Author: Charlaine Harris
Release date: UK 2007
Genre: Paranormal mystery / Murder mystery
Target audience: Adult
Harper Connelly Mysteries:
Book 1: Grave Sight - my review here.
Summary from Amazon:
A bolt of lightning struck Harper Connelly when she was 15, leaving her with a strange spider web of red on her torso and right leg, episodes of weakness, shakes and headaches - and an ability to find dead people. Harper is summoned to Memphis to demonstrate her unique talent, but there are still plenty of sceptics, even as Harper stands atop a grave and announces there are two bodies buried there. The police are convinced there's something fishy going on when the grave is opened to reveal the centuries-dead remains of a man, which they'd expected (that being his grave, after all) and a dead girl, which no one expected - except Harper, of course.
Grave Surprise is the second instalment in Charliane Harris's Harper Connelly mysteries. Although this is a series, I see no reason why you couldn't read this book as a standalone paranormal murder mystery. You may miss out on a little of Harper and her brother Tolliver's back story but that is all. Grave Surprise opens with Harper taking another case as part of her unusual job. She is invited to Bingham College to identify corpses in their ancient chapel graveyard. The college professor who organised the workshop is a complete sceptic. He doesn't believe that Harper can locate dead bodies, identify the deceased and state their cause of death. Of course, Harper proves him wrong but she also gets a surprise herself because there is an extra body in the grave. It is an eleven year old girl.
I do love a good murder mystery and Grave Surprise is no exception. The plot of this book centres upon Harper trying to work out the identity of the girl's killer. Harper has a past connection with the girl's family and can't help but wonder which one of them did it. Of course, Harper is in the frame too. She found the girl and in a world of sceptics the only way she could have known that the body was there would to have seen someone do it or to have done it herself. Luckily, she is able to convince an FBI agent of her paranormal ability. She also has the support of her brother Tolliver. He is hiding something from Harper though and it could be vital to the case. The plot twists and turns and like any good mystery keeps you guessing. In this book the identity was a little trickier to work out. There are so many different people linked to the case in one way or another.
Although this is marketed an adult book in the UK, it is written in a very accessible style. The story immediately draws you in with Harper's narrative. You are constantly rooting for her or barely able to read as she takes some dangerous decisions. In terms of characterisation, this series is excellent. There is a depth to Harper and her relationship with Tolliver. They have both lived through an abusive and traumatic childhood and this gives Harper a cynicism about families and relationships. Yet opposed to that is her relationship with the dead, she says that they all want to be found and has a sort of tenderness towards them. It is a really interesting exploration of a character and I can't wait to follow Harper's next case.
Overall, Grave Surprise is a murder mystery with a firm grip on the paranormal. Great characteristion and a fast-moving unpredictable plot make this book such an enjoyable read. It's official! I am a fan of this series! Charlaine Harris is just the best!