Posted in Adult Fiction

“The Life We Bury”

The Life We Bury
Author: Allen Eskens
ISBN: 978-1616149987

*Warning: this review may be a little triggering for people*

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens is about a college student named Joe who’s just trying to finish an English assignment. To do so, he has to interview someone and get their life story. He goes to a local nursing home, finds an old man named Carl, and starts down the road of mystery and intrigue.

Our introduction to Joe is nothing truly special–he’s a “the world is stacked against me” everyman who we’re supposed to sympathize with due to his hard life. And yes, Joe does not have it easy. His alcoholic mother takes advantage of him, he has to worry about his autistic brother, and he’s trying to make ends meet and go to college. I can sympathize with Joe on many things. It is not easy standing up to a toxic family member, and I understand the struggle of wanting to live your own life and not feel beholden to those you’re related to.

However, I would argue that Joe is, at his core, a terrible person. And many times throughout the book, I wanted to smack him and tell him to grow up.

We learn that his autistic brother is abused and neglected at his mother’s, yet Joe feels comfortable doing the bare minimum to check in with him and monitor the situation. He gets his brother a cell phone for emergencies, and then seemingly doesn’t check in with for weeks. Joe is comfortable putting the burden of reaching out for help on the victim. We know that Jeremy is mentally about seven years old. Joe is putting the burden on a seven year old to reach out to him if he’s in trouble and needs help. So…yeah. I have issues with Joe.

And then there’s Lila. Oh, Lila. Poor, dear Lila, I just want to take you out of this book and tell you to run.

Here’s the thing: Joe’s story is the classic “Nice Guy” narrative. He’s a “Nice Guy” who just wants a nice relationship. He’s not like those other guys who are only in it for sex. No, he’s one of the good ones. Just look at how he deals with his mother and brother and all the horrible things he’s gone through! Yes, Joe is a “Nice Guy,” so surely we should have no qualms about how he pursues his neighbor Lila.

Except for the fact that, from the very beginning, it is clear that Lila wants nothing to do with him. Joe tells us how she gives him the bare minimum of small talk in the hall, never stopping to chat. She avoids eye contact and does everything in her power to send the message that she’s NOT INTERESTED. And what does Joe do? He uses her kindness against her. When she helps Jeremy (who Joe left alone in his strange apartment) Joe brow-beats her into accepting a dinner invitation as thanks. He goes so far as to block her from leaving the apartment until she says yes.

He talks about how her “leave-me-the-fuck-alone attitude…hooked me.” Instead of accepting that his neighbor wants nothing to do with him, Joe continues to pursue her, using Carl’s case as a “my lure, the key to getting Lila into my apartment.” As a woman, it’s hard to read, because all I see are the thousands of stories other women have shared. How men just don’t listen, don’t take no for an answer. And how isn’t that the way so much trouble happens?

Here’s a passage that just highlights his obsessiveness: “I’d been dancing around Lila ever since I first saw her in the hallway, trying to get past the wall she had put up, the wall that kept me at arm’s length, the one she tore down for Jeremy the first day they met. I wanted to see her laugh and have fun with me like she did with Jeremy. But all my subtle complements and attempts at humor fizzled like wet firecrackers. I had been contemplating a more direct approach, one that would ensure a response one way or another; I was going to ask Lila out on a date. As I joked about her being pretty, it dawned on me that now would be as good a time as any. I stood and walked to the kitchen, having no reason to do so other than to execute a cowardly delay tactic.”

Lila tries so hard to let him down easy. He simply doesn’t let up until she comes up with a compromise of a date. And then, of course, things go really badly.

To contrast with Joe’s “Nice Guy” persona, we see the jerks that Lila used to run around with. We find out that she used to have a lot of sex with guys. That she used to get drunk a lot, and party. All behaviors that wouldn’t really be a black mark against a guy, but of course, it makes her a whore. And when she gets drugged and raped, it’s painted as being her fault for being so loose. Joe stands up to the guy who gives Lila a hard time (after she’s run away, so she doesn’t even witness his “heroic” act).

