Bailey Chen is UPenn educated, highly-talented and under-employed. Despite her educational background, finding a job in Chicago is much more difficult than expected. Thanks to her awkward friendship with Zane Whelan, Bailey gets a job as a bar back at the Nightshade Lounge. After accidentally mixing a perfect screwdriver, Bailey drinks her glowing cocktail and soon discovers why the local bartenders take so many smokebreaks. In between pouring drinks for the locals, these bartenders patrol the city to kill demons known as Tremens. Tremens are attracted to liquor, and Bartenders have developed recipes over the centuries to give themselves super powers. However, it is the prized and secret mix for the perfect Long Island Iced Tea that eludes them. No one really knows what it does, but they have it on good authority that it is the ultimate weapon against the Tremens. While Bailey learns to fight using the powers of cocktails, she also must fight her feelings for Zane; especially as his girlfriend, Mona, is a serious butt kicker in the Bartender world. Bailey forms an unlikely alliance with the blind bartender, Vincent, and soon learns that Zane’s powerful uncle is at the center of a dangerous plan that could rip Chicago apart in the name of the Long Island Iced Tea.
Paul Krueger’s novel Last Call at the Nighshade Lounge is hilarious and manages to use a seemingly innocent premise to create a page-turner. Bartenders as defenders of the planet? Yes, please. The plot is interesting and will have those of us who struggled to find high-paying jobs during the recession nodding in understanding. What’s even better is Krueger’s book includes drink recipes and false histories behind them, as if one is reading from the Bartender’s guidebook. My personal favorite character is a Canadian Bartender named Bucket. His antics, including his constant mentions of Canada, are his uncanny ability to save the day. Zane is occasionally more whiny than I’d like. Mona holds her own and it becomes very clear that she is out of everyone’s league. Vincent is the perfect Mr. Miyagi character, though his powers come from his skill set and heightened hearing from his vision loss. Kruger does and excellent job of including characters of different ethnic and gender backgrounds, without being heavy-handed.
Last Call at the Nighshade Lounge was a delightful read and left me wanting more. Watch out for the Baristas at the end.
Last Call at the Nighshade Lounge is available June 7, 2016 from Quirk Books. It is best enjoyed with a cocktail of your choice.