R&R 109 | Grave Sight (Harper Connelly 1)
Grave Sight: Harper Connelly #1
First published in: 2005
This edition: Berkley Publishing Group, 2005
Genre: mystery, supernatural
Cover art by David Hollenbach
Cover design by Judith Lagerman
After finishing the tenth Sookie Stackhouse novel by Charlaine Harris, I felt a little empty: I'd have to wait almost another year for the eleventh book to come out. I love Charlaine's imagination and how she shares it with us through books. When I heard the news that another one of Charlaine's series is in the progress of being adapted for television, I got curious: the Harper Connelly series is about a young woman with the ability to connect to the dead ever since she herself had been struck by lightning. Harper can find bodies as well as see a deceased's last moments, thus being helpful in providing the departed and their loved ones with closure.
Hey, that sounds good to me.
Harper's first story takes her and her step-brother (and assistant of sorts) Tolliver to Sarne, a small town in the Ozark mountain region in Arkansas, where a young girl has gone missing after the suspected suicide of her boyfriend. Harper quickly senses the girl is dead as well, the apparent victim of a murder-suicide. But that's not all she senses: Sarne's got a lot of skeletons in its closet, secrets painstakingly hidden. Dealing with an increasingly hostile environment, Harper and Tolliver are itching to just pack up and leave the townspeople of Sarne to their own drama, but when another woman is found dead, Harper understands that Sarne's secrets are slowly unraveling… and that someone would rather kill than let it all come to light.
Yes, it sounds so good. But while Grave Sight is an easy and enjoyable read, and quite thrilling at times, it didn't seem like Charlaine's best effort.
It's easy for me to go on and compare this series to the Sookie Stackhouse novels, and to criticize Harper Connelly based on the fact that the series isn't like Sookie Stackhouse. It's not, it's very different. But I find that to be a good thing: if I wanted more of the same, I'd just re-read the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I picked up a different series, because I wanted something different. If you're expecting a series much like Sookie Stackhouse, you'll be disappointed.
The Harper Connelly series is more realistic: human crime is the theme, with flawed humans committing human crimes on other humans. There are no vampires, werewolves or other supes in this series. Harper Connelly is a young woman in our very own world, but with a twist: she does have a supernatural ability. That touch makes the Harper series special enough to be interesting to readers like me, who appreciate a bit of fantasy every now and then, something quirky. Especially if it's written by Charlaine Harris.
Grave Sight is narrated by Harper herself, which I usually like because the reader would get a better idea of the main character this way; however, Harper is pretty distant – I could even go so far as to say she's cold. The narration seems quite stinted and cynical because of this. I must be reasonable about this, of course: how would you feel if you're hit by lightning and can sense the dead all around you, non-stop?
It would harden anyone. I think Harper has to be detached from the world in order to stand living in it in this condition. So while it hurts the narration somewhat in my opinion, I do think it's more realistic to have Harper be like this. It does make her more interesting in ways. Harper's not, shall I say, an open book.
With cynicism comes a darker outlook on things: the Harper series is moody. The books are still a breeze to get through, but its themes are more on the serious side as opposed to exciting and fun. It's a crime novel, first.
Family is also an important theme: Harper's family is dysfunctional to say the least. Tolliver is the only person she trusts. The relationship between Harper and her step-brother seems a bit awkward: the reader senses that more might be developing here than brotherly and sisterly love. It should be noted that they're not related by blood, and that they only became each other's step-siblings when in puberty (they didn't grow up together in that sense), but I do think some people might find it inappropriate. I personally have no problem with it because of the aforementioned circumstances, but I'd rather not see anything more develop between Harper and Tolliver because that would be predictable at this point, and I like unpredictability.
I'd like to see Harper develop and trust more people than just her step-brother. Harper's very dependent on him, and it's that which I do find disturbing. She seems like a strong woman, yet she isn't. Harper does get close to someone else in this book, but not in the way I prefer. I understand that Harper needs to get her some every once in a while, but I was talking more on an emotional level rather than a sexual one.
Basically, it might be good to have more regular characters in the series instead of just Harper and Tolliver.
Would I recommend the series?
Not at the moment, but I strongly feel this is because haven't really been able to form a proper opinion yet, because the series is not developed yet. Grave Sight is a typical first novel-in-a-series: a lot of introduction, with room in the future to get to know the lead characters more. For instance, there's the back story of Harper's missing sister, which is clearly crucial to Harper's personality and how she's grown into the woman she is today, but this back story has only been mentioned somewhat, and remains a big mystery. And there's more material, more possibility.
I am willing to give the series a go, so I've already gotten my hands on Grave Surprise (the second book), and I hope to be able to give a better idea then.