Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Grave Secret" by Charlaine Harris

"Lightning-struck sleuth Harper Connelly and her stepbrother Tolliver take a break from looking for the dead to visit the two little girls they both think of as sisters. But, as always happens when they travel to Texas, memories of their horrible childhood resurface... To make matters worse, Tolliver learns from his older brother that their father is out of jail and trying to reestablish contract with other family members. Tolliver wants nothing to do with the man - but he may not have a choice in the matters. Soon, family secrets ensnare them both, as Harper finally discovers what happened to her missing sister, Cameron, so many years before. And what she finds out will change her world forever..."

Sadly, this appears to be the fourth and final installment in Harris's Harper Connelly series. I'm not entirely sure why she's giving up on Harper so quickly, and if the reviewer response on Amazon is any indication, they're just as stumped as I am. Sure, Harper's never reached the fan base that Sookie Stackhouse has (especially with "Trueblood" on HBO) but still. Oh well.

Harper and her stepbrother/now lover Tolliver are contacted by Lizzie Joyce, a Texas rancher, to discover how her father died. It was reported as a heart attack but Lizzie has always had her doubts. Unfortunately for her, her sister, and her brother, Harper reveals things about several people buried on the family plot, including how the old man's nurse/caretaker died. Surprise - she died of an infection after giving birth! No one knew she was pregnant, and Lizzie immediately dismisses Harper as a fake. Until she really thinks about it, at which time she contacts Harper and asks her for a few more details, saying that if there really is another Joyce heir, she's got to track him/her down and welcome them into the family.

Of course you just know that this revelation isn't good news for everyone, and before long, Tolliver is shot through their hotel room window (much as Harper was in a previous book, making one wonder why they stand in front of such windows!) There are several plot twists before the mystery is solved, and this time the solution felt a little bit too convenient. The majority of the book, though, concentrates on Harper and Tolliver's relatives, namely their younger half-sisters, the aunt and uncle raising them, Tolliver's brother Mark and his father, and Harper's long-lost sister Cameron. All the mysteries that have plagued Harper since the beginning of this series are solved, some of them neatly, some not so much. There's also the reaction of those same family members to the news that Harper and Tolliver are "together" - and yes, it's basically an "ick" factor, which should be expected. Granted, they are not related in any way by blood, but still, you live with someone long enough, calling them your brother the whole time, and it's going to be hard for people to get past that. In fact, Harper herself keeps referring to Tolliver as her brother, which I personally found icky, even though I was rooting for them to be together!

Overall, it's not the strongest entry in the series, but it was still good. And while it certainly does seem to be the last book, Harris has wisely left it open enough that she could pick it up again later. I really hope she does; I've liked Harper a lot, and I've very much enjoyed how Harris is able to write about someone struggling with a lot of the same things I do, namely how do I keep a roof over my head, the bills paid, handle things like health insurance, etc. Hmmm... maybe that's why it hasn't caught on as well as Sookie - too much reality? Well, that and no vampires!

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