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Originally published Friday, May 2, 2014 at 6:17 AM

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‘Midnight Crossroad’: This Texas town has some secrets

Charlaine Harris’ first novel in a new trilogy, “Midnight Crossroad,” introduces a new cast of characters, an oddball crew in a small Texas town who possess some special abilities. Harris appears Thursday, May 8, at Seattle’s University Book Store.


Special to The Seattle Times

Author appearance

Charlaine Harris

The author of “Midnight Crossroad” will appear at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 8, at Seattle’s University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E. This is a free event, but a purchase of “Midnight Crossroad” includes a priority ticket. For more information, call 206-634-3400 or go to ubookstore.com.

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Charlaine Harris is back, casting her comfortingly familiar folksy-freaky spell.

“Midnight Crossroad” (Ace Books, 305 pp., $27.95) is the first novel in a trilogy from the prolific author. It arrives a year after Harris ended her Sookie Stackhouse/Southern vampire mysteries with book No. 13. Spunky, big-hearted Sookie is sorely missed, but die-hard Harris fans are likely to enjoy “Midnight” and the opportunity to get to know the residents of a new town. Those new to Harris might first read the Sookie books to determine if Harris’ mix of romance, mystery and contemporary fantasy is for them.

As in the Sookie series, there are supernatural goings-on in “Crossroad,” which touches on familiar Harris themes of community, tolerance and intolerance, mixed with humor and creep-outs.

The handful of residents of the fictional West Texas town of Midnight all have secrets. And they are loyal friends who keep those secrets for each other. Some are merely human, some have supernatural abilities and the “supe” nature of one is hinted at, piquing the curiosity of readers for future installments.

Fiji, proprietor of a New Age shop, is an avid gardener — and a witch whose specialty is freezing in place, temporarily, those who aggrieve her. Fiji’s cat, Mr. Snuggly, talks — but only when necessary and when it doesn’t interrupt his naps and mealtimes. When Fiji is in trouble, Mr. Snuggly snarkily alerts and upsets the neighbors with pronouncements such as “Little Timmy fell down the well.”

Bobo, book lover and pawnshop owner, is trying to distance himself from an ugly family history and recover from having been ditched by girlfriend Aubrey. Bobo runs the pawnshop by day. By night it’s run by Lemuel and Olivia, the former a vampire born in 1837 who can feed off human energy, the latter a lethal beauty.

Describing the townsfolk gathering at a communal table at the Home Cookin Restaurant, Harris writes: “When Lemuel had joined them, wildness and death had walked in the door ... When Olivia stepped inside, it was sort of like the first appearance of Lauren Bacall in an old movie. You knew someone amazing and interesting had entered the room, and you knew she didn’t suffer fools gladly.”

The newest resident of Midnight, Manfred, will be familiar to fans of Harris’ Harper Connelly mysteries. Manfred is a young Internet psychic who mostly makes it up as he goes along but has flashes of the real deal. Sweet Manfred has spiked platinum hair, multiple face piercings and tattoos, the latest a lightning bolt — an homage to Harper, who, after being struck by lightning, can sense the dead and uses her ability to solve murders.

“Midnight Crossroad” also centers on a murder mystery after the body of Aubrey, Bobo’s missing girlfriend, is found on the outskirts of town. The revelation of the killer is truly shocking.

In Harris’ earlier series, her heroines Sookie and Harper narrate their own stories, and part of those series’ appeal for readers is growing fond of the flawed but likable young women over time. “Crossroad,” so far, is not as satisfying, in part because it’s told in the third person and doesn’t focus on just one resident of Midnight. But it’s a setup that offers Harris an opportunity to delve more deeply into multiple characters.

And here’s hoping we learn a lot more about Mr. Snuggly.

Agnes Torres Al-Shibibi is a Seattle Times desk editor. She has read the four Harper Connelly mysteries and all 13 Sookie Stackhouse novels. Do not get her started on HBO’s “True Blood” Sookie adaptation, which she feels jumped the shark way back in Season 2.



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