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 pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).
Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth…
*Blurb from Goodreads
I finally found Manfred and it took me forever. But why was I looking?
Charlaine Harris’ Midnight, Texas series is a loose continuation of her Sookie Stackhouse and Harper Connelly series. Both Sookie and Harper lived in this same version of our world, and they are cousins. Sookie has telepathy, and Harper sees dead people. I don’t mean ghosts, I mean that she can find dead bodies, whether they are properly buried in a grave or not.
Manfred Bernardo is a psychic. He is also a friend of Harper’s. They met in Grave Surprise when Harper needed to find his grandmother, the slightly less psychic but still psychic Xylda Bernardo. Manfred also crossed paths with Sookie in the short story The Blue Hereafter, part of the Games Creatures Play collection.
Manfred is our introduction to Midnight Texas in Midnight Crossroad. His grandmother Xylda has died, and Manfred has landed in remote and slightly creepy Midnight as a place to handle his own psychic businesses without much interference from the locals – because there aren’t many locals and everyone has much bigger secrets than Manfred.
Which is kind of a scary thought, because Manfred is both a real psychic and somewhat of a charlatan on the Internet. Not all of his businesses are strictly kosher. I think they are probably all legal, but just barely.
It’s a living.
Midnight, Texas sits at the crossroad between Davy Highway and Witch Light Road. Crossroads are important in certain mythologies, and it feels like the location of the crossed roads has influenced who did and didn’t end up in Midnight. Including Manfred.
As the story begins, Manfred settles into a small rented house next door to Midnight Pawn, a place owned by his landlord. Bobo Winthrop may possibly be the most normal person in Midnight, but it is for a loose definition of normal.
Two months ago, Bobo’s girlfriend Aubrey disappeared. The central mystery in Midnight Crossing revolves around what happened to Aubrey, after her body is discovered in a nearby woodland.
Bobo has plenty of his own secrets, but everyone in town is surprised to discover that the late and mostly unlamented Aubrey was not exactly who she claimed to be – and that there are plenty of folks around who had a motive to kill her. But when all the investigators are looking for who wanted the woman dead, they completely neglect to look at whether she was simply in the right place at the wrong time with the wrong attitude.
After having finished Midnight Crossroad, I have to admit that one of my issues with the book is that I still can’t figure out who the main character was supposed to be. There really isn’t a strong central voice, which is a disappointment and a surprise based on some of Harris’ previous work. Whether one likes or doesn’t like Sookie Stackhouse or Harper Connelly, both series owe a lot of their appeal to the very clear voice and perspective of their central characters. You may not have always agreed with Sookie’s actions, and I personally thought she became Eric’s doormat, but her perspective on events was always clear. The series is her story and her journey and she believes she’s always in charge of it.
If Manfred is supposed to be the central character here, he isn’t central to the action. A lot of the action is driven by Fiji, the local witch (and she really has powers). It’s Fiji’s actions and Fiji’s guilt that she didn’t care for Aubrey that pushes the story forward. That and the sheer number of lunatics that show up to steal an important secret from Bobo. Which all ties back into Aubrey, Fiji’s feelings for Bobo, and the nature of Bobo’s secret and the people who are after it.
(I think Bobo was a character in the first of Harris’ Lily Bard books, Shakespeare’s Landlord. I may read it to find out more)
Normally, we talk about what we thought of the hero and heroine. In this case, that’s hard because I’m not sure who the hero really is. Bobo is much more put upon than heroic. Manfred observes events but seldom pushes things forward. I think Fiji might be the heroine. She’s the one who consistently takes action. I do love the scene where she rescues herself from kidnappers and has to weigh the need for punishment against the need to keep her powers a secret.
The bad guys are a combination of preppers and white supremacists, and they never come off as much more than cardboard cutouts. On the other hand, the way that the local vampire (and of course there is one) and mystery ninja eliminate some of the threats is quite revealing and amps up the suspense.
It’s entirely possible that the hero is Fiji’s talking cat. Mr. Snuggles certainly thinks he is.
It may be that the town itself is intended as the central character – but it is hard to identify with a town, even one this quirky. We identify with people, or sometimes animals. (I love Mr. Snuggles but I’m equally glad that my cats can’t talk.)
The ending of the mystery was a surprise, if only because the perpetrator wasn’t on anyone’s radar. But the way that the townsfolk got together to administer justice was both creepy and the closest thing to right available.
Midnight Texas is a creepy place inhabited by weird and interesting people. I liked my visit enough that I’ll be back. However, although Midnight isn’t a place where any one person is in charge of the town, but I sincerely hope that one of the characters finally takes charge of the narrative.
I give Midnight Crossroad a C+