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Book review: Grave Surprise

[This review is detailed, but I do not reveal whodunit.]

"They want to be found, you know."

Grave Surprise is the second book in Charlaine Harris' Harper Connelly series. Essentially, it's much like the first book, Grave Sight, but with a different mystery at the center.

Harper Connelly and her stepbrother Tolliver Lang take a job, identifying the cause of death of the residents of a very old cemetery. The man who hires them, an obnoxious college professor named Clyde Nunley, has only recently recovered the lost death records for the cemetery and is hoping to expose Harper as a fraud, which of course he doesn't because Harper is the real thing. While on this job, Harper discovers that one of the old graves has a second, much newer tenant, the body of missing eleven-year-old Tabitha Morganstern. In the it's-way-too-coincidental-and-something-is-obviously-afoot department, Harper had tried unsuccessfully to help Tabitha's parents find her remains months ago and on the other side of the state, which this time is Tennessee.

Grave Surprise introduces future Midnight, Texas characters Xylda Bernardo and her grandson Manfred, both of whom are quite colorful: Xylda is a former prostitute and an inveterate attention-getter, while young Manfred is covered with tattoos, piercings and jewelry. They are also both genuine psychics, although unlike Harper, they don't always hit the mark. Manfred's skills appear to be stronger than Xylda's, since he can even read someone's mind while holding their hand. He also has a strong crush on Harper.

The misery experienced by Tabitha's complicated extended family and the similarity of her disappearance to that of Harper's sister Cameron leads to us learning more about Harper and Tolliver and their troubled, intertwined childhood. There is a step forward with the series mythology when Harper and Tolliver encounter an actual, visible ghost. And Harper eventually arrives at a personal epiphany, without discussing in any clear way what that particular epiphany is (although we can guess).

As mentioned in my review of Grave Sight, only the third installment of the four volumes has an easily remembered title. They were published in the order below.

1. Grave Sight
2. Grave Surprise
3. An Ice Cold Grave
4. Grave Secret

Like Grave Sight, Grave Surprise is a well-written, well-plotted mystery novel with an effective and believable supernatural flavor. Even though I remembered the ending, I really enjoyed re-reading it, and zipped through it in one day. But it's volumes three and four of the series that are the strongest. My reviews of the remaining books in the series and the first of the Midnight, Texas series will be posted soon.
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

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