Review of “Grave Surprise” by Charlaine Harris

This is the second book in the Harper Connelly Mystery series, which features the team of Harper Connelly and her stepbrother Tolliver Lang who travel around the country helping to locate missing persons.

Twenty-four year old Harper was struck by lightning at age 15, and ever since, she can find dead people if the approximate location is known, and she can determine the cause of their deaths.

In this book, Harper and Tolliver travel to Memphis, after being hired by a prickly college professor to go through an old graveyard and share information about the dead with the students. At the last grave, however, Harper gets a surprise, when she discovers that the old grave has a second body inside, a body she “recognizes.” Several years earlier, she had been hired to come to Nashville and try and locate the body 11-year-old Tabitha Morgenstern, a young girl apparently abducted. She had failed to do so, but now, in more than a remarkable coincidence, Tabitha is literally right under her feet.

Harper and Tolliver connect with the Morgenstern family again, but Harper also experiences a more significant connection: she senses a ghost in the graveyard who communicates with her, and she doesn’t know why. Furthermore, she finds out that the grandson of a psychic called in on the Morgenstern case may be able to read minds. And finally, she is beginning to understand that the only one in her life she can trust is her stepbrother; should she stop thinking of him as her “brother?” She muses:

“I often thought, and sometimes said, that Tolliver would be better off if he hadn’t undertaken the role of my backbone. But when I tried to imagine myself going on the road alone, I felt a huge hole in my middle that refused to fill with anything.”

Discussion: Charlaine Harris can’t resist the tug of the supernatural! It wouldn’t surprise me if in the next “episode” of this series, we meet up with werewolves and vampires!

The characters in this series are darker than in the Sookie Stackhouse books; Harper uses language Sookie wouldn’t dream of using, and although both young women have a “disability,” Harper’s has bad physical repercussions, and she’s often in pain and/or depressed.

Nevertheless, Harris’s sense of humor and endearing quality of self-deprecation lighten up the series. As an example, when Harper encounters the ghost, she and Tolliver have this conversation:

“Harper: ‘This is a thin place.’”

Tolliver: ‘What’s that?’

Harper: ‘A place where the other world is very close to this world, separated only by a thin membrane.’

Tolliver: ‘You’ve been reading Stephen King again.’”

Evaluation: The “mystery” portion of this book is rather insubstantial, but Harris’s characterization is rich and marbled. I like the characters of Harper and Tolliver, and I love Harris as a writer of tongue-in-cheek supernatural books. Because of those two factors, I wouldn’t hesitate to continue with this series.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Berkley Hardcover, 2006

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11 Responses to Review of “Grave Surprise” by Charlaine Harris

  1. Sandy says:

    Yeah, but if I were to read between the lines, this just isn’t Sookie, is it?

  2. Trisha says:

    I wonder if the increased darkness of this series wouldn’t appeal to me more than the Sookie series.

  3. J. Kaye says:

    I really need to get book four. The review books of 2009 have gotten me away from books I would have normally read. 2010 is going to be more fun.

  4. Sandy,

    No! Harper is definitely not just Sookie! She has quite a different personality and outlook; so much so in fact that I wonder how the author is able to switch back and forth!

    Trisha,

    This is definitely darker. I prefer the lighter Sookie series, but Harris is engaging, no doubt about it!

  5. It’s too bad that I am missing out on a great writer’s work just because I don’t like the spooky stuff. I wonder if she could be persuaded to write something “normal.”

  6. sagustocox says:

    I might like this series. I have only read a couple Sookie books and enjoy the humor.

  7. bermudaonion says:

    Charlaine Harris has found a new fan in you! I’m glad you’re enjoying her writing.

  8. Staci says:

    I love the words you used, “rich and marbled” to describe her writing. Truly makes me want to read this series too. But first I have to get Sookie all tucked in!!

  9. Jenners says:

    She got you! How many are in this series?

  10. softdrink says:

    I can’t believe how much Harris you’re reading! Do we need to have an intervention?

  11. I read this book this year and quite enjoyed it, although I agree that the mystery itself was a bit weak. I’m interested that you say these characters are darker than in the Sookie books because I’ve been thinking they (the Sookie books) might be too dark for me. I think that’s because I made the mistake of watching the TV show, which was definitely too dark (and too gory) for my taste.

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