He “headed for the footbridge and Lila’s apartment, where, hopefully, she would be waiting for me.” He expects his reward for being the “Nice Guy”. She owes him now. Let’s face it–our Nice Guy Joe takes advantage of Lila in a vulnerable state. Sure, nothing sexual happens, but there’s plenty here that hurts to read. It’s all about HIS happiness, in the end. “And although my presence in her bed came about because of her pain and sadness, it filled me with an odd sense of happiness, a sense of belonging, a feeling I had never felt before, a feeling so exquisite that it bordered on agony.” WTF is wrong with this guy?

And, like every “Nice Guy” narrative, she repays him for his kindness. She kisses him, whereas the night before she would barely hold his hand. Lila is now grateful for him, and sees him for the wonderful guy that he is. Her walls have been broken down. All for Joe’s happiness.

Believe it or not…this is not the major plot of the novel. No, the major plot has to do with the mystery of Carl, and the girl he was convicted of murdering. As Joe interviews Carl, who has been released from prison due to the whole dying of cancer thing, he begins to investigate the case. Lila’s interest in the case is how he keeps getting access to her. They uncover facts that don’t match, and begin to figure out that maybe Carl really is innocent.

And I have to say…the mystery side of things is handled well. I enjoy the mystery and Carl, and everything about his tragic story. If the subplot with Lila had been cut, I would be able to say that I really enjoyed this book. But I can’t. I hate this protagonist. I hate his stupid, stupid face. I want to shake him and tell him that men like him are what’s wrong with the world. Not just the men who will outright assault a woman. But the ones who wear us down, and refuse to take no for an answer. In many ways, they are more poisonous than the others.

I can’t recommend this book. There are other mysteries that are just as good that don’t have a protagonist who is, again, completely terrible. The ending is also a cliched mess, neatly tying up the loose ends. There are no consequences for Joe’s life choices–he won’t have to sacrifice to do what needs to be done–namely, taking care of his brother. Everything is neat and tidy at the end, good things happening to a “good” guy. The hero gets the girl, gets a reward, and all is right with the world.

Except it isn’t.

These kind of narratives perpetuate terrible ideas in our society. They are why so many guys feel that they are “owed” something by women. How many stories have been in the news, where a man acts out violently, and it comes out that he was “rejected” by a woman? As if that excuses everything. It is the dark side to modern masculinity–that Prince Charming deserves the girl because he’s the good guy, and so what if the girl says no.

I’m sorry if this review was less focused on plot and more soapboxy than others. But this is something that I feel strongly about. And too many reviews ignore this issue altogether to simply praise the parts that are good.

Until next time, folks.

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Posted in Adult Fiction

“Misery”

Misery
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: 1987
ISBN: 978-0-670-81364-3
Lexile Level: 860

 

This harrowing thriller has been one of King’s most popular works for years. Its movie adaptation is one of the best of any of his works, winning Kathy Bates the 1990 Academy Award for Best Actress. Even people who have never seen the film know clips from it, in particular the infamous “hobbling” scene. Even though I’ve never seen the film, I could hear Bates’s voice clearly as I read the book.

Overall, I’ve never been much of a fan of King’s novels. The only one I’ve truly enjoyed before Misery was Carrie. I prefer King’s short stories, as I find he is at his best win he’s forced to cut down. Many of his novels could, in my opinion, be greatly improved with a good edit. Misery is one of his shorter novels, clocking in at 310 pages. The average page length (over the 59 novels that he’s written to date) is 470 pages.

Not to say that Misery couldn’t use a little bit of editing. My biggest complaint about the book are the parts of the story that Paul is writing–the bits from the new Misery novel he is writing for Annie. While a short passage is interesting by adding a little extra context to this thing that Annie loves so much, it generally adds nothing to the story. We never even see Misery in the context of the book–she appears briefly, but does not speak or act. The passages could easily be cut and nothing would be lost.

My second complaint is the ending. Personally, I feel the book should have ended with Paul’s rescue. Annie coming back like Jason Vorhees or Freddy Krueger to finish him off was cartoonish, only made worse by the cliched “it was all a dream” moment that follows. While it’s interesting to see the aftermath of his ordeal, overall it felt beneath King’s talent. If the story really couldn’t end at the farmhouse, then a short passage showing Paul, having replaced one addiction for another, jumping at shadows, and suffering from PTSD would have been sufficient. Or, make him go full bananas. The novel deals a lot with the themes of madness, and we do see Paul circling the drain. Seeing him in a mental institution, or a recluse who refuses to come out of his house, would have worked too. Maybe he embraces the strict routines that he had grown accustomed to, picking up Annie’s habits. At one point he marvels at his output while in the farmhouse, and how he’s lost his cravings for some of his vices. If the story had ended with Paul carrying on some form of Annie’s madness, it would have given the novel a more circular feel.

