“I really, really wanted to lose awareness of the here and now. The best way for me to do that was bury myself in a book”
Harper Connelly, Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris
I have read all of the books in Charlaine Harris’ True Blood series, and I really enjoyed them. I saw advertisements in those books for Harris’ Harper Connelly Mysteries and I had been meaning to read one ever since. I finally picked up a copy of the book and I am really glad that I did.
Grave Sight is the first book in the Harper Connelly Mysteries and it introduces the reader to Harper Connelly and her ability to find dead people. Harper was struck by lightning when she was a teenager and ever since she has been able to locate dead people, and experience their last moments before death. In this book, Harper is in the small town of Sarne, Arkansas. Sybil Teague has employed Harper to find Teenie Hopkins’ body, so that she can prove her son, Dell Teague, did not murder his girlfriend (Teenie) and then commit suicide. While Dell’s body has been found and buried, Teenie’s body is still missing. The town is fairly prejudiced towards Harper and her ability, and she ends up having to prove herself before beginning the task of finding Teenie’s body. She does this by locating a body on her way to the motel. She feels a buzzing and a tingling and finds a recently deceased man that no one knew was dead yet. Harper is taken to where Dell was found and she tries to find Teenie’s body. She is successful and once she has been paid for her services she leaves town. This sums up Harper’s life, moving from town to town trying to find missing dead people, telling their stories, and then moving on. The problem is the town of Sarne doesn’t want her to move on and she finds herself back in the town after Teenie’s mother is beaten to death. Harper is suspected of the murder herself and is told not to leave town. As she investigates what happened to Dell and Teenie in the hope that she will be able to leave the town and continue on to her next job, she is attacked and a few attempts are made on her life. Things get heated quickly and Harper races against time to find out what happened before she is killed too. Will Harper be able to do it?
I really enjoyed reading this book. I wasn’t racing through the pages as though my life depended on it, but I read at a comfortable speed, savoring all the scenes. The mystery that Harris develops throughout the novel is intriguing and it had my mind working over drive as I tried to piece everything together. I have to admit that I did figure out the culprit about half way through, maybe earlier. Harris was able to make me question my decision repeatedly though, and although I was 90% convinced it was one culprit, Harris had two or three other culprits who were also plausible. Several times in the book, I would waver and consider the possibility it was another culprit. I enjoyed this, and thought the mystery side was very well done.
I am not sure what to make of Harper and Tolliver’s relationship. Tolliver and Harper are step siblings, as Harper’s dad married Tolliver’s mother. At times their relationship seems a little too intimate for a sibling relationship (bearing in mind they are not biologically related). For example, at one point Tolliver drops to his knees in front of Harper and grips her hands as a means of checking she’s okay. After typing that it’s doesn’t actually seem that strange out of the context in the book, but it felt too over the top for siblings while reading, and it is just one example. Throughout the book, Harper is entirely dependent on Tolliver, and when he is out longer than he says, or when he is sent to prison, she is beside herself, and finds it difficult to think. She ends up sitting in his motel room, missing him. Don’t misunderstand me; if my sister had been taken to prison I would be upset, but there’s just something about Harper’s thoughts and actions that are more of a girlfriend’s reaction than a sibling’s reaction. Maybe it’s just me. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.
Finally, I think Harper’s character can come across as cold at first glance. Once Harper finds the dead people, she is paid and leaves town. Harper does not investigate the crime and is not concerned with who is or isn’t guilty. She uses her gift to earn a living. While this could seem cold and uncaring, Harper says that the dead want to be found and then they move on or are freed. She also isn’t trained as a police officer and doesn’t claim to be a detective. I don’t think this is unreasonable. In general, Harper doesn’t express a lot of emotion, but I think that’s because she’s guarded from all the ridicule she’s experienced in relation to her ability. She is warm towards her brother and towards Hollis, a police officer who she begins a romantic relationship with. While, Harper’s refusal to settle down and continue the relationship could seem cold, she is sad that she is always on the road and does want to buy a house in a town close to her younger siblings and settle down one day. From what I understood, some of her reluctance to having a family home is her experience of a family home as a child, and who can blame her for that?
I am going back to the library this weekend and intend to take out the second book in the series, Grave Surprise, if I can find it. If I can’t, I may well just buy the series.
Final Verdict: A great mystery that has a paranormal twist!