This is book three of the Harper Connelly mystery series. Harper Connelly, aged 24, was struck by lightning when she was 15, and ever since then, has been able to sense the location of dead people by the “buzz” they emit and also determine the cause of death (but not who killed them). Consequently, she and her 27-year-old stepbrother, Tolliver Lang (acting as manager and assistant) hire themselves out by traveling around to help find missing persons, or as Harper says, to find “the silent witnesses” to what happened to them.
In this book, the two travel to Doraville, North Carolina, near the coast. This makes the job particularly challenging for Harper:
“The eastern seaboard is crammed with dead people. When work brings me to that part of America, the whole time I’m there it’s like wings of a huge flock of birds are fluttering inside my brain, never coming to rest. That gets old pretty quick.”
Harper’s job, to find a missing boy, soon turns into a nightmare as she finds not one but eight bodies near an abandoned shack; bodies of boys that have been tortured and killed.
Life is not all unpleasant for Harper, as she and Tolliver finally act upon their feelings for one another. Harper is determined to give Tolliver a special experience during their first times together:
“In my limited experience, men were always so glad to get sex, they were pleased with it no matter how inexperienced their partner was. They weren’t there to run a critique group. They were there to have an orgasm. Provided you put their penis in the correct hole and made enthusiastic noises, they went away happy. It was like signing up for basic cable. That was what you’d sign up for if you were getting it for a person you didn’t know well.
‘For you, baby, HBO,’ I said, and made him moan.”
Discussion: This series is so dark compared to Harris’s lighter and happier Sookie Stackhouse series. Harper is prone to uncomfortable physical aftereffects ever since the lightning strike, including depression. And this particular “episode,” with the torture and murder of a number of young boys, is almost reminiscent of Karin Slaughter’s work. Even the weather is minatory throughout. Yet there is still some humor, and still some of the supernatural. And this book even has sex! But even the sex seems less joyous than it should: Harper and Tolliver not only have grown up in the same family, but they rarely associate with anyone but each other: it seems “incestuous” even though it actually isn’t. You feel like telling them they should get out more!
Evaluation: I really like Charlaine Harris, even though this series is not nearly as fun as the Sookie Stackhouse books. No matter how far her flights of supernatural fancy, she always manages to draw her characters in a complex way, and impart gems of observation about people into her plots.
Published by Berkley, 2007