and fun, this very well could be one of the more entertaining novels of the year that you simply haven’t heard of. But lovers of all things Quirky know.
Last Call doesn’t bother trying to compete with he deluge of demon killing, magic wielding sexpot books out there. Instead it does something wholly original and somewhat mad. It tells an entertaining and funny adventure story that just happens to have demon killing and magic in it. And alcohol too. Lots of alcohol. Bailey is a terrific character who finds herself trying to fit in with the outcasts she once left behind and dealing with her mixed feelings as well. All while being slightly drunk too.
Krueger has written a tale of greed and lust of power and the unattainable goal of immortality. A tale of bitterness and the past, and loyalty and friendship, and love. He tells this story with a sense of adventure and humor that never forgets that its true purpose is to be read and to entertain.
It does that very, very well.
A terrific read!