The Nightshades Series by Melissa F. Olson

[For an audio version of this article, please listen to Episode 62 of Recently Read on The Incomparable podcast network.]

Heavenly, Illinois, 30 miles outside Chicago
Wednesday night

Out of the corner of his eye, Special Agent Gabriel Ruiz watched his new partner with serious trepidation.

That’s the beginning of Nightshades by Melissa F. Olson. I’m Erika Ensign, and this is Recently Read.

This episode of Recently Read is a little different because I’m covering all three books in this slick, quick series of paranormal thrillers.

The first book in the series is Nightshades — a delightful and delicious snack of a book that was exactly what I needed. I really love a good take on what would happen if vampires were suddenly confirmed to be real, and this is that. It’s a minor splash followed by a return to typical ennui in the general population. As we now know, millions of people can basically ignore a deadly pandemic, so I think Melissa is vindicated in her prediction that folks can ignore vampires in our midst until they affect one’s community directly.

So yes, the FBI does institute a new unit specifically for tracking “shades”, as vampires are called, but it’s not a terribly well-funded unit. Which makes it a bit odd that one of the “golden boys” of the bureau volunteers to lead the Chicago division. What’s even odder is the consultant he convinces to work with him.

Oh yes, this series is an excellent example of the cop/not-a-cop genre. In this case, the not-a-cop just happens to be a vampire. And she’s only helping grudgingly for mysterious reasons of her own.

I bought the sequel mere moments after finishing this book!

That sequel is called Switchback. I gulped that book down in a single day, and I have zero regrets. I liked it even better than the first volume in the series. As a good second book does, Switchback builds out the characters and relationships, taking them to places that naturally follow from the first book. I liked all the characters when I met them in Nightshades, but after Switchback, I was INVESTED.

The final book in the trilogy is Outbreak. After inhaling the first two books in the series, I was happy-sad to see it come to a conclusion. Without spoiling specifics, I’ll say it’s a satisfying conclusion, but I’d still love more from these characters. It definitely rounds out the series and continues and/or completes the arcs of many of the characters, and that’s exactly what I look for in the final book of a series.

If you’re in the market for some quick, fun, occasionally mildly gory mystery-thrillers about a world with vampires — both as baddies and super-cool kickass ancient ladies who are very very much too old for this shit and would rather just work a desk job than try to ferret out the secrets of an international vampire cabal that’s up to no good, I encourage you to check out Nightshades. If you’re like me, you’ll hop right to the next two almost as quickly as a shade can zip across a room to rip someone’s throat out.

I’m Erika Ensign, and this has been Recently Read.


The Gates

Woo!  Another stripe in the can.  Boom.  The purple yarn is starting to give me fits though.  I love the color, but it keeps getting all twisted, so I find myself rolling the yarn ball over and over again to untwist the yarn.  Oh well.  Mild annoyance at worst.  It’s certainly worth the extra effort if I get a beautiful Season 18 scarf out of this at the end.

You may note that I still haven’t finished The Mind Robbers yet, but I’m afraid it’s just too hot to watch it today.  What’s that you ask?  What does temperature have to do with my tv choices?  Well, allow me to fill you in.  You see, when it’s hot I turn on the AC, or at least, a fan.  Today it topped 80°F here in Madison, so I had a fan going full steam.  When I have a fan on, it’s somewhat hard to make out the words on the shows I’m watching.  I tend to watch DVDs with the subtitles turned on throughout the summer.  Sadly, Netflix instant doesn’t have a subtitled option.  The Mind Robbers is a pretty old episode, and the sound quality isn’t the greatest to begin with.  I want to make sure I hear everything correctly, so I guess The Mind Robbers will have to wait until a cooler day.

Instead, I’ve been watching The Gates.  A friend suggested I check it out.  (Thanks Dogboy!)  I’m really enjoying it.  It’s not a great show, but it’s a lot of fun.  It’s kind of like a darker, supernatural Eureka (another show I really enjoy).  It chronicles the tawdry suburban lives of the inhabitants of a private community called The Gates.  Said inhabitants include vampires, werewolves, witches, even a succubus.  Good times.

Like Eureka, the first episode has a new sheriff and his family coming to town.  The sheriff, of course, has no idea what he’s in for.  Hijinks ensue.  Well, less “hijinks” than subterfuge, machinations, intrigue, and scheming.  It’s all good, semi-trashy fun.  It’s pretty clear they’re capitalizing on the recent success of supernatural media, and I’m 100% okay with this.  I like this kind of stuff, and I think it’s great that I have so many more choices these days.

I do have a few complaints however.  The first is the fact that this show is just too “glisteney.”  What I mean is there’s something about the lighting that causes reflections in every drop of moisture on set.  I have to assume this was an intentional choice, but I’m not a fan.  It makes everyone look like they’re about to cry.  I find it rather distracting.  Also, everyone is too damn pretty.  I know that’s normal for television, but the people on this show are all so gorgeous they’re practically plastic.

They also managed to include one of my little pet peeves in an episode I watched today.  A character cut himself to demonstrate how quickly he can heal.  Cliche, I know, but that’s not my problem.  What bothers me is that when this bleeding slash healed up, it healed without a trace, and lo and behold–no blood!  So are they trying to tell me that werewolves’ blood disappears after prolonged contact with the air?  Or that the healing process somehow sucks it back into their body?  (That’s not what it looked like.)  Or were the continuity folks just sloppy?  I’m guessing the latter.

In addition, the episode I’m watching now started with that old chestnut of a plot device: an exciting, suspenseful thing happens, and then BOOM, it’s “24 hours earlier.”  I’m not sure why that gets on my nerves, but it always does.

Anyway, these little complaints are all just that: little.  Overall, I’m enjoying this show, and it’s providing a great backdrop for all the minor chores I’ve needed to get done lately.  I’d recommend The Gates to anyone who enjoys vamps and wolves and magic like I do–especially if you’re also a fan of trash tv.  This doesn’t fall squarely into the “trash” realm, but it’s definitely skirting the gates.