The dead are everywhere, and Harper Connelly can sense them.
When she was 15 years old, she was struck by lightning but somehow survived it. She also survived growing up in a highly dysfunctional family, with parents living on the dregs of a death wish, and the disappearance of an older sister.
Today, she goes on road trips with her stepbrother-manager Tolliver, making a living as a corpse-finder. Apparently, the lightning strike allowed her a weird affinity with dead bodies and the final moments of the dead. She can locate missing people (as long as they’re dead), find out how they died, and help give closure to grieving families.
Harper knows she’s helping people, but her gift alienates as much as it is sought after. She and Tolliver have gotten used to being treated like monsters—but as long as they get paid, it’s not so bad, they reason.
But this double-edged sword almost proved fatal in Sarne, a small town in Arkansas. Hired to find the body of a missing teenage girl, they thought it was business as usual. Harper found the girl’s body but sensed that the teenager was running for her life before shot in the back.
Pretty soon, Harper gets entangled in a series of questionable deaths. Apparently, the town has deep dark secrets and is willing to murder to keep them hidden. Harper is shot at, Tolliver gets jailed, and dead bodies pile up.
Well, that’s about the gist of the first book in Charlaine Harris series of paranormal mystery—intriguing enough, but that wasn’t what got me hooked. What got me was the sense of waiting, a haunting that grips us through the deadpan style of conversation Harris used in this series.
This feeling is pretty ominous, in fact—maybe because of the prologue about Harper’s sister, Cameron, waiting to be found.
We have to remember that Harper can only find dead people, and she knows that it’s just a matter of time before she finds her sister. To me the book feels as if Harper and Tolliver are bidding time with small town mysteries until they can get enough courage or information to go looking for something that terrifies them.
The covers of my Gollancz Editions are that of a wistful light-haired girl. At first I thought the artist got the covers wrong as Harper has dark wavy hair. Then I realized, the girl must be Cameron.
So the story becomes creepier, more tragic, and less of a whodunit. Because she’s been there all this time, in every page, every line… And I’m not sure if she’s patiently waiting at all.