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Grave Sight – Charlaine Harris

September 1, 2009

Grave Sight is the first novel in the Harper Connelly series by Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse books. It is not a vampire/supernatural romance, it falls more into the crime fiction category, with paranormal elements.

Harper Connelly, the heroine of the series, has a talent. When she was younger, she was struck by lightning, and since she recovered, she can locate dead bodies. She describes the sensation as a ‘buzz’ which gets stronger as she gets closer to a corpse. When she is in the presence of a dead body, she can also ‘see’ the person’s last minutes alive, and knows what killed them.

Harper makes use of her talent by hiring herself out to local police, or relatives of people who are missing, presumed dead. She works with her stepbrother, Tolliver, who appears to be her only friend. They share a complicated family history, including drug-addicted parents, social services and a missing younger sister. From the prologue to the story, it is clear that Harper intends to locate her sister one day.

The story opens with Harper and Tolliver arriving in the small Southern town of Sarne. The town has a storybook, turn of the century facade, to attract the tourists, but it is clear that behind the perfect appearance, there are secrets. Harper is immediately in conflict with the town’s power brokers, who are sceptical of her ability and resent her presence. She demonstrates her gift by informing them of the location of the body of an elderly person who had not yet been reported as missing.

This is enough to get her some details on the reason she was called. Sybil Teague has recently lost her son, his death considered a possible suicide by the authorities, but this is complicated by the fact that his girlfriend is missing. The speculation is that he may have killed her, or she may have run away. Teague wants Harper to find the girl’s body and stop the gossip.

Harper finds the girl’s body at the first attempt, and is able to inform the police of the location, and the fact that both Teenie Hopkins and Dell Teague were murdered. At this news, it seems that Harper stirs up a hornet’s nest and many in the town do not want the full facts to come to light. As Harper and Tolliver’s job is done, they intend to leave town, after meeting with Teenie’s mother.

Shortly after they leave, there is a further murder, and they must return to the town. Tensions ratchet up, and a storm hits the town too. This badly affects Harper, in both a physical and emotional way, as she recalls the effects of the lightning strike which left her with her ability. No-one is happy to see them back in town, Harper is assaulted and Tolliver arrested, which has the side effect of leaving Harper vulnerable.

Harper must try to sort out who has killed not only the body she came to find, but Teenie’s sister, her mother and posibly others, whilst coping on her own, which is not something she is well-equipped to do, as she has always relied on Tolliver. The final events come to a head in another raging storm, where Harper must again put aside her fears to deal with a far greater threat.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, although it did not suck me in completely, in the way the first Sookie story did. I found myself getting annoyed with Harper sometimes, and was frustrated with her reliance upon Tolliver. I found that Tolliver to be less sympathetic than I think he was supposed to be, I especially had problems seeing this ‘pull’ he was supposed to have over women, who seem to fall at his feet. I do intend to read the next book in the series, Grave Surprise, however, in the hope that as I get to know the characters a little better, they will grow on me.

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