Gollancz, out May 8
Midnight, Texas – a small town with more than its fair proportion of secrets…
…and perhaps more than its fair proportion of key characters from other series. For the first in her new set of novels, Charlaine Harris has resurrected at least two people who will be familiar to those who have read her works outside the Sookie Stackhouse series – Bobo Winthop (from the Lily Bard stories set in the town of Shakespeare), and Manfred Bernardo, who is an important player in the Harper Connolly books. Although much is made of the fact that each has secrets in their past, Midnight Crossroad works with just the information you’re given here.
Bernardo is to all intents and purposes the reader’s point of view character, as his arrival in Midnight starts the book and the townsfolk’s reactions to him are key throughout. And they’re a really motley crew – Bobo owns a pawn shop, but has assistance in keeping it open during the hours of darkness thanks to Lemuel, one of his tenants who, shall we say, prefers nocturnal activities (think a toned down version of Barlow and Straker from Stephen King’s ’Salem’s Lot). Bobo’s other tenant, Olivia, has some interesting sidelines, while the local witch, Fiji, and her cat Mr Snuggles (possibly the least appropriate name for a feline ever!) are similarly better prepared to face the world than many. One local father keeps his teenage children on a tight leash; there’s a reverend who knows more about the history of the Bible than most priests.
With so many characters to fit in, it does take the plot a little while to really get going, but the discovery of a body during a town picnic accelerates the pace nicely. There’s enough of a supernatural element present throughout the book to keep genre fans happy, but crime is at its heart – even if various fantasy elements come into play during the investigation.
Verdict: A slow burning novel which successfully juggles setting the scene for an ongoing series with a self-contained story. 7/10