Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Book Review - Charlaine Harris's Midnight Crossroad

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris
Published by: Ace Hardcover
Publication Date: May 6th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Manfred Bernardo is continuing his grandmother's calling, eking out a living with his psychic powers. Though eking isn't quite what he's doing, he's actually doing pretty darn well. He just needed the perfect place to work where no one would ask too many questions and he could be left alone to do his job. Manfred thought he had found that place in Midnight, Texas. In fairness to the town, everyone does kept their secrets to themselves, but there's also a camaraderie among these outcasts. Shared meals at the diner, sitting back and enjoying a drink in the shade, together yet separate. While they strive to keep the outside world at bay a murder just might bring about the wrong kind of attention to this sleepy dried-up western town. Though it's nothing the inhabitants can't handle.

Despite coming to Charlaine Harris through her Sookie Stackhouse books, thank you Buffy the Vampire Slayer Magazine, it's her mysteries that I love above all others. They seem fresher and more vibrant instead of re-hashing the same old vampire tropes in new and slightly entertaining fashion. The Harper Connelly books in particular are quite possibly one of my favorite mystery quartet out there. This all led me to be excited about Charlaine's new "Midnight, Texas" series. Not only was she going back to her mystery roots, but one of my favorite characters from Harper's world, Manfred Bernardo, would be our conduit into this sleepy town. The book had theoretically everything going for it. Or at least everything going for it to appease me... but the execution left something to be desired.

My main gripe is what I will call paranormal versus supernatural. Yes, technically these words are interchangeable, but to me they aren't. Paranormal to me is phenomena like extrasensory perception, psychic powers, and ghosts, in other words, things that I believe might actually have happened in our world today. Paranormal is out of the ordinary, but still, well, plausible. As for supernatural, I view this as more creature based, ie, aliens, werewolves, and vampires. Supernatural is far less likely to be real. I will point out I'm not discounting it either as possible, just that it's less likely then paranormal. I know people will disagree with my classifications, but this is how I see it. The world Charlaine created with Sookie was supernatural, the world she created with Harper was paranormal, and now the twain shall meet. Sigh.

See I liked that Harper's worldbuilding was plausible to me. I believe in ghosts and weird psychic powers so Harper's ability to see the last minutes of the deceased, call it possible in my world. A little out of the ordinary, but it could happen. Sookie's world, well, now that's all about all the different creatures that either want to kill you or sleep with you, sometimes both. By having Manfred cross over to this new book series I was hoping to have a more grounded urban fantasy book along the lines of Harper with the mystery and intrigue and then in walks a vampire. No! By bringing in the vampire Charlaine just merged all her books into one big fat world which means that Harper's world now has vampires too and to that I strongly object. Yes I like the fantastical, but sometimes I need plausibility. So me and that vampire... well, he just took away all hopes I had for this book.

And maybe I should be grateful to that vampire because, well, he lowered my expectations, besides pissing me off. Oh how he pisses me off. Yep, two months later and that vampire is still the bane of this book. The truth at the heart of Midnight Crossroad is that not much happens and what does happen is so predictable you wonder why you're still reading the book after a while. I mean seriously, if you didn't catch who the the killer was within two seconds and just spent the rest of the book waiting for the reveal to come with a whimper not a bang, then we have some issues you and I. Yet I don't know if this lack of forward momentum and predictability was on purpose or not. Charlaine had a lot of new characters to introduce to us and we had to familiarize ourselves to this new world.

So perhaps the lack of plot was a way to ease us into this bizarre little town, the Texas version of Cicely, Alaska, where everyone knows your name but will keep quiet about your past and never ask any questions. Or Haven, because seriously, it's very Haven like. Sometimes you just need to have the author waiting for you in the corner of your room there to answer questions when you finish. Charlaine, did you plot it this slowly on purpose? Just nod yes or no so I don't need to remove the gag. Yet, despite it all, or in spite of it all I'm still kind of looking forward to the next volume. I know more what to expect. That vampire's appearance won't throw me, and as for the few werewolves and other creatures in town, well, I'm ready for them too. It might not have been what I thought it was or what I was even looking for but there's a part of me still looking forward to returning to this town. I don't know if this makes me a masochist, we'll just have to see what the next volume brings.


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