The book excels at dealing with a human’s ability to endure. Paul is not a perfect hero–he breaks several times over the course of the novel. He does not suck up his pain with a manly grimace and outlast his capture. He appeases, begs, and grovels, to get what he needs. He becomes addicted to the pain meds she gives him, making his situation even harder to escape. He is prone to the falicies of his body, and at many points, simply wants to die. But he always has just enough will to live that he makes it through.

It is a very realistic portrayal of torture and what a body can take. The imagery King uses to describe things like Paul’s Norvin high, his varying states of consciousness is simple but effective. We feel Paul’s every struggle to push forward. His agony never feels over the top.

King has a habit of writing women in less than flattering ways, so I was a little worried about what we were going to get with Annie. Granted, she is the antagonist, and batshit crazy to boot. But I was afraid she would come across as even more grotesque than necessary. One point for King’s favor is how realistic he made her. We’ve all heard stories about medical professionals killing people, sometimes for years, using their abilities to cover the deaths as accidents. A large part of the horror Annie portrays is the very real, chilling horror of real life. She’s not a monster or supernatural being; she’s just a person who has done terrible things.

Since the story is mostly limited to the farmhouse and our two characters, I wasn’t as annoyed by Annie as I’ve been by other King characters. There was nothing else to compare her to. She also has the excuse of mentally unwell, and not just lazy or abusive.

Much like Carrie, Misery pulses with an underlying tension that amplifies as the novel builds. Like Paul, we’re never quite sure what to expect. If you like King, definitely give it a read. If you’ve been on the fence about him, read it anyway. And if you feel like most of his novels are too long, try this or Carrie. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Rating: 4 out of 5

 

Posted in YA Fiction

“The Sleeper and the Spindle”

The Sleeper and the Spindle
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Chris Riddell
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 2013
ISBN: 978-0062398246
Lexile Level: 830

Wow. Just…wow.

Faerie tale re-imaginings and retellings are a dime a dozen in YA fiction. They’ve exploded in popularity over the past several years, especially with the movie trends of Disney re-imagining their classic animated works into live action showings. And with Neil Gaiman’s expertise in mythology, it’s not surprising that he would have also be putting out work in the faerie realm.

The Sleeper and the Spindle is just…amazing. I think it has to be the BEST re-imagining I’ve ever read. I love it so much I’m not going to tell you anything about it. Seriously, go in blind. Every revelation is worth it. You can probably tell from the title that this is a take on Sleeping Beauty—but that’s not all. And I don’t want to tell you anything about the plot.

Don’t seek out detailed reviews. Don’t look for summaries. Just go in and make the discoveries for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

Adding to this amazing book are Chris Riddell’s illustrations. They aren’t crucial to the story, so visually challenged readers won’t need them to enjoy the tale. But man, are they awesome. Everything is black and white, with a few splashes of gold. Skulls are a recurring theme, and it all has a wonderful gothic feel. An excellent touch all around.

This is one of those stories that leaves you wanting more. More of the universe, the world that Gaiman has set up. You want to know where the characters have been, where they are going. There’s nothing lacking from the story itself, but the tastes he gives you are like having a bite of a rich dessert—you just want another.

Put this in the hands of any teen who has a taste for fantasy or faerie tales. It could also make a good book club selection, or suggested reading for writing groups. It’s not long, but it will be enjoyed.

And if by chance you should see this, Mr. Gaiman: PLEASE WRITE MORE FAERIE TALES!!!

Posted in Middle Grade Fiction

“The Twits”

The Twits
Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Quentin Blake
Publisher: Alfred A. Knope (imprint of Random House Children’s Books)
Publication Date: 1980
ISBN: 0-375-92242-3
Lexile Level: 750

I decided to revisit another classic from my childhood—one of Roald Dahl’s less famous works, The Twits. I think my sister had a copy and I remember reading it several times as a child. A couple of details had stuck in my brain over the years, namely Mr. Twit with food in his beard and the bird pie. Since it’s not a Dahl work that gets talked about as much, I thought I’d take another look at it.

