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Sunday, November 8, 2009

'Harper Connelly' series by Charlaine HARRIS

‘Grave Sight’ from the BLURB:

Harper Connelly has what you might call a strange job: she finds dead people. She can sense the final location of a person who's passed, and share their very last moment. The way Harper sees it, she's providing a service to the dead while bringing some closure to the living-but she's used to most people treating her like a blood-sucking leech. Traveling with her step-brother Tolliver as manager and sometime-bodyguard, she's become an expert at getting in, getting paid, and getting out fast. Because for the living it's always urgent-even if the dead can wait forever.

This is my favourite of Charlaine Harris’s series, after ‘Southern Vampire: Sookie Stackhouse’.

Fans of the Sookie books can appreciate that ‘Harper Connelly’ does have a supernatural bent. Harper’s world is our world, real life in which there are no vampires, werewolves or fey. The ‘Harper Connelly’ series looks at the supernatural from a realist perspective – and Harper is a protagonist dealing with other people’s pessimism and blatant distrust of her and her abilities. In this series Charlaine can explore the ‘what if’ aspects of the supernatural in everyday life.

Like Sookie, Lily and Aurora, Harper is an ordinary woman living an extraordinary life. When she was younger Harper was struck by lightening. Ever since she has been able to ‘sense’ death. She turned her ability into a profession and tours the country, helping search for missing persons (for a price).

You will feel conflicted about Harper’s line of work – but Charlaine has written a very pragmatic character, and Harper doesn’t mind defending her vocation and maintains that if she had to be lumped with a disability she may as well make money out of it. Fair enough. But there is more to Harper’s working gift. For one thing, her little sister was abducted when they were children. After Harper was struck by lightening and gained her ‘ability’ she instantly recognized that it could be a way to find her sister – a way to finally have closure and put her guilt and worry to rest. Furthermore, there seems to be a certain connection between Harper and the spirits she feels;

It’s hard to describe the feeling – but of course, that’s what everyone wants to know. It’s a little like hearing a bee droning inside your head, or maybe the pop of a Geiger counter – a persistent and irregular noise, increasing in strength the closer I get to the body.

As much as Harper tries to maintain her pragmatism, readers will no doubt see through the armour she dons to shield herself from the weight of her gifts’ responsibility.

They want to be found, you know.

Harper is a tricky character. She does shield herself emotionally, and there is a contrast between her thoughts and actions, especially where romance is concerned. But it is clear that Harper has been burned in the past – aside from having an abusive childhood and less than stable home life growing up, her ‘gift’ has caused Harper to become a social pariah. People believe she is a charlatan, and those few who are convinced of her abilities believe she is a crook for not providing her services for free. So, Harper has developed a tough exterior. It makes her a fascinating woman to read. On the one hand, readers are privy to her biting wit, loyalty and compassionate nature – and we know that if people would only give her a chance they would come to see her for the amazing woman she is. But on the other hand we do see people’s negative reactions to her and her gift – and as readers we want to shield her from further abuse and heartache. Unlike Sookie, Harper is living with her ‘gift’ without the crutch of a totally open supernatural community – and it is fascinating to see how people deal with her, and how she deals with her own uncertainties regarding her dubious ‘abilities’.

Like her other series, ‘Harper Connelly’ does have a love story at its centre. I can’t give this massive spoiler away – but many fans expressed dismay when the romance came to the fore. It will throw some readers for a loop, be warned. But I personally thought Charlaine did such a wonderful job with characterisation and the slow burn of the romance that it was a natural and inevitable progression for the two characters.

I love this series especially. There are moments when it is quite bleak; but that is to be expected when death is the subject matter. But the romance is definitely at the heart of the ‘Harper Connelly’ books, and that lightens the mood somewhat. Furthermore, Harper is a fascinating woman. For any fans of the ‘Sookie’ books who ever wondered what life would have been like for Sookie without the help of vampires, werewolves and fey – Charlaine is able to answer that ‘what if’ question through these books. It is supernatural in the real world and a completely compelling read.

Unfortunately Charlaine has said the series will only go as far as 4 books. ‘Grave Secret’ came out October 27th this year and that ties up the series. What a shame. But just because it ends so quickly, that’s no reason not to enjoy the hell out of it.


1 comment:

  1. I think I'll try this series first and see how I like her "other (non-Sookie)" writing. I'm so glad you did these reviews!


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