Monday, November 2, 2009

GRAVE SECRET by CHARLAINE HARRIS

Grave Secret is the fourth Harper Connelly paranormal mystery from Charlaine Harris.  For the uninitiated, Harper Connelly, after suffering a lightning strike at the age of 15, has the ability to sense the dead and to know how they died.  She and her brother--that is to say, her stepbrother, Tolliver, who is also her manager and business partner--make a living by traveling around the country consulting for local police departments and people who want to learn the truth about the death of their loved ones.

At the end of last installment, An Ice Cold Grave, Harper and her brother--um, stepbrother--had finally acknowledged the nature of their love for one another, overcome the ick factor, and become partners in all senses of the word.  In this latest, everything they do is informed by this development in their lives--they're telling everyone they know, and most everyone is as skeeved and intrigued by the situation as I was.  Some are downright disgusted, and it doesn't help matters that Harper frequently still refers to Tolliver as "my brother."  And, although Harper and Tolliver don't share any blood, they do share two half sisters, the children of his father and her mother.  Why, it's a regular old Southern Gothic!

Grave Secret neatly dovetails the current case, that of a wealthy Texas family that wants to learn the details of their grandfather's cause of death eight years earlier, with the trauma that drives them, the disappearance of their--rather, Harper's--sister Cameron nearly a decade before.  Tolliver's father, Matthew, has been released from prison, and although his desire to connect with the son he abandoned for drugs many years earlier is both obnoxious and suspect, it helps steer the lovers closer to an understanding of the truth.

Charlaine Harris is a master craftsman, and endlessly creative (although she juggles four different series, each is distinct in tone, voice, and story from the others).  She brings together the paranormal, the Gothic, and the crime aspects of her story neatly, and in a most satisfying way.

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