From the BLURB:
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...
*** I try not to give ‘Harper Connelly’ or ‘Lily Bard’spoilers away – but I do have to mention how it is that two characters from those series are able to migrate into this new Charlaine Harris universe, so if you intend to read those books and don’t want to be in the least bit spoiled – STOP READING! ***
Manfred Bernardo – 22-year-old phone and online psychic – has just packed up and moved his entire life to Midnight, Texas. One stoplight town with a pawnshop, resident witch and more secrets than Manfred ever bargained for.
Bobo Winthrop runs the pawnshop, which he bought from the now basement resident, Lemuel (who only comes out at night) a couple of years ago. Originally from Shakespeare, Arkansas Bobo left his home behind after his family’s dirty laundry kept catching up with him … but even in the sleepy town of Midnight, Bobo has trouble hot on his heels. His girlfriend, Aubrey, up and left him one night and he hasn’t heard boo from her since. Strange men keep looking for him and he has taken more than one beating since moving to this little town where he keeps being found by the wrong people.
Across the road from Bobo is Fiji (“Feegee”) Cavanaugh and her cat, Mr Snuggly. In her thirties and curvalicious, Fiji is a proud witch and hopelessly in love with her good friend, Bobo. She has no love lost for the missing Aubrey, but it just about kills her to see Bobo still so depressed over her leaving even after all these months.
Other residents in Midnight include loved-up couples Teacher and Madonna, Joe and Chuy, reclusive gas n’ go owners the Lovell family (consisting of father Shawn, brother Connor and 18-year-old Creek, who instantly catches Manfred’s eye) then there’s the Rev who runs the non-denominational chapel and pet cemetery (you don’t want to see him when he’s angry) sickly pale Lemuel and constant traveller, the beautiful Olivia.
The second Manfred enters into this close-knit community, secrets start unearthing and he finds himself caught up in the town’s secrets – the biggest one being murder.
‘Midnight Crossroad’ is the first book in a new cozy mystery series by Charlaine Harris, called ‘Midnight, Texas’.
This is the be all and end all new series for Charlaine Harris fans (and by “fans” I do mean people who are familiar with more than just her ‘Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire’ HBO-adapted series). The pivoting points of Harris’s new ‘Midnight, Texas’ series are two characters from her old (long finished) series ‘Lily Bard’ and ‘Harper Connelly’.
I’ve read this being touted as the Manfred spin-off, but in my eyes he’s only one-half of the double-act of this new (long-awaited!) series. Manfred Bernardo is, for those who don’t know, the lovable pierced psychic who appeared as a secondary character in Harris’s ‘Harper Connelly’ cozy mystery-paranormal series. The other secondary character who has been upgraded to protagonist is Bobo Winthrop, golden boy of Shakespeare – the town of Harris’s ‘Lily Bard’ series. What these two characters have in common is that they were fan-favourites, and nice guys who finished last. Both Manfred and Bobo were in the unique positions of being ideal romantic candidates for the heroines in their respective series, but lucked out in the love department due to events and better happily-ever-afters that were out of their control.
Manfred and Harper were equally matched in psychic ability and definitely shared some chemistry – but he lucked out when Harris decided to give Harper a far more controversial (and, let’s face it – interesting!) romance.
The first website he visited was the one dedicated to “Bernardo, Psychic and Seer.” His publicity picture was half of the home page. He was wearing all black, naturally, and he was standing in the middle of a field with lightning coming out of his fingers. (Every time he admired the Photoshopped bolts, he thought of his lightning-struck friend, Harper.)
Bobo was the sweet, affable teen-Titan of his hometown and hopelessly in love with his cleaning lady/sparring partner, Lily Bard. They shared plenty of sexual chemistry, but he was just too young (a teenager for most of the ‘Lily Bard’ series) and Lily’s personal experiences meant he was no match for the man she ended up settling with, who likewise shared a dark past and hopes for a better future with her. That being said; both Manfred and Bobo amassed a huge fan-following amongst Harris’s readers – fifth and final book in the ‘Lily Bard’ series was released in 2001, and right up until ‘Midnight, Texas’ was announced she was still fielding questions on her fan-forum about the possibility of Bobo making a guest-appearance in the ‘Sookie’ series, or getting his own spin-off. And now we have one – made even better because it’s a glorious mash-up of ‘Harper Connelly’, ‘Lily Bard’ and with a bit of the Sookie-verse thrown in (hint: vampires are kinda out of the coffin in this universe too).
“I’ll tell you something weird. Football and karate saved me. Football, because we were all one team and we were all colors.”
“Karate?” Fiji said. “Really?”
Bobo actually laughed. “It was great. My sensei was this amazing Asian guy who could kick major butt before breakfast, and one of my favourite class buddies was a black guy named Raphael Roundtree. And a white woman named Lily Bard. She could knock me down with her little finger. My grandfather revered women – as long as they were dependent and decorative.”
I was reading ‘Midnight Crossroad’ as someone who has long listed ‘Lily Bard’ as my all-time favourite Charlaine Harris series, followed closely by ‘Aurora Teagarden’, ‘Harper Connelly’ and then the one that made her a literary sensation, ‘Southern Vampire’. I got perverse enjoyment out of reading these characters I fell in love with in two different universes, coming together for a fresh start. I don’t know how readers who are only familiar with Harris’s Sookie-verse will go with ‘Midnight, Texas’ – she writes enough backstory and a tight enough whodunit that anyone will get enjoyment from the story itself – but I do hope people who aren’t familiar with Harris’s backlist will be moved to read her original (and best) cozy mystery series’ because they are well worth it.
‘Midnight Crossroad’ is quite a departure for Harris too, regardless that these characters are familiar. She’s writing her first multiple-POV series (third-person narration, but following the characters of Manfred, Bobo and Fiji in alternating chapters) and with two male protagonists when she’s previously only written female heroines. And even though this is, in my mind at least, the Manfred and Bobo show, the storyline of ‘Midnight Crossroad’ is leaning more heavily Bobo’s way. The plot-arc relates to events that happened to him in ‘Shakespeare’s Champion’, second book in the ‘Lily Bard’ series. And the better-established romance in this first book is the one-sided crush Fiji has on Bobo, whereas Manfred’s appreciation of beautiful teen resident, Creek, is just surface-scratching at this point.
Fiji was my favourite character in this book (shocking, since I’m someone who has been pining for more Bobo since 2001!) maybe it’s the curse of Harris’s lovelorn characters, but I like her underdogs and Fiji is charming in her loyalty, witchiness and one-sided crushing.
Midnight is definitely a town with enough secrets and intriguing residents to fill a (long-awaited!) new series from Charlaine Harris. Reading this as someone who is a bigger fan of her backlist than HBO-adapted Sookie, ‘Midnight, Texas’ feels like a hark back to the cozy mysteries she excelled at writing early on – the cherries on top are Manfred and Bobo, fan-favourites who are being given a chance to shine all on their own. A favourite book of 2014, for sure.