With the release of Midnight Crossroad, the Southern Vampires' creator Charlaine Harris begins a new series set in another very small town, this time in Texas, not Louisiana. Midnight, Texas is usually only a stopping point on the way to other locations. The newest citizen, twenty-two year old Manfred, an actual psychic who makes his living at it, realizes early on that Midnight belongs in the rank of “unusual places,” evidenced primarily by its quirky and intriguing denizens.
Bobo, Manfred’s landlord, owns a peculiar pawn shop that surprisingly gets business from out of town. A few months earlier, Bobo’s girlfriend, Aubrey, left him, which seems to bother others less than it does Bobo, as the woman was not well-liked. Fiji, the resident witch (who Manfred knows really does have power when he witnesses her using it) tries to keep Bobo cheered up while running her own shop, The Inquiring Mind.
Elsewhere on the main thoroughfare running through town, Witch Light Road: the Antique Gallery and Nail Salon, owned and operated by partners Joe and Chuy, and the Home Cookin Restaurant, a diner run by new mother Madonna, with help from her husband, Teacher. One of the busiest spots in town, The Gas ‘N Go, run by Shawn Lovell with the assistance of his two teenage children, daughter Creek and son Connor, seems the busiest spot in town, as lots of people passing through take advantage of the store.
A few of the residents prove a bit more mysterious: the Rev, who runs the Wedding Chapel and Pet Cemetery, Olivia Charity, another of Bobo’s tenants who takes frequent trips out of town, and Lemuel, the extremely pale man who works the night shift at the pawn shop and has a very specific diet.
Not long after Manfred’s arrival, a discovery made during a town picnic along the river leads to an investigation, involving some citizens who would prefer their pasts remain well-removed from the present.
An air of menace surrounding the town is evident from the first few pages of the book. Having the story told from the perspective of various characters (Manfred, Bobo, and Fiji), though never in first-person, provides different views, but the depiction of the town remains fairly consistent, despite the interpretations those three characters may have. The atmosphere and tone do morph, becoming less intimidating as one becomes more familiar with the characters, but then circumstances occur that return the reader’s impressions and feelings to the earlier state.
It becomes apparent early on that Midnight, almost a character in its own right, serves as a haven of sorts for those who wish to remain private, though the reader gets details on specific individuals as the story progresses. Even Manfred, who seems a bit of an outsider when the book begins, actually fits in surprisingly well, especially given what he witnesses and experiences.
“Because he was curious about the two strangers, Manfred cast a glance in their direction several times during the meal. Since he was facing their table, he could do that without being obvious. They had ordered coffee and dessert (cherry pie or coconut cream pie), and they were lingering. In Manfred’s experience, silent men didn’t dawdle over food...
Manfred patted his lips with his napkin and put it by his plate, which was still half full. He’d eaten enough. He wondered if Lemuel would suddenly pounce on the two strangers and kill them in some horrific way. Or maybe Madonna would charge out of the kitchen with a cleaver in her hand and fall upon them.
It seemed possible in Midnight.
Though Midnight Crossroad can be considered urban fantasy, it really reads as more of a mystery with supernatural overtones. As one expects with Harris, unconventional characters, chuckle-worthy humor, an intriguing mystery, a few surprises and even a shocking scene all appear, and should please her existing fans, as well as setting the stage for future releases in this brand-new series.
A reviewer and editor at Bitten by Books since 2008, Carol also serves as the Director of the Urban Fantasy track at Dragon Con, and in 2013 co-authored The Jane Yellowrock World Companion with Faith Hunter. When not reading, reviewing, or working at conventions, Carol spends as much time as possible with her three amazing grandsons.