Mr and Mrs. Twit are truly disgusting people. They are ugly and mean and hateful, even (or perhaps especially) to each other. The first part of the story is about them pranking each other…which while mean-spirited, is pretty funny. We know that these two are in their 60s. So imagine your grandparents hiding worms in spaghetti and frogs in the bed. Or one tricking the other into thinking they’re shrinking. It’s just hilarious. I kept thinking of the grandparents from The Waltons (though at least they actually loved each other). That same curmudgeon attitude that hides some amount of affection. Granted, with the Twits, I wonder how much they still love each other and how much of it is just passive aggressive.

As the story moves along, we learn how the Twits capture birds for their weekly bird pie and keep a family of monkeys in a cage. Eventually the monkeys team up with a Roly-Poly bird and shenanigans ensue. The Twits get what they deserve, and the monkeys go free.

Like many of Dahl’s works, the message is one of karmic payback. Mean, ugly people are punished, and the innocent are rewarded. My favorite part is how Dahl talks about true beauty—that no matter what your physical features, if you think good thoughts, you will “always look lovely.” Whereas if you think ugly thoughts, they will twist your appearance and the ugliness will grow upon you (as in the case of Mrs. Twit). It’s a short section but one of the best lessons I’ve ever read in a children’s book. It doesn’t beat the child over the head with it, but it also tells them that ultimately, physical features don’t matter as much as what’s on the inside.

This is a short novel that would be great as a bedtime or classroom read-aloud. It could be gotten through in a few days, and the wordplay (another Dahl trademark) makes it a lot of fun to read out loud. It can also serve as a great conversation starter as to why we should try being nicer to people.

My edition also has a short interview with Roald Dahl in the back. He talks about his writing process, and I would encourage aspiring writers to look it up. It can be found here, which also has it in audio format. His advice is solid, and some that I’m trying to implement into my own writing process.

All in all, this is a highly recommended novel. It’s a quick read, even for kids, with a great message. Any kid who likes Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Matilda is sure to enjoy it.

Posted in Picture Books

“Ned the Knitting Pirate”

Ned the Knitting Pirate
Author: Diana Murray
Illustrator: Leslie Lammie
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: 2016
ISBN: 978-1596438903
Lexile Level: AD (adult directed)

We follow the crew of the Rusty Heap in this tale, as they sing and plunder through the day. As the pirate crew sings about their deeds, young Ned (sporting a knitted tricorner hat) chimes in that they “knit.” This angers the captain, who maintains that pirates do not knit, and eventually bullies Ned into hanging up his needles and yarn. Until, of course, a sea monster needs defeating, and only Ned’s knits will do the trick.

As a knitter myself, I’m a sucker for children’s books that include the activity. Combine pirates and knitting? I was sold before I even cracked the cover. The rhyming couplets makes reading the story quick and fun, and would lend it well to a storytime. There are plenty of words with double meaning (usually relating to knitting), particularly in relating to the captain.

Part of me would have liked for Ned to have been a female pirate—you can never have enough female pirates. But the other part of me applauds the author’s disregard for gender norms, by having a boy joyfully knitting away. Plenty of men knit, but it is still generally considered a “feminine” activity.

The illustrations are a great sketched style, though in places it likes a bit more like concept art than a finished draft. The pictures are not necessary for the story, making it good for visually challenged readers. The only area where this doesn’t hold true is Ned’s dialogue balloons, when he chimes in the word “knit.” But this can easily be overcome by a reader.

This story would be great for a storytime on pirates, crafting, or for fun. It would also be great as a one-on-one story, especially in households with constant knitting.

 

Posted in Adult Graphic Novels

“The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You”

The Sandman: A Game of You
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date: 1991-1992
ISBN: 1-56389-089-5
Titles: The Sandman #32-37

In a Q&A session Neil Gaiman was asked “What is your favorite volume of Sandman?” to which he replied “Probably “A Game of You,” because it’s most people’s least favourite volume, and I love it all the more for that.”

Well, I can see why people say that this is their least favorite volume. Compared to Dream Country and Season of Mists, A Game of You can only be described as BORING. This was a trudge of a volume to read.

The first problem comes from our protagonists (actually, there are several issues with the protagonist, but more on that later). Our story centers around Barbie, a minor character from The Doll’s House. In that volume, we get a brief snapshot of Barbie’s dreams of being a princess and having adventures in a special land. A Game of You expands on that world, and we learn that there are skerries in the Dream world–or rather, pockets of dream lands that shift and change and die.

