I’ve always enjoyed reading Harris – the best of the Sookie Stackhouse series is right up there as some of my favourite and memorable reads. See my review of Dead Reckoning here. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Harper Connolly books – read my review of Grave Sight here.
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 pawnship (where someone lives in the basement and runs the store during the night). There’s a diner (although those folk who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s a new resident: Manfred Barnardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own). If you stop at the one traffic light in town, then everything looks normal. But if you stay a while, you might learn the truth…
Charlaine Harris was one of the guests of honour at Fantasycon 2014 and came across as a sweet natured, gracious lady with a keen sense of humour and a delicious Southern accent I could have listened to all day. It was a real fangirl moment actually seeing one of my favourite authors… But, aside from all that – would I enjoy the start of this new series?
The answer is overwhelmingly – yes. I like Harris’s chatty, easy style. She builds up a story from the ground up by having her protagonist depicting a series of everyday details about his life. I quickly bonded with Manfred and thoroughly enjoyed exploring this one-horse town stranded in this dusty corner of the States. Because the community is so small and tightly knit, when a murder does occur there are a ready-made pool of suspects – much like those country house crimes investigated by the likes of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. It was refreshing to have a main character, like Manfred, who didn’t see fit to rush around and try and solve the crime. One of the book’s strengths is that there are also a group of intriguing characters, all with an interesting backstory. Some we got to thoroughly know – and some we didn’t… I particularly liked the witch, Fiji. She is refreshingly different from the tall, beautiful heroines we regularly encounter in so many fantasy novels – short, plump, out of condition and very unsure of herself. But smitten with Bobo, who has heartbreak of his own and is oblivious of her attraction. I also enjoyed Lemuel, whose first encounter with Manfred is particularly memorable.
Because I cared for so many of the inhabitants of Midnight, as soon things started happening, I was hooked and stayed up reading faaar too late into the night. As you’d expect with such an experienced, talented writer, the pacing of the narrative arc was pitch perfect with plenty of twists that caught me off-balance and snagged me further into the book. I certainly didn’t come close to guessing who the culprit was… But before you go away with the idea that this is a cosy whodunit, there is a dark underside to this story. For all their apparent charm, there are those living in Midnight who don’t take any prisoners – literally. And Harris throws out a wider question for us all to ponder – is murder ever justified? She goes on to unpack that question quite thoroughly within the book.
All in all, this book is real treat. And I’m looking forward to the next one.