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Saturday, August 29, 2015

'Day Shift' Midnight, Texas #2 by Charlaine Harris

From the BLURB:

There is no such thing as bad publicity, except in Midnight, Texas, where the residents like to keep to themselves. Even in a town full of secretive people, Olivia Charity is an enigma. She lives with the vampire Lemuel, but no one knows what she does; they only know that she’s beautiful and dangerous.

Psychic Manfred Bernardo finds out just how dangerous when he goes on a working weekend to Dallas and sees Olivia there with a couple who are both found dead the next day. To make matters worse, one of Manfred’s regular—and very wealthy—clients dies during a reading.

Manfred returns from Dallas embroiled in scandal and hounded by the press. He turns to Olivia for help; somehow he knows that the mysterious Olivia can get things back to normal. As normal as things get in Midnight…

‘Day Shift’ is the second book in Charlaine Harris’s new urban fantasy series, ‘Midnight, Texas’ … which happens to be a sort of amalgamation of all her other series, featuring various secondary characters from those books.

Last year I was so thrilled with Harris’s new series, and counted ‘Midnight, Crossroad’ as one of my favourite books of 2014. This new series features Manfred Bernardo from Harris’s ‘Harper Connelly’ series, Bobo Winthrop from ‘Lily Bard’, a character called Fiji Cavanaugh has a relative who is a Bon Temps sheriff, the detective Arthur from ‘Aurora Teagarden’ pops up … and in ‘Day Shift’ we catch up with a few more minor and secondary characters from Sookie Stackhouse’s world.

Basically, Midnight is a one traffic light town with a whole lot of weird and wonderful residents who all apparently occupy Charlaine Harris’s one-in-the-same universe for all her series. I loved the concept, and adored ‘Midnight Crossroad’, particularly because Bobo from ‘Lily Bard’ was perhaps the one character of Harris’s that I most wanted a happy ending for, and in this new series we get to see what became of him and a few other wayward folk from her various series.

Yes, there’s mystery and murder – what Charlaine Harris writes best – but this series felt very much character driven, since the author has collected the most beloved and missed folk from her various series. So I was really disheartened to get to the end of ‘Day Shift’ feeling like I’d been short-changed on the character side of things with this second book.

What I loved most from ‘Midnight Crossroad’ was the unrequited love affair between across-the-road neighbours Fiji and Bobo, and the way Harris was teasing out Fiji’s crush on her best friend. I also liked the hint of romance between Manfred and a young woman called Creek, whose family was in turmoil by the end of ‘Crossroad’. Unfortunately in ‘Day Shift’ Fiji and Bobo are the two characters with the least amount of page-time, and Creek isn’t mentioned once in the whole book. This second instalment is concentrated on a murder-mystery with Manfred at the centre, and providing backstory for Midnight resident Olivia and her vampire lover, Lemuel. Character Joe and Chuy also get plenty of baffling page-time, as does the Rev and a new young resident (with links to Bon Temps).

She opened the basket and, and out jumped Mr. Snuggly. Mr. Snuggly immediately went to the boy and stood at his feet, looking up. The boy had dark brown hair, long and tangled. He wore denim shorts and a Walking Dead T-shirt, which was an unusual choice for a child his apparent age. But what was that? 
“Hail, little brother,” said Mr. Snuggly in his small shrill voice. 
With a movement too quick to track, the boy was on his knees in front of the cat, peering into his face. Suddenly, the boy smiled. It was bewitching. He looked up at Fiji, and Olivia could see that his eyes were pansy purple. 
“Okay, I’m in love,” Fiji said cheerfully.

I just couldn’t believe that after setting up Fiji and Bobo with such interesting characterisation in ‘Midnight Crossroad’, Harris would just erase them from this second instalment … I’m really quite gobsmacked, to be honest. I know Harris has set a hard task for herself by making this a multiple-character focused story, as opposed to a Sookie Stakchouse/Aurora Teagarden/Lily Bard/Harper Connelly single-focus hero series. But she balanced the focus between Fiji, Bobo and Manfred really well against the mystery of other Midnight characters like Lemuel, Olivia and Rev. In ‘Day Shift’ all that built-up intrigue surrounding Olivia especially is just thrown out the window, and characters like Fiji and Bobo really do suffer.

Even increased focus on Manfred felt hollow when there’s absolutely no mention of young woman Creek, who was set up as a sort of romantic mystery for him in ‘Crossroad’. In fact, the whole of ‘Day Shift’ felt like it lacked heart – though Lemuel and Olivia have a tender if bizarre romance, they lack the heart and heat of Fiji’s unrequited love for Bobo or Manfred’s forbidden lusting after Creek. It’s a sad fact but in this series that’s meant to be very character-driven, without those deeper relationships and feelings between the characters it feels very much like something is hollow and missing.

To be honest, I was so frustrated with the lack of tangible connection in this book that the mystery also held less interest and gravitas as a result. The only thing I liked in this book were the two Bon Temps characters – one of whom I’ve always loved and wanted some reassurance that good things happened to them after the conclusion of ‘Sookie Stackhouse’.

Al in all this was a really disappointing second instalment after the pure enjoyment that was first book ‘Midnight Crossroad’. I hope in the third book ‘Night Shift’, coming 2016, Fiji and Bobo return for more page-time and there can be some acknowledgment of the romantic relationships that Harris did such a good job of establishing in the first book.


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