Nightshifted
by Cassie Alexander

Medical Care for Monsters!

What They Say:
Nursing school prepared Edie Spence for a lot of things. Burn victims? No problem. Severed limbs? Piece of cake. Vampires? No way in hell. But as the newest nurse on Y4, the secret ward hidden in the bowels of County Hospital, Edie has her hands full with every paranormal patient you can imagine—from vamps and were-things to zombies and beyond…

Edie’s just trying to learn the ropes so she can get through her latest shift unscathed. But when a vampire servant turns to dust under her watch, all hell breaks loose. Now she’s haunted by the man’s dying words—Save Anna—and before she knows it, she’s on a mission to rescue some poor girl from the undead. Which involves crashing a vampire den, falling for a zombie, and fighting for her soul. Grey’s Anatomy was never like this…
The Premise: Once, Edie Spence had been just a normal nurse, one with a cushy job at a private hospital. And she'd worked hard to get there. But when her junkie brother overdosed (again), her priorities shifted. She was ready to make a deal.

Now, she's the newest nurse on Y4, a non-descript ward in the county hospital. Non-descript . . . except for the patients. Y4 treats the city's supernatural population - a population she didn't even know existed six weeks before.

The pay is lousy, the patients . . . "eccentric", and her brother's still a junkie. But the man (assuming he was a man) who hired her kept his end of the deal - her brother can't get high any more. Liquor, meth, cocaine . . . somehow, it just magically disappears out of his system. And knowing her brother isn't dead in a ditch somewhere makes her shifts bearable.

But when a dying supernatural uses mind control to force her on a quest to rescue a child vampire, her world turns upside down . . . again. In the aftermath, the child vampire is gone . . . and she's on trial for two vampire murders.

The Review: In Nightshifted, Cassie Alexander has actually managed to carve out a new niche in the dark fantasy/modern horror genre: the supernatural medical drama.

And the novel works very well - at least as a medical drama. The author either has medical training of her own, or really did her research. The little habits nurses pick up, hospital resources (like translators) that the average person wouldn't know about. . .

Plus, Edie's patients are a diverse and interesting lot. An elderly man (who may or may not be human) dying of pneumonia, a deranged shapeshifter in the Y4 psych ward, the little boy with the German ghost . . . And that's before the dragon shows up. All nicely memorable.

Unfortunately, the whole child-vampire and murder trial plot elements don't fare nearly as well. Much of that storyline rests on the actions of "Mr. November", one of Edie's patients. However, there are some real plot holes there - like how a "civilian" nurse could pull off a rescue that a dedicated hunter couldn't. In fact, the whole rescue idea is problematic. It hinges on him having both mind control and the knowledge of where the child-vampire was . . . both of which the novel seems to rule out.

As for the trial aspect . . . well, its okay. But I've seen it done better (a lot better, in fact), and its more a distraction from the medical drama. And, overall, it feels like its a plotline that should've been spread over several novels, rather than crammed into this one.

And Nightshifted is a pretty hard "R". Beyond her brother's drug addiction, there's a fair amount of adult material. Edie has a one night stand (without using "protection"), one of her patients is going mad from syphilis . . . and there's a brief comment about using child-vampires for kiddie porn. And that's before you even take into account the cannibalism . . .

Series: Nightshifted is the first volume of the ongoing Edie Spence series. Up next is Moonshifted, focusing on the local lycanthropes.

Influences: A quick-and-dirty description would probably be a crossover between Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series and ER (maybe Grey's Anatomy).

My Final Thoughts: I can recommend Nightshifted . . . but only on the strength of the nursing scenes. The vampire drama . . .I don't know, it just feels tacked on. Almost an excuse to tie a bunch of short stories (on the supernatural/medical side) together.

However, Nightshifted is also the author's first novel. Now that she's got her setting and cast established, I'd expect to see a lot of those issues addressed in the follow-up books. And she really does do an excellent job capturing the feel of what it'd be like to be an overworked, underpaid nurse working at a public hospital