REVIEW: The Graveyard Shift by Maria Lewis

Tinsel Munroe is the host of “The Graveyard Shift,” an overnight horror-themed radio show on 102.8 HitsFM, Melbourne’s hottest station. Despite her best efforts she finds herself mostly treading water in her career, trapped in a dead-end time slot playing for a devoted but small following. Her life is upended on Halloween, however, when an audience member is viciously murdered during a broadcast phone call. New listeners flock to the show with ghoulish hopes for another on-air killing, and ominous messages reveal to Tinsel that she herself is a target. As the police investigation founders and the body count rises, Tinsel realizes that her continued survival depends on her ability—with assistance from her true crime blogger sister Pandora and the handsome detective Vic James—to uncover the hidden connection between herself and the unseen assailant.

The Graveyard ShiftThe Graveyard Shift is billed as an “homage” to the slasher movies of the 1990s, and elements of the Scream series are certainly present and accounted for. While Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play and various other slasher franchises are name-checked throughout the book, potential readers should be aware that The Graveyard Shift is more of a thriller with light mystery and romance elements than a horror novel. The supernatural is not a factor, and Maria Lewis does not devote much effort to building and sustaining an unsettling or frightening atmosphere. That being said, the murder scenes are tense and exciting and deliver the sort of gore one would expect from I Know What You Did Last Summer or similar slashers.

The Graveyard Shift’s greatest strength is its characters. Tinsel is a likable, smart, and resourceful heroine. True crime blogger Pandora and police detective Vic James are likewise appealing, and even the minor supporting characters come across as distinctive, well-rendered individuals. While it feels a little convenient that Tinsel’s sister happens to be a serial killer expert with police connections and a ready supply of murder factoids, Pandora is given enough fleshing-out to make her more than just a convenient plot device. Dreamy, stubbled protector Detective James also seems more like a Hollywood cop than somebody one would encounter on a real world police force, but he is given enough depth to transcend his primary function as hunky daydream fodder for readers. The characters are fun, and it’s enjoyable spending time with them.

In The Graveyard Shift, Lewis writes in a breezy, thoroughly modern voice. The book is fast-paced and engaging, but I struggled a bit with the tone. At no point in this book does someone narrowly escape from a knife-wielding maniac and then brush it off with a quippy “Well, that happened,” but if a scene like that HAD been present it would not have been out of place with the rest of the book. Plucky bravery is one thing, but Tinsel comes off as remarkably unflappable for someone being actively stalked by a serial killer. She shows occasional moments of fright or doubt, but is otherwise largely able to go about her life in good spirits, mostly covering her regular shift at work and putting in appearances at social functions. The constantly shifting tone threw me off, but it feels significant that a main character is a true crime enthusiast. True crime podcasts and blogs are often accused of trivializing real world brutality and murder for the sake of salacious thrills, and similarly the fictional crimes depicted here aren’t always handled with the utmost gravity. Tinsel is appropriately devastated when people she knows are attacked, but at times it feels like the deaths of unacquainted victims are treated more like a fun puzzle to be solved by Tinsel and Pandora: Taskforce Laurie Strode.

The Graveyard Shift is an energetic and stimulating thriller. Readers hoping for grit and angst are better off looking elsewhere, but this book serves well as a refreshing palate cleanser after finishing weightier fare.

Read The Graveyard Shift by Maria Lewis

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Robin Marx

Robin Marx

Born in Spain and raised in the United States, Robin Marx has lived in Japan for more than two decades. He works in the video game industry, handling localization and international licensing. In addition to over a dozen video games, his writing has appeared in a number of role-playing game supplements. He lives with his wife and their two daughters. You can link up with Robin over at: https://mastodon.social/@RobinMarx