For Tinsel Munroe, hosting a late night radio show in Melbourne isn’t just a stepping stone toward a more successful career but something of a labour of love. Cult watching horror movies was a formative experience for her, and one she hasn’t outgrown. She enjoys teasing her loyal audience with obscure soundtracks and encourages fan interaction. One night she’s doing exactly that with a caller on the line when things take a turn for the worse and the fan, it seems, is murdered live on air. Tinsel assumes it to be a Halloween prank but after her shift the police are waiting to interview her.
Other than the phone call to the show, it doesn’t take the police long to discover a second link between Tinsel and the victim, Mera Brant. She had attended a film party hosted by Tinsel earlier that same evening. Shortly afterwards, a sinister game of cat and mouse between Tinsel and a masked stranger raises the stakes even higher. Her horror movie fetish seems to be manifesting in real life.
However, the stress seems to energise Tinsel and she ends her toxic relationship with Zack, kicks him out of her flat, and begins her own investigation into Mera’s murder. On board with Tinsel her sister, Pandora, a true-crime podcaster with some interesting theories of her own.
The Graveyard Shift moves along in an enjoyable if slightly predictable fashion. Tinsel is fun to spend time with, sassy and smart, and the novel is very much her story. The jolt has given her agency. Dumping Zack and starting a more healthy relationship with one of the detectives, continuing with her show, even growing the ratings, taking on her own investigation – all these things happen but meanwhile the threat to her becomes more intense.
The murders that take place bring drama and there is a quick pace to The Graveyard Shift. Author Maria Lewis also has something to say about the micro aggressions that a young Black woman has to face in her day to day life.
Slashers are making something of a comeback in crime fiction, after the heady days of The Silence of The Lambs. Perhaps they never really went away, but they seem to be common antagonists in thrillers at the moment. Stephen Graham Jones, a favourite of ours, has led the charge with his Indian Lake Trilogy. Here they aren’t just crucial to the plot, but are employed to deconstruct the slasher movie subgenre. Lewis isn’t so ambitious, but does have fun acknowledging their origins in film. The deaths are all inventive and all occur in settings that relate to the movies. For example, the first victim had attended a film convention hosted by Tinsel, a film archive, a premiere, etc.
Apart from a few local geographical mentions, you won’t get much sense of the city of Melbourne. I felt the novel could have been set in any large metropolitan area. Tinsel excepted, the other characters populating the novel are only very lightly drawn with only one or two facets to them. Pandora might be described as kooky, and her detective lover as considerate and loyal; a fellow radio presenter is sexist and mildly predatory.
I enjoyed The Graveyard Shift. The cult movie aspect appeals to me, and the story is entertaining, but I didn’t feel there was enough substance to make me likely to pick it up again for a re-read. However, if you are interested in a quick feel-good read with a plucky protagonist then you won’t go far wrong.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars