Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris is the author of several series: the Lily Bard mysteries set in Shakespeare, Arkansas; the Aurora Teagarden mysteries set in Lawrenceville, Georgia; and the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire series, set in Bon Temps, Louisiana. Grave Sight is the first book in a new series; it seems that the series will be without a fixed location, although probably peopled by southerners for the most part. I hope that the appearance of a new series doesn’t mean that an older series will be discontinued (the way the Lily Bard series was ended, without a satisfying conclusion).In this book, Harper Connelly sees dead people. Not like the kid in The Sixth Sense because they don’t seek her out, but if she is close to the body, she can see their last minutes and tell how they died. The newer the body, the more she can tell. The ability is not as helpful as one might think, because it doesn’t help her find missing people, nor does it tell her who the decedent’s killer (if any) may be. And although people hire her for her ability, they often blame her for the information that she shares, shooting the messenger so to speak. Harper’s stepbrother, Tolliver, is her companion, her manager and her body guard. In Grave Sight, Harper and Tolliver have been summoned to Sarne, Arkansas, to help figure out what happened to a disappeared teen. When Harper and Tolliver find the body, one mystery is solved, but others are created.Grave Sight was a very good start to this new series; I would give it a solid B. The main characters are very well drawn. Harper and Tolliver are clearly walking wounded. They live a peripatetic life that doesn’t satisfy them in many ways, but they feel that they are too scarred and warped to try to settle down to a normal life. Their relationship is out of the ordinary, as a result of their terrible youths, the losses they suffered with the deaths of their parents, the disappearance of one sibling, and their isolation from their other siblings and family members. However unhealthy their relationship is, all they have is each other, really, and their common past. [How unhealthy? Well, some of the reviewers online indicate a sexual tension between the two that they ignore while engaging in sexual relationships with others. I didn’t see it, but maybe I’m just dense. I’m not the most subtle of people.] Some of the secondary characters are a little less well-drawn, but I can forgive that since the most important ones are well done.Charlaine Harris is the queen of Southern small towns and their inhabitants. I don’t know if it is her own background that makes her voice so clear, or if she’s just that good a writer. She did a good job sketching in the characters that inhabit small towns, and the relationships and tensions that arise that outsiders can never truly understand.The who-dun-it portion of the plot is a bit elementary, almost with arrows pointing to the bad guy(s). While I love Harris’ voice, I’m a little less enchanted by her style of writing, which seemed a little choppy in places. Also, I noticed the same language/writing habit that I have seen in Nora Roberts’ JD Robb books: the dropping of words (like “if”) so that the written words match spoken phrases. It bothers me to hear words dropped in spoken language; to see it in print bothers me even more. I know, language is a living thing and the dropping of words and changing of grammar is proof of life…but it still bothers me!All in all, I don’t think Harper Connelly will become my favorite Harris heroine, but I’ll be certain to read her next book.

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