Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris

Harper Connolly Mysteries #4

A review by Steve Cameron

Grave Secret is a Harper Connolly novel by Charlaine Harris.

After spending so much time out on the road, Harper and Tolliver decide to head to Texas in order to take a break and spend some time with their younger sisters. On the way they stop off for a quick job, determining the cause of death for a wealthy family. Just when things seem to be going well with the rest of their family, Tolliver’s dad is released from prison and suddenly appears on the scene. And after many years of no leads, the police suddenly receive a phone call giving some information about the disappearance of Harper’s sister. Harper’s life is in danger. Tolliver is shot while standing next to her, the cop assigned to protect her is murdered, and it’s clear someone wants her dead.

The fourth and final book in the series attempts to tie everything together. And not as successfully as I would have liked. Many of the situations, the decisions made and revelations seem forced, expedient for the sake of expedience and atypical for the characters and what we’ve learned of them. Harper and Tolliver are getting married, despite all the baggage they carry from their abusive and poverty-filled past. And it’s only been a month or so since they admitted their real feelings for each other. We finally learn what happened to Harper’s missing sister, which seemed tagged on almost as an afterthought. For the past three books there’s been the repeated description of the circumstances under which she disappeared and the occasional assertion that one day Harper would locate her body, but absolutely nothing in the way of investigation, clues or suggestions. Not only is it suddenly all wrapped up in a few pages, but the way in which it is revealed, the motives for the disappearance and murder, and the manner in which it all ties in far too coincidentally with another of their cases just caused my eyes to roll in disbelief.

And yet I didn’t hate the series.

Like Dan Brown’s books, the ideas are strong. I would, however, have liked to have seen the over-riding story arc of the missing sister developed further throughout the previous books, a lessening of the lust-filled relationship between Harper and her (almost) brother, the culling of extraneous, pointless scenes, more realistic behaviours and decisions from these characters with their particular abilities and backgrounds and more compact descriptions of the mundane.

No Stephen King here but, providing it’s passed into the right hands, a promising premise for another hit TV show.

 

This review was previously published in Dark Matter issue 2, January 2011, and predated on this website to reflect the original publication date.