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Review: Twists arrive at a dizzy pace in ‘The Night Shift’

March 1, 2022 GMT
This cover image released by Minotaur shows "The Night Shift" by Alex Finlay. (Minotaur via AP)
This cover image released by Minotaur shows "The Night Shift" by Alex Finlay. (Minotaur via AP)
This cover image released by Minotaur shows "The Night Shift" by Alex Finlay. (Minotaur via AP)
This cover image released by Minotaur shows "The Night Shift" by Alex Finlay. (Minotaur via AP)
This cover image released by Minotaur shows "The Night Shift" by Alex Finlay. (Minotaur via AP)

“The Night Shift” by Alex Finlay (Minotaur)

New Year’s Eve, 1999. Four teenage girls working late at a video store in Linden, New Jersey, are savagely attacked. Only one, Ella Monroe, survives, and she is still haunted by what the killer whispered as he stabbed her.

“Goodnight, pretty girl.”

Thanks to an anonymous tip, police discover the murder weapon in the locker of a high school student named Vince Whitaker. But before he can be brought to justice, he vanishes.

Fifteen years later, four teenagers working late at a Linden ice cream shop are attacked, and once again, only one, Jessica Duval, survives. She, too, heard him whisper as he stabbed her.

“Goodnight, pretty girl.”

So begins “The Night Shift,” the second novel attributed to Alex Finlay, the pen name of a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who has written other thrillers under his real name.

Did Whitaker return to Linden to strike again?

Could this new act of brutality be the work of a copycat?

A Linden police officer and an FBI agent investigate, studying every scrap of evidence about the new case and unearthing long-held secrets about the first, looking for connections.

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But they aren’t the only ones. Convinced that Whitaker is innocent, his younger brother, now a public defender, launches a personal search for the truth. Surprisingly, so does the recent survivor, Jessica, who, authorities discover, has long been obsessed with the first case.

Meanwhile, a local school official who knew both survivors well convinces the first, Ella, now working as a therapist, to counsel Jessica, causing more complications.

The result is a suspenseful tale of vengeance, brotherly love, teenage romance, and the perils of jumping to conclusions. Finlay spins it at a rapid pace, his characters well-drawn and his tangled plot expertly developed.

The twists arrive at a dizzying pace, and the when the killer is finally revealed, few readers are likely to see it coming.

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Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”