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    Review of GRAVE SURPRISE by Charlaine Harris (see her website)

    Berkley Prime Crime, October 2006

    Since she was struck by lightning years earlier, Harper Connelly has been able to receive messages from dead bodies. The messages aren't always useful, and even victims don't always name their killers, but they never lie. So, when college professor Clyde Nunley asks her to visit an old graveyard, Harper accepts the fee--even though she knows Nunley would like nothing better than to prove she's a fraud. After all, Harper is used to being though a fraud. Fortunately, her step-brother is always there to help take care of her.

    In this particular graveyard, though, Harper gets a nasty surprise. Most of the graves are old, but one grave sends two messages--a long-dead man and a recently murdered girl Tabitha Morgenstern, one of Harper's failures a year earlier, has at last shown up. The odds of Harper being invited to a graveyard hundreds of miles from the girl's abduction by coincidence are so small as to be insignificant--but who would set Harper up like that--and why?

    Author Charlaine Harris (see more reviews of novels by Harris) creates a sympathetic character in the damaged and abused Harper. As the police question whether Harper might have been involved, Harper herself has to believe that someone in poor Tabitha's family must be responsible. But why was the body put where Harper could find it--why not simply walk away from the perfect crime?

    After a strong start, I found that the middle dragged just a bit in GRAVE SURPRISE as Harper dealt with her suddenly heightened feelings toward her step-brother. The clues were laid out and the characters introduced early on, but then Harper seemed to go into meltdown mode, fixating on her 'brother,' and repeating, too often, her conclusions about each of the suspects. Still, Harris tuned up the heat with a strong conclusion.

    Harper, with her strange talent, her fears, and her open-minded acceptance of those who are different makes a refreshingly different sleuth. Harris's capable writing definitely holds reader interest and makes GRAVE SURPRISE a hard book to put down. While this isn't perfect, it's certainly an enjoyable treat.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 12/11/06

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