Desert Isle Keeper
Graveyard Shift is book three in Jenn Burke’s original and entertaining Not Yet Dead series of paranormal romances, and is a satisfying and poignant send off for Wes, Hudson and their found-family of witches, vampires and other supernatural beings. While each book in the set could work as a standalone, I’d advise reading them in order so as to gain the best understanding of the events and character backstories that have led them to the point at which we meet them again in Graveyard Shift. If you haven’t yet started the series, please be advised that there are spoilers for the other books in this review.
It’s been almost a year since not-ghost Wes Cooper was reunited with his ex-boyfriend, Detective Hudson Rojas, thirty years after they split up. Almost a year since Wes was turned into a god when he, Hudson and their friends foiled an attempt by a demon to return to the living plane, and almost a year since Hudson retired from the Toronto PD to become a private investigator. Following the events of the previous book, Wes and Hudson are living together in their new home – a large house with plenty of room for the new family they’ve created – the business is going well, they’re very much in love and they’re living their best not-lives, happier than they’ve ever been.
When the story begins, Wes and Hudson are on a stakeout at the behest of Ren Oshiro, vampire and a former… associate of Hudson’s who’s become something of a friend in recent months. Walter Gordon is a junior accountant in a firm Ren owns who has recently begun buying things he shouldn’t be able to afford and Ren wants to know if he’s stealing from the company. Wes and Hudson follow Gordon to a restaurant and Wes – in his ghostly form – observes him receiving a package that looks like it contains drugs. Dealing would certainly explain Gordon’s new-found wealth, and Wes and Hudson continue to follow him until he loses control of his car, crashes into a tree and dies on impact.
Before they can really think too much about what happened, Wes and Hudson return home to find a few random visitors on their doorstep, something that’s become a regular occurrence since news of Wes’ godhood circulated among the paranormal community. Two of their visitors are the Garcias, a shifter couple anxious for news of their daughter, who disappeared a couple of days earlier; and the third introduces herself as Priya Rojas. Hudson’s niece. Whom he hasn’t seen in years.
When Wes and Hudson discover that there have been several drug overdoses in the shifter community over the past week, they start to realise that there’s something seriously wrong. ‘Normal’ drugs don’t work on supernatural creatures – even when taken in huge amounts, their magic protects them from the worst effects – so for five shifters to die of overdoses within a week of one another is suspicious (to say the least) and can’t be a coincidence. Someone is manufacturing a drug tailored specifically to paranormals… but is it designed to get them high? Or kill them?
And as if a spate of shifter deaths caused by an unknown drug from an unknown source isn’t bad enough, Hudson’s former boss, Katrina Li, calls the pair in to consult on a series of recent murders which, from the detail in the photos she shows them, were committed by vampires. Worse still, the MO appears identical to that in the series of murders that saw Hudson going undercover twenty years earlier with what, at the time, he believed was a biker gang – and which saw him being turned into a vampire against his will by the gang’s leader, Pike. But Hudson killed Pike and the whole band when he eventually managed to free himself from his sire’s influence – so it’s not possible that Pike could be responsible for this latest murder spree. But if not him… then who?
Wes and Hudson are plunged back into a world of trouble, with danger coming at them from all directions, and it’s not always easy to work out who is friend and who is foe. With someone killing shifters, the sudden appearance of a load of brand new baby vampires, the even more unexpected appearance of the Order of the Onyx Shield, (the paranormal police), the presence of demons and werewolves… there’s a lot going on in this story, but Jenn Burke does an absolutely fantastic job of keeping things moving as she skilfully pulls her various plot-threads together. I won’t lie – there are some intense and upsetting scenes in this book (I was in tears at least once) and at times, it seems as though our heroes are going to break under the strain and the weight of grief, but Wes, Hudson and their band are stubborn fuckers who don’t give up easily, and it’s time for Wes, “god of who knew, winning hearts and minds since 2019” to come into his own.
The story is fast-paced and utterly compelling, but once again, what sets this book – and this series – apart from your run-of-the-mill mystery or paranormal novel are the characters and the relationships that have evolved between them. Wes, Hudson, Lexi, Evan and Isk have bonded together to form a family of sorts and Hudson, estranged from his blood-family and someone who’s been alone for the past couple of decades, has gone from that grumpy loner to a guy who is tuned into his family and happy beyond words to have those connections. (He’s still grumpy sometimes though – which Wes generally thinks is cute;) ) And then there’s Wes; funny, endearing, vulnerable and snarky Wes, who loves his people fiercely and has grown a lot throughout the series, having moved from not wanting to know much about the paranormal world he’s a part of to learning to accept the godhood that was thrust upon him at the end of Not Dead Yet, and how to use his magic. Like Hudson, he’s grown from a man who lived his life mostly in isolation to one who has gained a family and friends he would do anything to protect. And now it’s time for him to step up, to make some difficult decisions… and he’s simply awesome.
Graveyard Shift delivered everything I’ve come to expect from this series; an exciting, fast-paced plot, detailed worldbuilding, superbly developed characters and relationships and plenty of humor and snark with a side of steam. I can’t deny that I would love to read more stories set in the Not Dead Yet universe, but if this is the last we’re going to see of Wes and Hudson, then this is a brilliant farewell and I’m absolutely delighted to have been able to join them on their journey back to one another.
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