by Charlaine Harris
Published in 2014 by Ace Books.
Reviewed by Bradley Wilson.
Charlaine Harris’s Midnight Crossroad takes it’s time. And that fits her newest world which centers on a tiny West Texas wide spot in the road called Midnight. The reclusive inhabitants of this one stoplight town – literally a crossroads in the middle of nowhere – like it just fine when they go unnoticed. That’s why everybody in Midnight, human and … otherwise, takes note when internet psychic Manfred Bernardo moves in.
Full disclosure: I’ve never read any of Harris’s impressive back-list. That’s not due to any prejudice against her. Quite the contrary, she’s been on my radar since I first saw and enjoyed HBO’s TRUE BLOOD. It’s a pleasant blend of horror and camp that reminds me of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER on a good day. So I was glad when the chance came to review her latest novel. And I’m even more pleased to report I dug it. Midnight Crossroad is a summertime beach book for folks who avoid the sun, a supernatural murder mystery that never takes its self too seriously.
It’s not going to change the face of literature. But then again it’s not trying to.
What it does do is languidly paint a rich and intriguing world with vampires, freelance assassins, witches, and other, less forthcoming, creatures of the night all living together in a tight-knit and caring community on the fringe of society. Oh, and yes, that community can kick some serious ass when it needs to.
Once Harris gets all of the above, plus a whole lot more, established, she throws in a dead body. Good times.
Midnight Crossroad handles its darkness with an extremely light touch. Given the ghoulish subject matter, one might expect dark writing. But Harris plays against that expectation to nice effect. Instead of giving her well rendered omniscient narrator a menacing voice, her know-it-all story-teller floats the reader through the tale with a charming wit.
That makes for a fun and easy read, but, in my humble (aka unpublished) opinion, it also lowers the stakes. Which brings us back around to the whole ‘not going to change the face of literature’ comment I made earlier. Midnight Crossroad never feels too terribly important. That’s not to say I ever actively wanted to put it down and stop reading; I just didn’t mind too much when I got to the end. Luckily, my ambivalence toward the plot was completely outweighed by my unflagging curiosity about the novel’s fascinating ensemble cast. I fell in love with pretty much everybody in Midnight, and that kept me turning the page.
Midnight Crossroad is the start of a trilogy. It’s a set-up for what’s to come, and it feels a little like that. But, like I said, I really, really like her new world and I love the characters she’s created. I also applaud its author for daring to let the story unroll at its own small town pace. That kind of slow immersion fits her compelling new world well.
I’m glad I finally discovered Charlaine Harris for myself and look forward to the next installment in her Midnight, Texas trilogy.
After a twenty-year career in theater, Bradley P Wilson returned to school in 2011 to pursue his passion for writing and editing fiction. He holds a Masters of Liberal Arts degree in Creative Writing from St. Edwards University and freelances as a writer, editor, and stagehand in Central Texas. Currently an Associate Editor at CBAY Books and the staff blogger at Yellow Bird Editors, Bradley also copy edits Stage Call, the quarterly newsletter of Austin’s stagehands’ union, and serves as the President of the Board of Directors for Physical Plant Theater. Manuscripts he has edited have garnered such accolades as Hunger Mountain’s Katherine Paterson Award for YA and Children’s Writing. Most mornings he gets up way too early to work on his YA fantasy novel, The Search for Stagehand Jesus. He’s the author of several award-winning plays, and his poetry has been featured in the Sulfur River Literary Review.