Fresh Meat: Day Shift by Charlaine Harris

Day Shift by Charlaine Harris transports readers back to the dusty town of Midnight, Texas, where all sorts of paranormal happenings occur in this second book in the trilogy (available May 5, 2015).

Midnight, Texas, could be just another dusty spot in the roads outside Dallas except that it’s a place created by Charlaine Harris. That, of course, means nothing is as it seems.

We came to learn about Midnight in the first book of a trilogy, Midnight Crossroad. It’s a small town that looks more deserted than inhabited with a lot of boarded windows and empty buildings. There’s big news in town, however, when an abandoned hotel is set upon by a construction crew with a hard-edged woman heading up the project. Everyone is Midnight is curious, especially about who would possibly want to stay overnight in the little town.

With the exception of Lemuel, the resident vampire, everyone is in town. The cast includes Fiji, the witch and her cantankerous cat, Mr. Snuggly; Manfred, the resident psychic; Joe and Chuy, owners of the antique/nail shop; Bobo, who operates the local pawn shop; Madonna and Teacher Reed with their infant son, Grady, who run the diner; and the Rev, the mysterious clergyman who operates the pet cemetery.

The second mystery centers on the arrival of a big man and a little boy. To the astonishment of the residents, the man leaves his small son with the surly preacher. Who is the boy? Why isn’t he in school? Where did his father go? Where is his mother? The surprise and curiosity surrounding the boy soon fade as residents feel drawn by his openness and likeable nature.

Yet another mystery pops up when Manfred books a hotel in Dallas for two days of doing business in person with clients. When a client dies during a session, and her son begins making allegations that bring the police to Manfred’s door in Midnight, much chaos ensues.

Here’s one of the things I enjoy most about the writing of Charlaine Harris: her great skill with melding everyday activities smoothly with the unlikely events.

“So what happened then?” Fiji asked him. It was three days later, and they were sitting in her little kitchen. Fiji had invited Manfred and Bobo over to share a roast for Tuesday supper. She didn’t often buy expensive cuts of meat, but sirloin top roasts had been on sale at Kroger in nearby Davy, where the Midnighters went to shop. She’d cooked it traditionally, with new potatoes and carrots around the meat, and she’d made lots of gravy, and biscuits, too. It was so good that Manfred and Bobo had both had second helpings of everything.

“Then all the police who had been downstairs investigating a murder/suicide came up to my room,” Manfred said grimly. “It took me about an hour to explain what Rachel and I had been doing. They assumed I was some kind of gigolo. I guess they were hoping that I’d had a connection with the couple who’d died the night before, though they’d already questioned me about that.”

“Man,” said Bobo. Tall, fit, blond, and with a gorgeous white-toothed smile, Bobo was much more like someone’s idea of an ideal lover. In point of fact, Bobo was not vain and did not seem to be aware of how attractive he was. “With the lady in her sixties? That must have been embarrassing.”

“I was too scared to be embarrassed. By that time, I figured if they only thought I’d been having an affair with Rachel, I’d be glad.”

Just good friends discussing current events over a nice supper and iced tea. Of course, this is only the beginning of the problem for poor Manfred. He and his friends in Midnight do find interesting ways to sway the course of justice to favor him.

Though they occasionally recall the events dealt with in the first book, residents of Midnight, Texas, know the value of accepting the past and moving on to deal with today.

This book is just plain fun reading. I’ve grown to truly enjoy these characters and care about them as well. They’re a quirky bunch of delightful people, some of whom are distinctly supernatural.

What’s the best part of these books? The secondary characters from the Sookie Stackhouse adventures that keep popping into the stories. I don’t want to give anything away because part of the fun is realizing who you’re reading about and why.

As events progress, there’s more strangeness in Midnight, including the unexplained growth of the young boy staying with the Rev. Fiji becomes especially close to the boy, feeding his insatiable need for comfort as well as food. The interesting part of this little story is that the boy is as curious about himself as the townsfolk are.

In addition to peeling away the layers of the mysteries she is dealing with in this book, Charlaine also gives us deeper looks at the people of the town. We get interesting tidbits about each person that we were unaware of before. I especially enjoyed this.

Charlaine has a way of truly inhabiting a story. You can almost see her walking through it like a tour guide who knows all the secret hiding places. She takes us down the dark hallways while probing the shadows, peeks into the closets to see what monsters are hiding inside, and opening cabinets to reveal the hidden in a slow, meaningful manner. She has taken this motley crew of displaced people and made them a unit.

“Yes?” Olivia straightened and looked at the older man. His clothes might be ancient, his hair thinning, and his body small, but when the Rev spoke, you listened, and you listened good.

“You have to find this missing jewelry so they know Manfred doesn’t have it. Then they will leave…Because you’re a thief,” the Rev said, and there was no judgment in his voice. “You can figure out where a thief would hide such a thing.”…

“I’ll do my best,” she said. “But I’d better be able to count on any help I call on the rest of you to give.”

“I’ll help,” Fiji said instantly. Despite the fact that her attention was apparently focused on Diederik she’d been listening. Now she pulled an elastic band from the pocket of her skirt.

Of course she’d have one, Olivia thought. Of course she’d be ready to help. But there was no string to these thoughts. Olivia had finally accepted the fact that Fiji was simply that kind of person.

“I’ll help however you ask me,” Bobo said.

Joe hesitated for a moment. “Chuy and I will do what we can: he said cautiously. “And, of course, Rasta is always ready to help,” Joe added, and everyone laughed except the Rev and the boy.

The only thing I regret about this book is learning it’s the second book in a trilogy. I could spend years with the people in Midnight. I like them a lot, and I still have a great deal of curiosity about their pasts and their abilities as supernatural beings.

Still, I am looking forward to reading the final book to see what happens in the quiet, dusty little town at the crossroad of Witch Light Road and Davy. And who among the friends of a telepath from Bon Temps, Louisiana, might show up next.

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Leigh Neely is a former journalist and editor who now writes fiction and articles for regional magazines. She and her writing partner, Jan Powell, are the authors of Second Nature by Neely Powell, and the trilogy, “The Witches of New Mourne.” She also writes for the popular blog, Her short stories are in the anthologies, Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices and Murder New York Style: Family Matters, put out by the New York/Tri-State Sisters in Crime.

Read all of Leigh Neely's posts for Criminal Element.

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