I'm not a big fan of the premise of vampires and other paranormals living out in the open among humankind. Me of little faith, I just don't buy that we would ever tolerate human-like predators among us.
That said, A Taste of the Nightlife is a promising start to a new mystery series. By and large, it doesn't bring anything particularly original to the paranormal (urban fantasy) or mystery genres. I say that, in the event you're a stickler for "original." I'm not;I like tropes. A Taste of the Nightlife is a entertaining book.
Charlotte Caine is the head chef and owner of Nightlife, a newish restaurant that caters to vampires. Vampires can't eat solid food, but do enjoy liquids, especially those that are protein based. As the story begins, Charlotte has just gotten the "good" news from her brother Chet (who is a vampire) that Anatole Sevarin, noted vampire food critic, has arrived in her restaurant. A good review from Sevarin is just the boost her restaurant needs.
Unfortunately, right after the good news, she gets bad. A customer has a complaint about the food and demanding to speak with her. The customer, a young woman named Pam, has found werewolf hair in her soup, and goes on to make a scene, demanding that Charlotte fire one of her staff. The situation falls into total chaos, when a drunk young man bursts into the restaurant. The man seems to be Pam's jilted lover. He is also a warlock, and in a fit of rage, nearly burns down Nightlife.
Just when Charlotte thinks things couldn't get worse, a few hours later, that same man is found dead and drained of blood on her doorstep. The chief suspect? Her brother Chet. Now her restaurant is a crime scene, and the only way she can reopen (and pay her rent and employees' salaries) is to find the murderer.
I imagine Charlotte isn't the first chef-turned-sleuth in the mystery genre, but she's the first I've encountered. I like how her approach to stress is to cook, because that's what chefs do. They feed people. Set in New York, the story is infused with the flavors of big city life.
One thing I particularly liked was that the protagonist suffered some real life consequences for her amateur sleuthing. In some series--Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series--the protagonist causes all sorts of mahem and destruction, and somehow never gets sued, arrested or made to pay for damages. Though it isn't a big part of the story, Charlotte's crime solving hijinks do get her in some trouble. It's a minor thing, but it was nice to see this reality acknowledged.
Though vampirism is a facet of the plot, I wouldn't call this a vampire book, and therefore, I'd recommend it to those who normally avoid all things vampire.
The story also contains a love triangle, so if the whole "torn between two lovers" thing isn't your shtick, well, you have been warned.
Fun book. I'm looking forward to the next in the series.