Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review: Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

After the disappointing and out of character ending of the Sookie Stackhouse series and being left hanging with Charlaine Harris's other two short-lived series, I swore would never read another Harris book. Then I saw the trailer for a new series set in Midnight, Texas and was hooked. Maybe, I thought, this time the series will last longer than 3 books.

That is the problem with Charlaine Harris. She draws me in with complex characters, hooks me with interesting relationships, and leaves me hanging when she moves on to new characters, new situations, and the same provocative come hither sideshow buildup only to be let down again and again. Sookie Stackhouse was different in that the series had a much longer and more fascinating life. Charlaine let me down (let all her readers down) when it became clear she was no longer interested in Sookie, the vampires, or the were creatures and was only phoning it in. The ending to Sookie's story was a let down and the last couple of books the characters were not acting like themselves like a lover hot one minute and frigid in the end.

Here I am into the second book in the Midnight Texas series, Midnight Crossroad and I can already see the hook and know without doubt that I will be left hanging again. Maybe not since the books have sparked a new TV series that feels different from the life of Manfred Bernardo and his new neighbors on Witch Light Road. There is a vampire working the night shift at the local pawn shop who has a mysterious girlfriend who might be a high class traveling hooker or a mercenary assassin and a tall, blonde, and handsome guy left in the lurch when his new girlfriend walked out on him 2 months ago. A witch and her marmalade cat live across the road next door to a dark and silent reverend who tends to the burials of pets in his back yard and performs a 3 or 4 weddings a year in his bare living room chapel. A father, daughter, and son own the Gas 'n Go down the road near the diner where a statuesque beauty, her handyman husband, and baby son offer home-cooked meals. Chuy and Joe Strong own the antique store and beauty salon where they live with their dog.

Into this tight knit community comes psychic, Manfred Bernardo, who conducts his business online and fits right into the neighborhood. The background and characters are pure Charlaine Harris and seductively readable. If Charlaine's past series are anything to go by, I have already been set up and will once again find myself down when she moves on to a new neighborhood and denizens with their own affinity for living on the boundary between reality and the supernatural.

The mystery that drives Midnight Crossroad is Bobo's missing girlfriend. Aubrey walked away one day and never came back. She left all her things 2 months ago. Bobo boxed everything up and stacked them in the pawn shop's store room and still grieves for her. No one has come looking for her, although Bobo reported her missing to the police a week after she disappeared. She was still missing until the day of the neighborhood picnic up at Cold Rock when Fiji follows her nose to the remains of the girlfriend still wearing her expensive sneakers.

The police are called and the local militia group, Stronghold, come to Midnight to serve their own brand of justice for the death of one of their own. Bobo was already in their crosshairs because his grandfather's cache of weapons, ammunition, and bombs should not be left to a left wing liberal not willing to put all that firepower to use for the coming redneck revolution. In the coming months when Texas secedes from the United States, the members of Stronghold will fire the first shot and lead the charge.

On thing I have learned over the years is that you cannot escape your true nature -- or your past. Nature is inherent and the past always comes back to haunt you no matter where or how far you run. I hope Charlaine will find a neighborhood on the edge of the supernatural that appeals to her long enough to keep her interested and that she will not walk away and leave with nothing but an occasional mention in another new town. I hope Charlaine Harris hangs around Midnight, Texas for a while and does not get too bored with Manfred and his new supernatural friendly neighbors.

I give Midnight Crossroad 4/5 stars for well written prose and a fascinating story that kept me guessing almost to the end. I took off 1 star because I already see the writing on the wall.

Check out the book trailer and keep an eye out for the new TV series.  And, yes, Francois Arnaud, who played Cesare Borgia on the Showtime series, The Borgias, was part of the reason I gave Charlaine Harris one more chance. I'm a sucker for a good story and Charlaine writes memorable stories.

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