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Day Shift
by Charlaine Harris
Penguin, $27.95, 307pp
Published: May 2015

Welcome back to Ms Harris’ new town: Midnight, Texas which is in the same universe as the Sookie Stackhouse stories.  In fact, the main character, Manfred, made his first appearance in a short story with Sookie, I believe.  And this story has a couple visitors from the pages of the Sookie stories.

All manner of strange people (used loosely) live in Midnight.  Manfred is a professional psychic with a true talent.  His landlord owns a pawnshop which their resident vampire manages at night.  The vampire’s lover, Olivia, is a scary woman with many secrets.  There is a resident witch who has a heavy crush on the pawnshop owner.  There’s the sweet gay couple who do nails and run an antique shop – much strangeness here.  The couple who run the café and the Gas-N-Go just might be normal but I’m not betting on it.  And then there’s the Rev – he conducts weddings in his chapel and pet burials behind the chapel – when he’s not burying other things.  Some of the residents are just too strange to describe further without spoilers.

Manfred goes to Dallas to do some personal readings and sees Olivia in a restaurant with a couple who turn up dead the next morning.  To make matters even worse, one of the women who arrives for a reading dies right in front of Manfred.  He knows Olivia is a dangerous woman and he has his suspicions about her role in the couple’s deaths but he can’t imagine how his client’s death would be connected to Olivia.  Nonetheless, he doesn’t share his suspicions with the local police investigating the deaths.  Manfred is, eventually, cleared of suspicion but is then accused of stealing the woman’s jewelry by her deranged son.  All of this attention brings many unwelcome visitors to Midnight.  Many of her residents have reason to avoid spotlights and want to see the visitors gone – including the surprise visitor from the pages of Sookie stories.  The Rev is guesting a strange young child and has made it very clear that he does not want any visitors in Midnight – and no one gainsays the Rev.  So Olivia decides to help Manfred figure out who stole the jewelry; but her participation ends up exposing her to her own enemies.

In the meantime, someone has bought the old hotel and renovated it – with an awful lot of money.  It is almost immediately populated with several elderly guests who are, apparently, using it as a temporary residence while they wait for a permanent residence.  But things are not as they seem and the elderly people have a peculiar story.

This is another charming mystery and while it doesn’t have the same level of drama (and killings) as the Sookie stories, I am beginning to find them just as addicting.  I am falling in love with the characters and I can’t wait to learn more about them.  Charlaine has a talent for developing odd characters with motivations that make them very substantial.  She’s also really good at leaving things undone or unsaid…until the next book.  We still don’t know what’s up with the hotel.  The mysterious owner of the Gas-N-Go hasn’t yet been identified and we’re still waiting for the new manager to appear.  There are enough empty buildings in Midnight that more characters are sure to appear.  Which begs the question:  how do these little businesses in a whistle-stop of a town actually prosper?  ~~  Catherine Book

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