REVIEW: MIDNIGHT CROSSROAD / AUTHOR: CHARLAINE HARRIS / PUBLISHER: GOLLANCZ / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Charlaine Harris is best known for writing the Sookie Stackhouse novels, which served as inspiration for the hit TV series True Blood. These books have also established her as one of the most important creators of urban fantasy in print today, and her latest novel, Midnight Crossroad has been keenly anticipated by her fans.
Though very broadly set in the same world as the Stackhouse books, the pace and tone could not be more different. The story takes place in the sleepy little Texas town of Midnight, a small and out of the way community that is a haven for those touched by the supernatural. Harris’s world is one much like our own except that vampires, werewolves and the like are real and the public have a growing knowledge of their existence. As such, sensible folk stay away from Midnight, though of course not everyone is sensible. The inhabitants of Midnight keep themselves to themselves as well. That is until a corpse turns up.
The novel is a character-driven tale, using a third-person structure to give the reader multiple character perspectives. This means we get to see the same thing from different points of view and this draws us further into the world. Those who know Harris’ previous books will recognise one or two supporting characters from other stories who take a more central role here. Though this is a bit of a treat for the hardcore fans, prior knowledge isn’t needed. The diversity of the supernatural beings in Midnight Crossroad and the way they deal with intolerant and violent strangers is also a key plot point here and though it’s an obvious metaphor for real-world social issues, at no point does it feel out of place or overwrought. Instead it makes the world feel all the more real. The various social dynamics are skilfully woven and the contrast between everyday town life and the strange inhabitants makes for a compelling read.
Harris’ gentle, meandering style is not for everyone but though slow, the book is packed full of story as well as a richly developed world. The author has skilfully blended American Gothic sensibilities with old-fashioned tales of the South to create a compelling and often discomforting story. If you like your soap-opera with fangs and magic, then this will delight you.