Book Review: "Midnight Crossroad" by Charlaine Harris

This review is probably one of the hardest I'll ever have to write, and I'll explain why. Its not often that I encounter a book that I'm so ambivalent about after I finish it. I literally cannot make up my mind how I feel about this book. I admit freely I picked it up simply because of the author, though I also will freely admit that unlike a lot of others who followed the Sookie Stackhouse series I actually didn't finish the series because I became so frustrated with the direction it was heading around book 5 or so. So I didn't have the lead-in to this book being the horrible books that followed number 5 in that series.

The last book of Ms Harris's that I read was the last in the Harper Connelly series "Grave Secret," which I really liked. In fact I loved that series, even despite what some readers deemed the incestuous relationship between the lead characters. But that's another review for another time. The fact that I'm not privy to the actual horrors of the last several Sookie series books probably is what led me to simply giving this book a try, even though I'd heard and read lots of complaints about the downhill trend of Ms Harris's writing style as that series went on.

If I'm going to pressure myself to rate this book, "Midnight Crossroad", I'd have to give it 3.5 of 5 stars. Its not the worst book I've ever read, but it certainly isn't one of the better ones I've read either. I can't bring myself to give it a 3 out of 5, though I can't explain exactly why I won't give it a lower score. I think the reason this book has me so torn on rating it is that its an abrupt change of pace from the last several books I've read.

"Midnight Crossroad", takes place in a dusty little town, as the name implies, but not everything in Midnight, Texas, is as it seems. The book is part one of a new trilogy, and I'll admit I'm curious to see what the next two are like, but I probably won't get them as soon as they come out, just because this book wasn't at all what I expected given the past books of Ms Harris's. The last 3 books I read before this were all supernatural themed, but much more fast paced. Maybe its that Midnight, Texas is a sleepy, dusty small town and everything that happens there is slower to occur than things would be if it were set pretty much anywhere else in the world.

In Midnight, Texas you'll meet a small, but unique cast of characters, and a trio of locations, one being the town itself, and two neighboring locales, both equally rural, but a little bit "more", than Midnight itself. The setting and the characters are well done, detailed but dusty, the way small towns tend to be, compared to brighter, bigger settings in major cities. I do love when an author nails the descriptions to where you can picture what is happening as you're reading, and while the book was a fast read, it was not fast paced, it took small town time to develop, and to get to the meat of the story. Harris does a good job of describing the characters of Midnight, from Lemuel, the Rev, Fiji, to Bobo, you get a good feel for the characters, but they're not to terribly deep, though Bobo, is by far the most well thought out and described of the bunch in my opinion.

The series follows Manfred the psychic from the Harper Connelly series, and characters from the other non-Sookie series books by Harris also make cameo appearances, but in name only. The book rolls on, at a leisurely small town pace, and I think that's the part that most readers will have a hard time getting over, or getting around. I didn't have any trouble finishing the book as some other readers did, but I try my hardest to finish what I start, even if it sucks. The last book I didn't make it through was book 1 of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. Sorry, that book sucked. The writing in Midnight, Texas, is simple, and plain, though the descriptions of settings and characters are well detailed they're not as vibrant as they could be. She focuses more on things than on people, but it helps develop the setting, which seems to be important to the history of the town, its my hope she'll continue to develop the town's history through the rest of the series.

My final conclusions without giving anything away, are this, don't expect the taught suspense and great writing you found in the first Sookie series books, or even the Harper Connelly series, and don't expect Manfred the psychic to be able to fully support his own series without a lot of help from the rest of the cast. Its not a bad book, but its not a great book either. If you have others on your wish list, get those books first, and wait until your local library has this on their shelves if you want to read it. Just know that it is slow paced, and dusty, almost like an old dime-store wild west novel, without all the action. The book does have some not-so-subtle statements regarding politics, that are rather well tied to the current US political climate, and the author's views on such come through a little too clear in the turn of phrase, and the plot twists, like most books its about "good" versus "bad" and some of the statements could've been done without, but it felt like Harris was trying to make a veiled political statement with some of the mentions, and my overall opinion of her as an author, has taken a hard hit because of that fact.

3.5 of 5 stars, and that's pushing it a bit, but it did leave me wanting more to the story, instead of tying off and leaving book 2 to be a separate entity. Don't waste your money, borrow it from a friend or your local library. $12 for a kindle book that wasn't nearly as good as some I've read that were $0.99 and half the length really makes me question my sanity when it comes to just buying whatever an author puts out, because its that author that wrote it. Harris is nowhere near as good in this book as she was in previous books, maybe its her editors, maybe its just her.


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