IT'S a common practice to look up other books of an author who's written your favourite series of books. That's how I found the Harper Connelly Mysteries (HCM) by Charlaine Harris. After completing all of Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books, I moved on to Harper Connelly. Actually, I had already bought all four books under the HCM while I was on the 6th Stackhouse book! When you look at my book shelf, you'll see morbid titles reading from death to dead and, graves. On the shelf below, you'll see more titles by Anne Rice and Stephenie Meyer, and other such books. I have a thing for paranormal mysteries, provided the characters have tangible sides I can relate to, and the books are easy to read, without being too dark.
Reading the HCM has been a pleasure. There are four titles - Grave Sight, Grave Surprise, An Ice Cold Grave and Grave Secret. I skipped prime-time TV every evening to indulge in the books because the mystery aspects are engaging like a real time puzzle. The paranormal element is minimal but it's still there. The mysteries have to be read from the first book, otherwise it's a little confusing to piece together some background details and information linking one book to the next.
The stories are about 24-year-old Harper, the main character and the narrator, who finds corpses. The strange gift is a result of a lightening bolt that strikes her at the age of 15. Ever since, she hears a buzzing sound whenever she is around a corpse. An old body buzzes dimly, while a fresh one has a strong frequency. She can also see how a person has died, but she can't see the murderer or the person causing a death, in case of a murder. With Tolliver Lang, her step-brother, whom she has acquired through her mother's marriage to Tolliver's father, she travels places for a fee, for people who need her special gift to determine causes of death. They make a living off the dead ; if Harper is reading this statement, she'd be real pissed at me for putting it this way.
When I read the first book, and then the second, I was really disturbed by the unconventional relationship between Harper and Tolliver. It may even seem a little incestuous. I think that's also one reason why I read on as I was curious about the strange relationship. They are step-siblings (no blood relation), but the tension between them when one is seeking casual sex, is overloaded with jealousy and passion. And it bothered me to bits, reminding me of the tumultuos relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine of Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte). In Grave Sight, it's really annoying when Harper gets frustrated when Tolliver is off with a waitress, and it's doubly annoying when Tolliver fumes over Harper when she sees the police dude. You see, Tolliver can get very accusatory, and for that, I could step on his bare foot over and over again with my boot-clad foot. Then again, Harper is also dependent on Tolliver. Oh wait. That's an under-statement. She is totally and utterly dependent on him for everything. In books I and II, he helps to remove her jeans whenever she gets tired (which she does after each job), and in Book III, he even helps to unbuckle her bra (she has a cracked ulna then, but still...) An intense character, who is constantly in a brooding mind frame, Harper bucks up in Grave Secret, thanks to some events.
But not all is dark and gray with Harper. She's smart, sharp and intuitive. She has normal hobbies like reading and running, which she shares with Tolliver. They buy books from second-hand book shops to carry with them wherever they go. After reading, they leave behind the box containing books for others to pick up. I really like the idea and I am thinking that if I were to leave a box of books here, I am certain that someone will pick it up. However, the books might end up at a recycling centre, traded in for a few Ringgit. People here should read more. I mean everyone here should make it a habit for us to move from the current developing nation status to a developed nation. Apparently, reading and book publications in a country is one of the markers of a developed nation and beyond.
Anyway, the (sexual and emotional) tension between Harper and Tolliver climaxes in An Ice Cold Grave. I find it rather relieving, but then again I feel for Manfred Bernardo, a genuine psychic, who is the grandson of old psychic Xylda Bernado. Manfred, who plays a major role in the resolution of the storylines in Books III and IV, also shows a romantic interest in Harper. If there was a real life person out there like the enigmatic Manfred, I'd be wanting to know him already! Tolliver being the pragmatic one, sees Manfred as a real threat to his secret interest over Harper, so that's one reason for the sudden, speedy hook-up between him and Harper, breaking the brother-sister facade.
I don't know if there's going to be a Book V. Grave Secret, which is a thrilling read after the first 70 pages or so, ends abruptly with an unexpected, but, really exciting turn of events, involving characters from the couple's past. Harper and Tolliver share a complicated, hard life, which includes living in a trailer park, having wasted parents and a missing sibling, Cameron. The last book gives a closure to all unanswered questions from the previous books. So Book IV does sound like the end.
I'm sure Harris could work out more stories if she wants to. I wouldn't mind it at all.