Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Grave Sight

by Charlaine Harris


Harper Connolly is like a macabre bloodhound, her speciality the recently deceased. Ever since she was struck by lightning she has had an ability to detect the dead, and when she gets close enough she can find out a lot about how they died. This makes her especially useful in police investigations, but she isn't always made welcome by the people she's trying to help.

Harper travels round the country with her brother-in-law, Tolliver, who acts as her protector. Theirs is an unusually close relationship, but they have a fractured family background that gets alluded to now and then. Their closeness causes a few raised eyebrows, and there's a certain tension because it's one of the things that seems to stand in the way of either of them settling down somewhere and adopting a more conventional family life.

Harper and Tolliver arrive in the small town of Sarne to find a missing teenager. But the corpse of Teenie Hopkins is only the latest in a series of suspicious deaths. Sarne is the kind of place where everyone is connected with everyone else, so untangling the threads of motives and loyalties is especially complicated. What's more, the killer on the loose doesn't seem to have finished making dead bodies.

Harper and Tolliver are keen to leave town once they've done the work they were hired for, but in spite of their efforts to remain uninvolved they're embroiled in the murder investigation. If they try to get out they risk offending the law enforcement officers they rely on for their bread and butter work. But someone doesn't seem to want to let them ever get out. When Tolliver gets imprisoned on bogus charges the race is on for Harper to solve the case before someone silences her and her brother for knowing too much.

This is much more of a murder mystery with subtle supernatural elements than an overtly supernatural mystery with hints of a detective story. There's a romantic aspect when Harper meets someone in the local police, but it's very underplayed. The story is told in a snappy style that reads fast, with sassy black humour to leaven the grim graveyard atmosphere with all its morgue-centred action. Harper and Tolliver are invigorating characters. Their world is as dark as can be, and they usually see people at their worst whether alive or dead, but they still manage to have a lust for life and a spirit that makes them magnetic. Harper is smart, but she depends on her brother a lot, and physically she has been left weakened by the lightning strike. So she isn't one of those high-kicking urban fantasy superheroines, she's more of a character you can believe in.

The author offers us tantalising hints about their sister Cameron, missing presumed dead, to set up the rest of the series. Luckily Harper and her family are dark and interesting enough to make you want to bite that hook and read on.

25th February 2011

Book Details

Year: 2005

Categories: Books

    Female Protagonist  

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Charlaine Harris