Author: Charlaine Harris
263 pages • £9.99
Harper Connolly is not a happy-go-lucky girl. First she endured an abusive childhood; then she got hit by lightning; then one of her sisters disappeared without trace. She has little self-confidence, no friends apart from her devoted step-brother, no home. Oh, and the lightning left her with the ability to sense dead bodies and know how they died – which she’s managed to turn into a business, but at the expense of constant suspicion, disgust and occasional violent attacks.
Yep, the new series from Charlaine Harris, best known for her Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire books, is darker all right, with a heroine who’s so deeply scarred by her past that she’s closed herself off to life. Watching Harper panic every time her protective brother Tolliver is out of reach gets infuriating at times.
Mind you, maybe it’s understandable given the extreme reactions from nearly everyone in the small Ozarks town where they’re called in to find the missing bodies of a rich boy and his poor girlfriend. The locals treat Harper’s ability as if it’s direct from the devil and generally behave as if they thought Deliverance was a feelgood documentary. As more deaths occur, they decide to blame the messenger, so the outsiders end up trying to solve the case.
As a mystery it’s okay, though it’s hard to care about the unlikeable townsfolk and there’s no real urgency – the only reason Harper and Tolliver don’t leave town is that they don’t want to get a bad reference for their next job. The hints about their painful past are interesting but the hard-to-relate-to heroine has an ability that’s frankly not that exciting: after finding the bodies, all the fantasy element is over.