Grave Surprise (Harper Connelly Mystery #2)

Charlaine Harris
320 pages
2006

 “I’ve never left a body unreported,” I said, remembering how proud I’d been of that fact only a day before.
Harper Connelly, Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris

I picked up the second book in the Harper Connelly Mysteries, Grave Surprise, from the library yesterday, and I’ve already finished it. This is partly due to an interesting mystery and partly due to having a lot of spare time over the past 24 hours. I am looking forward to getting hold of the next book in the Harper Connelly Mysteries, An Ice Cold Grave. Fingers crossed the library has this book in next week.

Grave Surprise picks up some time after the ending of Grave Sight. I’m not sure how much time has passed because it isn’t mentioned. It don’t think it is too long because in Grave Sight, Tolliver mentions that Harper has been asked to demonstrate her ability to a class that essentially tries to debunk people with abilities like Harper as frauds. At the beginning of Grave Surprise, Harper and Tolliver are in the cemetery at Bingham College in Memphis. The college class has gathered to test whether Harper is the “real deal” as such. They have recently located the registry of the graves in the cemetery so there is no way that Harper could have found the information out prior to meeting them at the cemetery. Harper moves from grave to grave successfully identifying the cause of death for each grave. There is a shocking discovery when Harper finds two bodies buried in the same grave. One body belonged to Josiah Poundstone, a man who was murdered via a stab wound that gave him blood poisoning fifty years ago. The other belonged to an eleven year old girl named Tabitha Morgenstern. Harper had spent weeks trying to locate the child’s body when she went missing, but to no avail. It quickly becomes apparent that Harper has been drawn to the cemetery to locate Tabitha’s body, which has been recently relocated by the murderer. Harper is viewed as a suspect and is prevented from leaving town. Harper is keen to solve the mystery, unlike in the first book, Grave Sight. I think because the disappearance reminds her of her own missing sister, Cameron. Will Harper be able to solve the mystery of Tabitha’s disappearance and murder, clearing her own name and giving Tabitha’s parents some peace?

I found the beginning of the book interesting, especially once the two bodies were found in one grave. I also liked the link between the first and second books (Tabitha Morgenstern was mentioned in passing during the investigation of Teenie Hopkins in Grave Sight). As the story progressed though, I had a sense of déjà vu. Although, the mystery itself is entirely different from the mystery in Grave Sight, several main plot points are repeated. For example, Harper and Tolliver are suspects and are visited repeatedly by police officers, and are unable to leave town. They have to call their lawyer to help them out, and Harper receives several threats. It was almost like re-reading Grave Sight, but with a different murdered child. I didn’t like the repetitiveness, but how else could the mystery be developed? I am interested to see whether Harris can change this up in the third book, otherwise the repetitiveness may become irritating.

I think the saving grace was that the mystery was intriguing enough to keep me reading. Unlike, the last book where I figured out ahead of time who the murderer was, and their motive, this time I figured out the murderer but I couldn’t fathom the motive. Once again, Harris demonstrated her mystery writing skills in that she kept me guessing by feeding my red herrings that made me question who I thought was responsible. I really enjoy this as it made me think. While I wasn’t quite as shakable in my decision as to who was responsible when reading this book, I had no idea why the person had done it. I was surprised at the motive. I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s such a trivial reason to take someone’s life, but I guess that’s what happens.

There were also some interesting reveals in the book. The one that stands out the most is Harper’s revelation that she has feelings for Tolliver that aren’t sisterly. I now understand why I thought the relationship between Tolliver and Harper was strange for a sibling relationship (For example, at one point Tolliver undresses Harper and puts her to bed). It was disturbing in the first book because Harris made a big deal of emphasizing that they considered each other as brother and sister (even though they are not biologically related). Everything falls into place and the actions become much less weird now that Harper has feelings for Tolliver. Although, it might seem disturbing at first because they were raised as siblings, they are not actually related and they were brought together as a family when they were already teenagers. In this sense, it might be better to think of them as old friends. I am intrigued to see where this goes in the next book. Equally intriguing is Harper’s encounter with the ghost of Josiah, who takes her hand and tells her to be careful. He manages to manifest as a physical being that even Tolliver sees. This leads Harper to question her beliefs about the afterlife, and is an exciting route for the series to develop in subsequent books.

There were a few characters that didn’t seem to have any purpose though. There was one private investigator and one FBI guy who questioned Harper and Tolliver but served no other purpose. I think it would have been better to keep to the same two police officers, Lasey and Young, throughout. The only thing I can think of is that these characters will come into play later on in the series.

Final Verdict: If you like mysteries with a paranormal edge, then definitely read this book. It is as good as the first book, although slightly repetitive.

Please click on the names of the other books in the series to read these reviews: Grave Sight (book one), An Ice Cold Grave (book three) and Grave Secret (book four).

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