The premise for Harris' Midnight, Texas series sounds like the set-up for a corny joke: a witch, a vampire, a psychic and a couple of angels occupy the same small town and are hoping to stay under the radar. Now Harris throws ghosts and demons into the mix. What's next, gnomes and unicorns?
The third instalment sees witch Fiji put to the test and finds the townspeople rallying behind her when a demonic power threatens the entire population. But everything turns out alright in the end in a "then they all went home for tea" story.
After the True Blood series (and the TV series that followed), I know Harris has her fans - but I am not one of them. I find her prose leaden and her dialogue stilted. Here, she stretches what would have made an entertaining short story beyond breaking point to 300-plus pages. It feels like Harris is channelling EL James' Fifty Shades of Grey and trying to create a new sub-genre of supernatural "Mom porn". (Now, there's a thought...)The plot, such as it is, revolves around Fiji the virgin witch giving it up to save the town - and there's a question over which of the townsmen will step up and do the deed. Really.
It's not just Harris' writing style that is at issue. She has this fixation with the desirability of white womanhood that I find objectionable; perhaps that's down to her Southern background. For instance, she has one character describe a "completely hot" Native American character in a stereotypical way. Two Hispanic characters are unimaginatively named Ortega and Orta. Meanwhile she sidelines the two African American characters, who run the local diner.
And then there are questionable passages like this one: "It wasn't that Kiki disliked men of colour, or looked down on women who dated men of colour - at least, Fiji didn't think so. Kiki simply didn't see them as suitable play partners for her, so they didn't register with her as male."
Book - and film - franchises seem to be the holy grail for publishers as well as movie studios, who don't seem to understand the law of diminishing returns. Would that Harris had stopped at the first title. But I understand NBC have adapted the book for TV, so presumably this was too good an opportunity to pass up.
But I could happily live without ever reading another Harris title again.
Night Shift is available from Amazon.co.uk and all good bookshops