The premise is not a bad one. We’ve had minor characters reappear before, such as Nada. The idea of some dreams actually taking place in a part of Dream where there are more concrete beings and consequences has potential. But there are a number of problems that run this volume into the ground.

The first is that, by the time we reach A Game of You, we have not seen Barbie in 16 issues. I read The Doll’s House and A Game of You within just a couple of weeks of each other, and I had barely any recollection of this character. I vaguely remembered that she was married to a guy named Ken, and that at the end of the story it was insinuation that they were no longer going to be together. But A Game of You made a lot of references to the previous issues–which is surprising given how the issues were originally published. I can’t imagine someone having to wait weeks to read new issues would have had any recollection of who this woman was at all.

This is the first problem, which wouldn’t be so bad, if Barbie was in any way a likeable or dynamic character. She literally does nothing throughout the entire story. She follows other characters, and is so passive that she made me want to fall asleep. It’s disappointing, because the brief snippet of dream we got in The Doll’s House showed Barbie as a warrior, a princess fighting with strange animals and beasts. It was a great dynamic–the bored housewife fulfilling her desires through her dreams.

But in A Game of You, Barbie has completely forgotten her dreams. Even when she returns to her dream world, she has no memory of being there before. It turns her from a strong, powerful presence, into the weak and helpless victim. She becomes unable to help in the quest, and is reliant on the strange friends who accompany her.

Ultimately, Barbie (or how she is handled) is the downfall of this volume. We’re given nothing about her to hang on to, nothing to relate to. She just complains and sleepwalks her way through life.

The other characters are a bit more engaging. Wanda is a pre-transition trans woman, and Barbie’s best friend. Wanda is a great character, and for the most part, the issue of her transexuality is handled tastefully and correctly. She is referred to as a woman, and those who insist on behaving as though she is a man are shown to clearly be in the wrong.

Except for one part, which really bothered me. When it is revealed that Barbie is in danger in the dream world, her friends perform a spell to send them afterwards. Wanda is tasked with staying behind to guard Barbie. This, in itself, would have been fine. It’s already been established that Wanda is physically the strongest of the group, so it makes sense to leave her behind in the real world to guard Barbie. But then it is said that she couldn’t have traveled to the dream world in the way that the other women did. This being because they called down the moon to do so, and that the moon still recognizes her as a man. That basically, it “comes down to chromosomes.”

And this, my friends, is bullshit.

Excuse me while I get on my soapbox for a moment.

The entire volume takes great pains to support Wanda in her identity. She is a woman. Those who deny this fact are painted as transphobic and wrong. So why then, does a symbol of womanhood deny her? The moon is connected to women in multiple myths and legends. And Gaiman knows this, because he references myths all the time. The supernatural elements of The Sandman series are generally shown to be more knowledgeable than mortals. By including this sentiment, the message ultimately becomes that no, Wanda is a man, and can do nothing to change this. It is a jarring notion to what is otherwise a consistent message.

Okay, soapbox over.

Well, maybe not quite. The story does a poor job of handling its lesbian characters as well. Specifically, at one point we learn that one of Barbie’s neighbors is potentially pregnant. This is an issue, as she’s in a relationship with another woman. But instead of setting up the woman as bisexual, who might have had a one night stand with a man, she’s presented as an incredibly naive lesbian who just sort of fell in to having sex with a man.

As Hazel describes it, someone she works with was really tired, so she let him come home with her. Then he got aroused, and she just casually had sex with him, despite having never had an interest in men before. She also thought that because they did it standing up, that she couldn’t get pregnant.

It comes across as too casual to be rape, or coerced sex, and just sounds like Hazel shrugged and was like ‘okay, let’s try some dick.’ Now, I’m not saying that people can’t experiment. But I have a hard time imagining that most lesbians in a committed relationship who have never had an interest in men would have sex with one just because he was there.

I just…wow. It’s really obvious in this volume that a man was behind the writing. And while the story is remarkably open and progressive to have been written in the early 90s…it still rubs me the wrong way.

