Day Shift. Book Review

dayshiftDAY SHIFT (Midnight, Texas vol 2) by Charlaine Harris
Gollancz, h/b, 320pp, £18.99
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (@mangozoid)

Like many, I discovered Sookie Stackhouse and the True Blood TV series before Charlaine Harris the writer, and so I come to this book having not read any of her previous work, and hope you’ll forgive me while I try and proffer some opinion here…

Day Shift is set in a place called Midnight, Texas, in the same fictional world as Bon Temps, Louisiana, complete with associated vampires, fairies, were-beings and the like. It’s a small town where a lot of people know everybody else’s business (or not, as the case may be), and when a new owner renovates an old hotel and turns it into a care home by any other name, alarm bells start ringing for the residents of this quiet sleepy town… Things get even more heated when newly resident psychic Manfred Bernardo returns from a working holiday with police, lawyers and journalists all in tow, having just watched his first appointment of the weekend drop dead in front of him during a reading and thus is now considered the prime suspect in the ensuing investigation.

Midnight, Texas sits in the same world as Bon Temps, Louisiana (True Blood) and sees the author exploring both the place itself and the characters that live there in the style of a classic US ‘slice of life’ drama series, and therein lays my main issue with this. Fans of the books will no doubt cherish the expansive character development, the widening of the mural as minor characters get some back story behind them, etc. but for me coming to this as an outsider, I found it hard to keep track initially. Of course this may be indicative of the author’s style or just the way things came across but there are a handful of story threads to follow, the chapters flit from one character to the next, and as good as the writing is, the whole thing reads like those couple of forgettable intermediate episodes you always find in the middle of a series like Desperate Housewives, etc. that tend to bridge gaps, set up plotlines and so on and so forth. And it does feel very much like this has been written in the form of a screenplay — there are swathes of conversation between characters that struck me as almost ‘lazy’ in the way they’ve been used to pad things out, and yet all the while I can’t help thinking this is entirely deliberate. Oh yes, and there’s also a last-minute ‘guest appearance’ which even I recognised as a form of ‘fan service’ near the very end of the book…

I’m sure fans of the author will probably love this sort of thing, and she evidently already has a massive fan base, but for anyone wanting to join the club or even just to feel like part of it, this is probably not the best one to start with. In truth, I can’t fault the writing, but deep down I couldn’t escape the underlying feeling that this was written more like a book that wants to be a TV series and this just spoiled things for me, unfortunately.