Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger
Quirk Books, 2016
Available: Paperback, audiobook, Kindle edition
Bailey Chen is struggling with life after college. She is living with her parents, and working as a barback, with no prospects on the horizon. She’s also trying to salvage her relationship with Zane, a high school friend who now manages the Nightshade Lounge, where she is employed. After a particularly difficult evening at the Nightshade Lounge, a flighty bartender leaves a secret door open, and Bailey mixes the perfect screwdriver. As she heads toward home, she starts seeing… things. Supernatural creatures are hunting in Chicago.
Zane then reveals that he belongs to a secret society of bartenders that has kept evil at by for centuries, using specially mixed cocktails, to combat evil forces that plague the city. Each one lends different supernatural powers to the imbiber: vodka carries super-strength, dry vermouth has fortifying qualities, and whiskey grants the power of telekinesis. Zane introduces her to a smaller coterie within the organization, the Alechemists. She learns that their ancient tome and spell book, The Devil’s Water Dictionary, is not the original, which was destroyed; the secret society has tried to piece things back together through experimentation and sharing discoveries to create the current document, but it hasn’t been entirely successful. The recipe for the legendary Long Island Iced Tea, their philosopher’s stone, is missing. It could grant any number of powers to the imbiber, but its effects are largely unknown. There are a few people in the organization experimenting to find the right formula. However, the process is drawing some unwanted attention. and as they get closer to the proper formula, supernatural forces are aligning.
This book reads like a Mage game. It’s a fast-paced adventure, and I found myself liking all of the characters, even the baddies. The characters in the Alechemists were relatable, and strangely realistic. Adding to the realism, there are cocktail recipes sprinkled throughout the book. The concept of using alcoholic drinks to fuel the magic was unique, and mixing the drinks was treated nearly like a science; if the potions weren’t mixed properly, the formula wouldn’t work. I really couldn’t find anything not to like about Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge.
I only have one question for the author: will there be a sequel?
Reader’s advisory note: This might also appeal to readers of the Esther Diamond series by Laura Resnick or the InCryptid series(especially the first two books) by Seanan McGuire
Reviewed by Lizzy Walker