Monday, March 31, 2014

Let's Review - Midnight Son

Let's take a few minutes today to spend a little time way down, down, down deep below.  South Africa is where we're going in Taz Roux's suspenseful romantic tale Midnight Son.  Time to take a gander.

Book Blurb:
Caoimhe is trying to rebuild her life after her husband walks out on her. On the first weekend she has to face alone, she hopes to escape from the thoughts she doesn’t want to face by reading a damaged book she bought cheaply at a second hand book shop.
Right from the start, she notices parallels between her life and that of Duane, the luckless main character in the book. As her empathy with the storybook character grows, she starts fantasizing about Duane and dreaming vivid dreams in which she alters the outcomes of his unfortunate experiences.
By chance, Caoimhe’s sister finds her an expensive apartment which is renting out cheaply, but it is surrounded by mystery. The owner of the apartment had vanished on Halloween eleven years earlier, and the only indication that he may still be alive is his indirect contact, every year on the anniversary of his disappearance. 
Caoimhe moves to the apartment, but she can no longer ignore the strange coincidences between her life and the book, which now seem to involve her mysterious missing landlord as well. As she tries to unravel the puzzles, reality starts blurring into fantasy.
Meanwhile, the next Halloween is approaching.

My Review:
Caoimhe (pronounced Kee-va) is a young lady who has been beaten down by life with her soon-to-be ex-husband.  Over the years, all of her friends slowly drifted out of her acquaintance because of his attitude.  Not only did he leave for another woman, but he left Caoimhe high and dry when he cleaned out their bank account.  Now she can no longer afford their tiny apartment and has little to live on until her next paycheck and only her job to look forward to each day.

I immediately connected with Caoimhe when she's standing in the used bookstore trying to decide if a worn book is worth the few cents she has left in her pocket.  Earlier at the grocery store, she'd felt the keen embarrassment at checkout when, after carefully calculating what she had in her cart, discovered that she still didn't have enough money to get the most expensive item on her list - a simple bottle of shampoo.  Then needing to save the precious fumes of gas remaining in her car, she'd trudged home carrying the heavy bags in the midst of a sudden downpour.  Then she slopped into the front door only to slip and fall in the foyer - but instead of injury, her hip is saved by the cushioned padding the new book provides.

And thus begins the mystery surrounding Midnight Son.

As Caoimhe begins reading the book over the course of the next few weeks, her life begins to change in ways that mirror the events of the book's protagonist - subtle at first and then growing as she realizes her life has become entwined within the pages.  There's a sense of reality to Duane's story that comes crashing into her reality.

Duane is in the medical profession, as is Caoimhe, trying to save lives.  Duane's love life is also a shambles.  They both end up getting a kitten.  They both like or have experienced similar things.  Duane takes on a partnership of a clinic to try and save it.  Caoimhe is trying to save patients who were part of a clinic study.  The clinic names...

I don't want to give too much away, but needless to say I felt like some of the surreal moments as Caoimhe pieces the puzzle of the two worlds together were a bit like the movies "Lake House" meets "Inkheart".  Interesting premise and a nice, slow build that kept me reading.  Even though I'm not a big romance person, the romantic elements never felt overly gratuitous nor made me want to gag.  There was enough mystery and other life elements to balance it out.  I really liked Caoimhe's desperate attempts to find out what was causing severe renal failure and death in so many of their patients.  I'd like to have seen this expanded a bit into a larger segment of the story.

Throughout the novel, Caoimhe realizes her friends really do like spending time with her (just not her ex), she is more than capable of standing on her own two feet, and that she is very competent in her field.  She also earns the respect and admiration of her peers for her ability to first recognize that a medical problem exists, and then for her diligence in trying to solve the mystery.

So even though I liked the story, I have to point out a few touchy issues (yes, I'm a stinker that way).  Point-of-view was first person in Caoimhe's scenes with clean scene breaks to where she's reading about Duane.  Duane's scenes at first threw me until I realized these were actually Caoimhe reading, though they are written from Duane's POV as if he's a character in the overall story and not just a character in the book Caoimhe picked up.  Once I figured this out, I didn't mind this aspect and it made more sense as I slowly got into the story.

Tense shifts occur frequently within scenes and sentences from present to past as if the novel was originally written in present and then changed to past or vice-versa.  It becomes mostly past tense, however, from about the middle to the end.  Some missing words and minor duplications or misspellings along with overuse of comas peppered the story, but eventually I was able to read past most of this since I was enjoying it.

The only other thing I'd have liked to see was the ending drawn out just a bit more with a little more explanation of how what happened to Duane occurred.  It would have also been nice if there would've been some sort of award or recognition ceremony from the medical community for Caoimhe and to tie together the real-life events with the book's events.  I'm just saying here from my own personal reaction, but it just felt as if the end needed something bigger to solidify what Caoimhe accomplished between the two.  I can't say anything more here without giving away an important component to the ending, so I'll leave it at that.

So if I haven't yet confused you with my ramblings and attempt to avoid spoilers, I want to say I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Midnight Son once I got into the story.  It's not rocket science.  It isn't chock full of action.  It's not earth-shattering.  But it's a nice, suspenseful story dealing with the ups and downs of life and how sometimes the seemingly insignificant mysteries can impact not only our lives but the lives of others - but only if we take the time to become aware and then fearlessly act.

I find it hard to assign an adequate ranking here.  Structural problems and errors would probably make me give a two, but story would be a four.  So lets average it out and call it a very solid and enjoyable three stars.

Author Bio:
Taz Roux grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, the daughter of a reserved computer programmer and a volatile journalist.  She has written for as long as she can remember, mainly to entertain her friends, with the occasional poem, article or short story getting published - when she puts her mind to it.

Ms. Roux lived on the outskirts of Maputo, Mozambique for almost four years, just after the war, when people were still ducking RPG rounds and landmines. Books could only be obtained by asking someone to bring them from South Africa. She was considerably more revered for the stories she wrote than for her work in the medical field. That sparked the idea of writing for a larger audience.

She is currently living in a quiet corner of her hometown with her children and a mute cat, putting another of the stories in her mind on paper.  Visit her website at


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