Midnight Crossroad is the first book in the newest series by Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries. I have been a fan of the Sookie books for a while now and have been meaning to read this book for some time. Having acquired an ARC of the sequel, Day Shift, via the Ace Roc Star program, I decided that it was finally time to read this book. I started it a few days ago and yesterday I blew through the latter half of the book. It has everything that I have come to love about Harris’s writing – small town charm, a slow building plot, characters that you love and hate, and an unexpectedly silly depraved wit. I enjoyed this book quite a lot.
Manfred Bernardo has just moved into the small and sleepy village in Texas called Midnight. Midnight hosts few things to keep people there; a small diner, a run-down unused hotel, a pawn shop, a small shop run by a witch, a Grab N Go gas station…you get the picture. If you blink on the drive through you will miss it. Manfred runs an online physic advice business for profit. Manfred is actually psychic, a fact that stuns most people who he meets who take him for a fraud. While moving in he accepts the help of Bobo, his landlord and the purveyor of the Pawn Shop. Bobo works with Lemuel, an energy-consuming vampire and Olivia, one of the most stunning women who Manfred has ever seen. He meets the local gay couple, Chuy and Joe, who run a nail salon/antiques business and Madonna and Teacher, the owner of the local diner and a handyman. After meeting Fiji, the witch across the street, the Rev, and Creek, the daughter of Shawn who owns the gas station, there are few left in Midnight left to acquaint himself with.
One day, he goes on an adventure with the people in town, a picnic near the river. Everything is fine and lovely until Fiji unwittingly stumbles upon a body; a body who can only belong to one missing person, Bobo’s girlfriend, Aubrey. Things in this sleepy town suddenly shift into high gear as a murder investigation comes through and puts everyone on edge. Accusations are leveled and age-old bigotry comes to light and it’s anything that people can do to keep pace with the normal speed of Midnight, Texas.
I enjoyed this book far more than I thought that I would. For a while the action seemed pretty plot-less, the events themselves driven by frequent character interactions. There’s a lot more going on than at first meets the eye. Manfred, as the newcomer, becomes the easiest narrator to follow around. He’s our Nick Carraway to guide us through this new territory. It is Manfred who quickly studies the people around them and learns who is in love with who and, likewise, who seems to have the most to hide. Manfred occasionally uses his gift to read people, not his psychic powers but those of perception and psychology. He senses that many people have things to hide and he is not wrong in his intuition, but which of the denizens was willing to murder someone?
I have little to criticize about the book and yet I don’t feel like it’s perfect. There’s a haziness to the book that I can’t put my finger on, a fog that obscures what I did not like about it. I think I was underwhelmed by the plot-lessness and the murder investigation itself. I almost always call the perpetrator in these kind of books and in this case I did not. That said, I was one degree of separation off, so the reveal still underwhelmed me. It’s also a very different animal than the Sookie books in that the fantasy elements are more subdued. I am hoping that will change with the next two books. Maybe I was expecting far more fantasy in my urban fantasy.
That said, it’s fun and easy and peppered with likable characters…so, naturally, I will be reading the next book. I am curious to see where this goes.
4 out of 5 stars.
– Follow the Reader –