“The dead want to be found,”
Harper Connelly, Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris
Grave Secret is the fourth and final book in the Harper Connelly Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. According to Harris’ website, she will not be writing a fifth book in the Harper Connelly Mystery series because she feels Harper has said all that she can. While I am sad that I will not be able to read anymore about Harper’s adventures, I am satisfied with the ending of the series. I do not feel short changed, and I agree with Harris’ decision that it was a good place to stop.
Grave Secret is similar and yet different to the previous three books in the series. The first three books all followed the same story arch: Harper finds a dead missing person/identifies the cause of death, Harper is pulled in the investigation and her life is put in danger, followed by a showdown at the end between Harper and the murderer (usually). Grave Secret has some of these elements, but two mysteries are pulled together and slowly begin to unravel in front of your eyes. Let me start from the beginning.
Harper and Tolliver stop in Texarkana at the beginning of the book to identify Rich Joyce’s cause of death. His granddaughter, Lizzy, is a believer in people like Harper and she wonders whether her Granddaddy’s death was a heart attack or something more sinister. Harper moves through the Joyce family plot, reading the cause of death for each family member. Harper reveals that Rich Joyce did indeed die of a heart attack, but the circumstances were definitely sinister. Believe it or not, this isn’t the biggest reveal. Harper also reads the cause of death for Mariah, a woman who looked after Rich Joyce. While everyone believed Mariah had died of an infection, Harper reports that Mariah died from child birth. The family is in complete shock. If Rich Joyce was the father, the baby would be entitled to an equal inheritance (millions in this case). The family hires a private investigator to find out what happened to the baby. At the same time, Tolliver is shot and two people are murdered. Could it be sheer coincidence that Harper uncovered a powerful family’s secret? Could the reappearance of Tolliver’s dad be related? And, where does the sighting of Harper’s sister, Cameron, who’s been missing for eight years fit in?
I have to admit, I couldn’t unravel this mystery. I’d had a pretty good idea of either the murderer or the motive in the past few books; at least enough that I wasn’t completely surprised by the ending. This book was different. There were so many pieces to put together. I figured out part of the mystery, and when Harper and Tolliver enter the big showdown at the end, I felt smug that I’d figured it out. When the showdown ended rather abruptly in a manner that I was not expecting, I found that there were still several chapters left. I read shocker after shocker. I had no idea about the other two big reveals, and I don’t think I’d have ever guessed them either. That’s what makes this book so great!
I have to admit that the pace of Grave Secret is slower than the other three books. That might be because it’s longer and there are a lot more minor scenes that become essential towards the end. I’m not sure that I enjoyed it as much as An Ice Cold Grave (book three) actually. While there was more violence in Grave Secret, I felt more invested in the mystery of the eight missing boys. That being said, the ending of Grave Secret is the best ending throughout the entire series. It is bittersweet.
The only grievance I have is with the focus on the brother sister status of Harper and Tolliver’s relationship. We established in An Ice Cold Grave that there weren’t biologically related and so it was okay. Yet, in this book, Harris returns to the issue constantly. I understand that it might shock people who have always thought of them as brother and sister, but that being said, Mark and Matthew (Tolliver’s family members) are unsure of it and yet they don’t consider Harper to be family. It’s a strange situation, one that only needed a nod here or there. In my opinion, it was over done. Just as the hints in Grave Sight (book one) that Harper and Tolliver act more than brother and sister at times was overdone. I guess I am a fan of subtly.
Final Verdict: Almost the best in the series; outdone by a millimeter by An Ice Cold Grave. If you are a fan of the Harper Connelly Mysteries, you have to read this book. It answers a lot of unanswered questions and one mystery that has been present throughout all three previous books.