My final comment is that the introduction section to this volume is drastically misplaced. In short, it’s not an introduction. It’s a reader analysis of parts of the story. The writer even tells the reader that it is best read if they have already read the volume itself. So why put it at the beginning? It spoils the deaths of two characters, and makes no sense to anyone who has not yet read the issue. I don’t understand why they didn’t just put it at the end of the volume, where it would have made more sense. I stopped reading it after two pages, when I realized it was spoiling plot information. Do yourself a favor, and skip it if you’re a first time reader.

Overall, this volume is just a mess. While there are good concepts and good elements scattered throughout, it was poorly executed. It may be possible to skip the volume entirely–I’m not certain, as I’ve yet to finish the series. If so, definitely skip it. You’re not missing anything.

Rating: 2 out of 5
Trigger warnings: Nudity, gruesome images, witchcraft

Posted in Adult Fiction

“Midnight Crossroad”

Midnight Crossroad
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Ace Hardcover
Publication Date: May 2014
ISBN: 978-0425263150
Lexile Level: n/a

Charlaine Harris’s newest series kicks off with Midnight Crossroad. The story takes place in the small town of Midnight, Texas. The story begins with the newest resident, Manfred Bernardo, moving to town. Manfred is a self-proclaimed psychic, working mostly through the internet in various personas. However, he does possess some genuine talent. Harris actually introduced Manfred (and his grandmother) in another series–the Harper Connelly series. He gradually meets the town’s residents, from Bobo, pawn shop owner who is also his landlord, to Fiji, the “New Age” witch who lives across the street. Dinner at the local diner brings more residents into his life, and he begins to learn that he might not be the only person in Midnight with something to hide.

The mysterious disappearance of Bobo’s girlfriend, Aubrey, keeps coming back to haunt various members of the Midnight community. When remains are discovered at a nearby river, a whole new mystery emerges, as they realize Aubrey didn’t simply leave town, but was murdered. Bobo’s other tenants, Olivia and Lemuel, cause more trouble trying to protect their friend, and the local police begin to get involved. Her involvement with a local hate group brings trouble for the entire community, and they find themselves pulling together to attempt to solve the mystery and protect each other.

The tension in the book builds as the community tries to protect itself, while being certain that they know who killed Aubrey but being unable to prove it. The biker hate-group have issues with Bobo, believing him to have a stash of artillery that his grandfather is rumored to have built up on the group’s behalf. Aubrey is revealed to have initiated contact with Bobo on behalf of the group, though her developing feelings for him were genuine. The town believes the hate-group’s leader is responsible for her death―until he captures Fiji, because he thinks Bobo killed Aubrey. When the true culprit is finally revealed, it is not who anyone expects.

I liked Midnight Crossroad. I have been a fan of Harris’s work for several years, having read both her Sookie Sackhouse novels and the Harper Connelly series. While the book is a little bland in terms of plot, it is a valuable novel in terms of world building. The characters are established in such a way that I look forward to seeing them in future books. There are supernatural elements hinted at throughout the book, but they are on the fringes of the story which feels very much based in reality. This is one element of Harris’s that I’ve always enjoyed–her fantasy stories do not feel like the stereotypical setup where the inclusion of supernatural creatures into a modern world is never explained (usually for favor of a romantic plot).

SPOILER ALERT―I’m going to give away the culprit of the story. STOP READING IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED!

My biggest criticism of the book is that I didn’t feel the “twist” was set up well. Throughout the story, we are given nothing to indicate there is anything wrong with Conner. He’s a nice, polite boy, whose biggest flaw seems to be that he is bored with living in the tiny town of Midnight. There are hints that something is wrong with the Lovells―they are even more private than normal, and Shawn seems overly protective of his children. But what we see of Conner indicates that he’s perfectly normal. There’s nothing to indicate there is a serial killer living in the town (with the exception of Lemuel and Olivia). Personally, I think it would have been more effective if we saw animals disappearing, or if there was some other sign that the trouble with the Lovells was coming from within their house. I would have had an easier time believing Shawn was the killer, or possibly even Creek. The motive was just a bit weak.

Still, I look forward to seeing what Harris might do with this setup. Her series have a reputation of getting better as they go along. Her world building skills are a strength, and it will be interesting to see where she takes these characters.

If you like Midnight Crossroad, I highly recommend Charlaine Harris’s other books, especially the Harper Connelly series, which takes place in the same universe. If you want more in terms of urban fantasy, Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files is another great series that blends the real world and the supernatural.