6 Apr 2011


Albeit in a slightly different format I bring you not one but three reviews, books 32 to 34 in my 100+ Reading Challenge.

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of CHARLAINE HARRIS and her Sookie Stackhouse/TRUE BLOOD STORIES so I was delighted to receive this set of three books as a Christmas present.

Harper Connolly is honest, ethical and loyal - and ever since a bolt of lightning zapped her on the head, she's had an extra-special talent: she can find dead people. It's not a common-or-garden job. Some people find Harper's talent useful and fascinating, but she's getting used to most people treating her like a blood-sucking leech. She's become an expert at getting in, getting paid and getting out, fast.

When Harper and her stepbrother Tolliver, travel to the Ozarks to find a local teenager, missing believed dead, they discover that someone is willing to go to great lengths to bury a secret.

Before long, Tolliver's locked away on trumped-up charges and Harper's fighting for her own life ......
...... Outer back cover.

When she was 15, Harper Connolly was struck by a bolt of lightning. She recovered mostly ...... she has a strange red spiderweb on parts of her body, and her right leg is weak. Sometimes her right hand shakes. She has headaches. And she can find dead people.

That was the part  that interested anthropology professor Dr Clive Nunley, who invited Harper and her stepbrother Tolliver to Memphis to give a demonstration of her unique talent - and what better place for it than an old cemetery? Dr Nunley doesn't bother to hide his scepticism, even when Harper senses a young girl, recently deceased, in a grave alongside its owner - a centuries-deceased man.

When the grave is opened, Harper is proved right; the dead girl is Tabitha Morgenstern, an eleven-year-old abducted two years previously. That's bad enough, but worse is to come, for Harper tried - and failed - to find the child when she first went missing ..... so Harper and Tolliver embark on their own investigation to find the killer.

And the next morning, a third dead body is found in the grave.
......Outer back cover.

When she was 15, Harper Connolly was struck by a bolt of lightning. She recovered mostly ...... she has a strange red spiderweb on parts of her body, and her right leg is weak. Sometimes her right hand shakes. She has headaches. And she can find dead people.

Now Harper and Tolliver, her stepbrother, are hired to find a missing grandson. But the truth is far worse than a single dead child, for numerous teenage boys, all unlikely runaways, have disappeared from Doraville, North Carolina.

Harper soon finds the eight bodies, buried in half-frozen ground ..... but then, still reeling from coming into contact with her first serial killer, she is attacked and injured. Now she and Tolliver have no choice but to stay in Doraville while she recovers, and as she reluctantly becomes part of the investigation, she learns more than she cares to about the dark mysteries and long-hidden secrets of the town: knowledge that makes her the most likely person to be next to end up in an ice cold grave.
..... Outer back cover.

In brief, how would you describe the books?
A sort of crime novel? A whodunit with a bit of a difference.

You mention the True Blood books, is this series similar?
No, not at all. Harper may have a 'supernatural' gift but the characters in this series are all too human - apart from the fleeting appearance of a ghost in book two. On the plus side, there is very little sex, none of it particularly graphic, though book 3 (An Ice Cold Grave) certainly has its moments, but on the minus side these books have none of the humour of the True Blood stories.

You read the books, in order, one after the other, can they be read as stand-alone novels?
Yes. I liked it that the author did not fully go in to all of the circumstances in every book but give enough detail in each so that the books could easily be read as a stand-alone. The fact that there was a new case to be 'solved' in every book helps.

Did you enjoy the book, which was your favourite and why?
Did I enjoy the books? (Hesitates) Yes, there was something enjoyable about them - what I can't really say. You just have to get past the first book, Grave Secret, having a somewhat silly plot and then close your eyes to all the rather far-fetched coincidences and implausible happenings. The good thing being I was kept guessing as to who done it and exactly why until the last.
My favourite book and why? Hmm, certainly not Grave Secret nor An Ice Cold Grave. I thought Grave Surprise had the strongest story line and the most interesting characters though to be honest I did enjoy An Ice Cold Grave as the author at least made some attempt to get away from the formulaic nature of the previous two books ...... however, I'm afraid to say the albeit occasional use of rather lewd language did rather spoilt it for me.

What about the characters?
There was only Harper and Tolliver who featured in every book and I didn't feel as if I really got to know either of them. And to be honest neither of them were characters I could believe in - Harper's ability I could just about accept as realistic but their relationship I couldn't and sure enough by book 3 ..... Well, lets just say I predicted the outcome of this as early as the first few chapters of book 1.
Harper, I thought interesting because of her 'gift' but I didn't really like her as I found her rather selfish, manipulative and cold. As for Tolliver? I felt that the author could have made a lot more of his character but from the little we learnt of him I did not warm to him either.
Much more interesting to me was elderly psychic, Xylda, and her intriguing grandson, Manfred  who were featured in the latter two books and brought at least a little humour with them though once again I felt that the author could have made much better use of them.

You normally have a memorable moment. Out of all three books do you have a moment you would like to share with us?
"I wish I could put my brain in a warm bath of something scented," I said. "And give my nervous system some aromatherapy." - Page 135, Grave Surprise. Reading these books I have to say I sometimes felt the same.

Anything else you'd like to add?
I quite like the covers of the first two books and would love to know why there is such a marked difference with the cover of An Ice Cold Grave (book 3).

One last thing, keep them or not?
Yes, they'll remain on the shelves ..... for now.


Misha said...

I love the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. I want to start reading her Harper Connolly series too, but I am sorry to hear that it has none of the humor of the True Blood series.

GMR said...

Ah yes...the focus is so much on the Sookie series that people sometimes forget she wrote mystery books too. Despite the lack of humor, they actually sound like a fairly decent read to me....may have to check them out. Thanks for the insight regarding series reading versus stand alone...makes it so much easier when just beginning. Happy reading!

Kelly said...

Since I like the Sookie books so much, I want to try this series along with her Aurora Teagarden series. I actually have Grave Sight on my shelf. Maybe I need to move it closer to the top.

Thanks for this review!

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I have a couple of her Harper books on my tbr, but haven't read them yet. Hm... I think I want to move them up a bit. I may see if I have the first book first. :)

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

You are doing great with this challenge; congrats

Karen said...

I enjoy this series as well as the Aurora Teargarden series. I did have some of the same issues as you though.
It's an original take on the who-done-it genre but it could have been better. Especially if they had a touch more humor.

PS - Could you check my rant post and see if the print is larger? I tried to fix it. I had used a different format to draft that post so maybe that was the problem.

naida said...

Great reviews! I read the first in the Sookie series and it was so-so for me.
This series does sound interesting.

Jenners said...

What a great way to review a series! I like the idea of interviewing yourself too. I may have to borrow that if you don't mind. I'm still working my way through the Skokie books.

iamjen said...

hehe nice book review!

oh love sookie books too! i always see this series in our local bookstore, always checking the books and always leaving the store without them. lol i dont know. maybe someday i will ;)