Saturday, September 06, 2014

What we're reading: New series by a popular author

Most people in the world know Charlaine Harris best as the author of the Southern Vampire novels, starting with Dead Until Dark, that were the basis for the HBO series True Blood. But she wrote a bunch of books before those, including two mystery series--the Aurora Teagarden cozies about the adventures of a Georgia librarian, and the Lily Bard books set in Shakespeare, Arkansas. I have read one each from those series, but neither really spoke to me. And although I loved the first four or five of the Sookie Stackhouse novels starring the wide-eyed Louisiana mindreader and her new friends, the vampires, after about book six I felt like the series jumped the shark. I did read to the bitter end (because I'm stubborn like that), but I was sad about the direction of the final few, feeling like Harris had lost her way.

Not so with Harris's four books about Harper Connelly, who developed her odd ability to find corpses (and can tell how they died, too) after being struck by lightning. They were as fascinating and strange as their protagonist, and with each one I wanted to rush to the next about Harper and her hunky step-brother, Tolliver. So I was disappointed she stopped with four books, although I loved what Harris did with them, and how nicely she tied up the story arc. Sometimes it's good to know when to stop, and with these she definitely ended on a high note.

Last week, I was simultaneously tidying up and checking out the shelves of New Books at the Central Library when I came upon Harris's latest offering, called Midnight Crossroad, and subtitled "Midnight Texas #1." A new location, a new batch of people…or are they? There was one familiar name, and I was delighted to discover it was my favorite subsidiary character from the Connelly series, the young psychic, Manfred Bernardo. In the Harper Connelly books he appears as the grandson of the psychic with whom Harper occasionally collaborates, and his tender care for his more than slightly crazy grandmother, along with his insouciance (and his multiple facial piercings) intrigued me as much as they did Harper. Now he has moved to a derelict town populated by just a few inhabitants, all of them potentially weirder than Manfred, and their shady pasts will keep him sufficiently entertained while he pursues his lucrative online psychic business.

The book was a winner--fun, quirky, and a good set-up for a new trilogy. I have one problem with it, though: I do deplore how easily her characters seem to decide that killing people is the only solution to their problems. Yes, I know it's fiction. Yes, I know they are some of them vampires and shape shifters, etc., and don't know their own strength or something. But wouldn't you think such long-lived creatures would have more respect for life, not less? Still, a fun mystery, and I look forward to seeing where she takes things next time.

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