From Charlaine Harris, the bestselling author who created Sookie Stackhouse and her world of Bon Temps, Louisiana, comes a darker locale – populated by more strangers than friends. But then, that’s how the locals prefer it…
Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.
There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).
Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth…
Before you read further you should know I haven’t read the Sookie Stackhouse series, nor have I watched much True Blood, and admittedly I’m not particularly busting to. True Blood, I have to admit, informed most of my expectations of Charlaine Harris’s writings until I picked up her Harper Connelly series and found her writing far more restrained and nothing like the show led me to believe – I know, I know it makes no sense. It’s possible I’ve had my fill of vampires and their true loves, I guess.
But enough about True Blood – the Harper Connelly series was restrained, her characters nuanced, and I was hooked. (I’ll post a review about it soon enough.) I was all set to go on to her Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard series when this appeared on NetGalley, and here we are.
Midnight is a town in the middle of Texas. The town is small but close-knit – the kind where neighbours pop in without warning, and can see your front door from their windows. They look out for each other, and into all this comes Manfred Bernardo, a character that appeared in the Harper Connelly series. His grandmother, Xylda Bernardo, knew and worked with Harper in that series, which is how he met Harper and (as I recall) harboured a strong crush on her. His grandmother has passed on, and Manfred – who inherited a stronger version of his grandmother’s psychic gift – is a psychic, with an online business.
Harris has said that this was her first book from a male POV, but she gives readers a POV from Manfred, Bobo (a transplant from her Lily Bard series), the Rev, and Fiji, a witch – yes, a witch who has a familiar and can freeze people, though no one believes her. Come to think of it, I think Fiji is the only female POV she explores.
While Manfred retains some distance from the events that unfold, everyone is affected when the body of Aubrey is found. She was Bobo’s girlfriend, and when she disappeared some months before the events of the book, everyone assumed she had left him – instead, she’d been murdered. She wasn’t well liked, and as the investigation unfolds, it becomes clear there was more not to like about her, besides her incessant flirting with other men.
But, when all is said and done, everything comes back to Bobo – an innocent for most of the story, there’s a twist I did not expect because it changed my entire view on him. No longer was he caught up in events beyond his control, he did bear some responsibility for them after all. It’s a testament to Harris’s skill that she effectively manages a twist like that, turning everything you thought you knew on its head.
Fiji has been crushing on Bobo for ages, and harbouring supernatural secrets of her own – those secrets never overpower the story, and every character’s chapter is wonderfully focused on them, before it is integrated into the book as whole. Along with crushing on Bobo, Fiji is brave, but insecure on certain things in her life. She’s refreshing as a whole. I’d rather hoped she and Manfred might spark, but Manfred… well, he still likes tough chicks.
See one Harper Connelly and his massive crush on her. His presence in the story is to learn about Midnight and its people, to understand them and to fit in, all while the Aubrey investigation is carrying on. Harris is marvellous in how she accomplishes this without ever making him feel like an outsider. Manfred is our introduction to the strange characters of Midnight, but his own powers and his acceptance of the strange makes us as readers invested in the characters of Midnight, and the town by the end of the book.
The cast of characters is rounded out by the mysterious Olivia, Joey and Chuy, Madonna and Teacher, the Lovells and Lemuel. Lemuel is a vampire, a fact which is introduced without much fanfare, and it’s as if Harris is saying readers should expect and understand the lore that comes with vampires because she doesn’t delve into any explanations. He’s there, and he fits – and also, in this day and age, she probably doesn’t need to say much about vampires.
The conclusion to the book is … unexpected and unsettling. As evidenced in her Harper Connelly series, Harris will do what you least expect, and when she does, it’s a punch to the gut.
Maybe I should give the Sookie Stackhouse book series a go?