Midnight Crossroads by Charlaine Harris. Urban fantasy. Hardback, 305 pages. First in the Midnight Texas series. Giveawaybox.
Manfred Bernardo moved into the tiny town of Midnight, Texas to discover that these are people who value their privacy and guard their secrets. While everyone helps everyone else out, all quirks are accepted and no one asks intrusive questions. (For example, Manfred's landlord Bobo was recently abandoned by his girlfriend, but nobody wants to intrude on his grief by offering direct sympathy or help.) But the social walls start crumbling when a group of picnicking townsfolk discover the badly decomposed body of Bobo's missing girlfriend next to his gun.
There is a lot of right-wing gun nut/conspiracy theory/big-man-bully swirl in this book. I'm not a huge fan of that particular flavor of crazy as it usually appears in books, so I appreciate that Harris paints some of the walk-ons with a more tinted brush than just "mouth-breathing whacko." There is a part in the book where the parents
of one of the crazies get involved, and they have more to them than just the patriarchial party line. I also appreciate that the main characters aren't saints, and that the ending of the conspiracy theory storyline isn't what we had been led to believe it would be.
I was warned that the entire ending wasn't anything I could see coming, and this was a true fact. The three main lines of chat all twisted and turned at the climax, ending with a mental twist (the murderer), a bold resolution (to the murderer), and a character reveal (the conspiracy). Certainly, the character reveal was disappointing, but it also kept the book from having a shiny-happy ending that would have gone against the crunchiness of the character mix.
Harris is a good world builder. And she apparently writes what she knows, since this book has call-outs to her previous murder mystery series, "Lily Bard." And fans of the Sookie Stackhouse series will recognize Manfred from his cameos in the short stories. It was rather refreshing that Manfred's psychic powers were not used to forward the plot. Instead, his perceptions of people and his own decisions drove his portion of the story. The other main characters use their skills and powers, though not often, and in some unexpected ways. The townspeople all had their gimic/recognizable quirks, and the implied otherworldliness of at least two characters never did get explained (which is kinda cool).
I was satisfied - but not thrilled - with this book. It was a good new world introduction, and the characters are well-rounded for all their trope requirements. Unfortunately for me, I find it difficult to re-read mysteries, so will likely have to give this away.
I picked it up because I enjoy Harris's style, and I know that first books from Harris don't disappoint. I recommend it to people who like murder mysteries with a large helping of rather random supernatural powers.Books for 2014