Friday, May 29, 2015

Day Shift by Charlaine Harris

Day Shift: A Novel of Midnight, Texas by Charlaine Harris --- 307 pages

Charlaine Harris is the best selling author of paranormal mysteries with Southern settings. She's probably best known for her Sookie Stackhouse stories, which were the basis for the popular television series True Blood.

This is the second book in a new series (Harris says it will be a trilogy, but if it turns out to be as popular as Sookie, who knows?) set in the small town of Midnight, Texas. How small? Midnight is so small you would miss it if you blinked. The people who live in Midnight like it that way; they shun attention and don't encourage passers-through to linger

Manfred Bernardo chose to settle in Midnight for just that reason. He's a psychic who does most of his business online or by phone, and prefers to keep a very low public profile otherwise. Manfred and the readers were introduced to the rest of Midnight's eccentric inhabitants in the first book in the series, Midnight Crossroad.

Manfred makes a trip to Dallas to meet with a select group of clients willing to pay handsomely for personal psychic readings. He stays in the exclusive Vespers Hotel in the affluent suburb of Bonnet Park. He's surprised to see his Midnight neighbor, Olivia Charity, having dinner with a couple in the hotel restaurant. When the same couple turn up dead in their hotel room the next morning, an apparent murder-suicide, Manfred wonders uneasily if Olivia had anything to do with it.

But Manfred soon has troubles of his own. That same morning, Manfred meets with one of his favorite clients, a wealthy widow named Rachel Goldthorpe, who wants Manfred to help her communicate with her dead husband, Morton. She's having increasing difficulties coping with their volatile and controlling son, and wants Morton's advice. But in the middle of their seance, Rachel collapses and dies.

The local police find a third sudden death at the same hotel on the same morning more of a coincidence than they are willing to accept. When it turns out that Rachel's very valuable jewelry is missing, her son accuses Mandred of theft and murder. . . and the fun begins.

Harris is an experienced writer, and she knows what small, fallen-by-the-wayside towns in the rural South are like. So even her wildest flights of fancy are solidly rooted in the mundane. It's that contrast that makes her characters and stories so entertaining and compels our interest. There are several other subplots in the book, and we learn a little more about the other inhabitants in the process.

It will be interesting to see what happens next in Midnight, Texas.

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