Midnight Crossroad is a 2014 work of mystery-fantasy fiction by Charlaine Harris. The first book in the Midnight, Texas Trilogy, it takes place in the transient city of Midnight, a near ghost town in the Texan desert. Its protagonist is a 22 year old phone psychic named Manfred Bernardo, who moves to Midnight to live an anonymous life. He soon realizes that the rest of the townsfolk have similar plans in mind; though they are ostensibly friendly, they harbor many secrets.
The novel begins as Bernardo settles in to Midnight and gets to know his neighbors. He has a landlord named Bobo Winthrop, who owns a pawn store inhabited by a pale owl named Lemuel. Bernardo notes that Bobo has been unable to lease the building for the past several. He also meets a beautiful and mysterious woman named Olivia. Across the street from his new home, he meets a gay couple who run a nail salon and a small diner. Further down the street he checks out a Gas N Go managed by a father who micromanages his two children, a derelict church and pet cemetery watched over by a strange priest, and a magic shop owned by a witch named Fiji who lives with her cat. Bernardo adjusts to these strange people while starting up his business, naming it “Bernardo, Psychic and Seer”.
Rumors of Bernardo’s background stir in the town, and he is welcomed by all except for the reverend, who goes by Sheehan. Bobo’s friend Fiji confides that she had seen Bernardo once in a People magazine, and that he is apparently a legitimate psychic. Soon after, Bernardo visits Fiji’s shop and finds a collection of magical items including mythology books, tarot cards, and Ouija boards. Fiji hints to him that she is a witch but he doesn’t seem to understand her meaning. On one of the first days, Bernardo eats at a diner where he meets his basement neighbor, an extremely pale man named Lemuel who seems much colder than a human should be. When Bernardo shakes Lemuel’s hand, a chill runs through him. As they chat, they notice two men sitting observantly in the corner.
Bernardo learns that the men are watching Bobo as well as Lemuel and Olivia because they are his tenants. He realizes that Olivia knows the strange men are looking at her, and Lemuel tells him that he has a weapon. As they sit in the tense silence, Bernardo realizes that Lemuel is a vampire that leeches energy from human bodies rather than blood. Fiji leaves, and Olivia accompanies her outside, watching her walk home to make sure she is safe. The two mysterious men pay and disappear, scrutinized by Bobo.
Bernardo quickly realizes that the town is weirder than his first impression told him. Nonetheless, he feels at home there, recalling memories of living with his psychic grandmother as a child. The weird tranquility comes to an abrupt halt when a body washes up on a nearby riverbank. Bernardo learns that it is Aubrey, Bobo’s missing girlfriend, for whom he harbored a distaste. The police get involved in Midnight, stationing themselves on Witch Light Road, and the townspeople hypothesize long lists of possible murderers which only seem to get longer. White supremacist bikers show up and begin to cause unrest, possibly as a retaliation against the investigation.
The story is further complicated when Fiji’s affection for Bobo grows even stronger, and Bernardo develops a crush on Harper Connelly. Set up as an outsider to the events taking place in Midnight and struggling to assemble them into some context or understanding, Bernardo has a difficult time integrating fully into the town. He resolves to learn about the people and history of Midnight, learning to fit in better during the investigation surrounding Aubrey. Ultimately, it is revealed that a member of the racist gang killed Aubrey, bringing the mystery to a close. It’s further suggested that Bernardo was complicit in the murder. Several other characters are revealed to have possibly committed murder, including the gay salon couple, who are implied to be chimerical beasts in human disguise, and Harper, who has a sadistic relish for suffering.
A circuitous story that spends most of its time giving a vivid depiction of the strange southern town, Midnight Crossroad uses character development and strategically withheld information to drive a suspenseful murder mystery plot. Its characters serve as examples of the societal malaise of excessive secret keeping, which can only be reversed through uncovering painful realities.