Midnight is a quiet town like no other, in the middle of rural Texas, with few people passing through. It’s a quiet place, an insular place, a place where the few inhabitants have each other’s back – but keep their secrets to themselves.
Manfred is a new inhabitant to the town and quickly finds the secrets run deep and there is far more than he imagined. Some of these secrets become exposed when a body is found…
This book shows Charlaine Harris’s main strength from the very beginning. Charlaine Harris has a great talent for truly describing a place, really getting a sense of what the town of Midnight is like. But it’s not just the place, Charlaine is extremely good at describing a community and how they all relate to each other. Even really small or background characters are fit into the overall community and the characters that make up the location.
This especially works with this series because it is such a small community as well as the very nature of the community. It’s interesting to see how close and supportive everyone is of each other, while at the same time following Mightnight’s unwritten rules – complete acceptance and not asking any questions. It’s a town for the misfits and people who can’t find somewhere to fit in anywhere else and this is really well presented – not with everyone having to be freaky or weird or odd to stand out – but just this really subtle way everyone’s secrecy has been woven into the community to create a set of unwritten rules that no-one ever has to overtly say though they’re always clearly understood.
There is a problem with pacing. This is the first book in the series and there’s a lot of introduction and description including a lot that probably isn’t necessary. A lot of the earlier part of the book is taken up setting the scene with rather more excessive detail than is necessary that clogs things a little. Especially since it seems to be a while before anyone actually gets involved in any murder investigation (though I did like the moment when Manfred questioned why they’re investigating at all since none of them are police). This slows down the general mystery as well for some time – which is a minor element of dissatisfaction along with a completely unpredictable ending.
One thing the book has is a separatist, white supremist, racist, misogynist, homophobic group. The depiction is pretty good – they’re not soft peddled or excused, they’re a repulsive as you’d expect. But they’re repulsive without the need to turn them into outright cartoonish caricatures, some of them are very very human and even nice (so long as the person they’re being nice to is a nice White Woman) but the hatred is clear. A nasty bigot doesn’t have to be frothing, they can be surprisingly pleasant people – but they’re still repellent bigots. It also brings in some nicely weird things happening like the wholeSovereignty Movement and the bizarre actual belief that people can set up personal and pseudo states basically by claiming they have. It was pretty well done managing to revile, mock and depict these people as the danger they are. But also make it clear they are not the only sources of bigotry and people shunned the POC or gay people without being part of the hate groups.