an ice cold grave by charlaine harris

Posted on February 23, 2009

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In the Time of Ice, Harper Connelly will become very happy. Pity Harper Connelly’s psychic friend wasn’t able to predict that it was also going to be a dangerous time for her and a dark, dark time for the people of another small town Harper and stepbrother Tolliver was called to for a job.

An Ice Cold Grave by charlaine harrisWell, secrets hate the dark, and if they’re the bodies of missing or killed people, Harper will doubtless bring them to light. She finds dead bodies for a living, and she feels their final moments when she does find them—a weird side effect of a lightning strike she survived as a teenager.

‘Small towns could really nurture evil as well as it could goodness…’ I’m glad to see this signature as strong as ever, if pretty disturbing, in the third installment of Charlaine Harris’s latest paranormal mystery.

For years, teenage boys have a habit of running away in Doraville, North Carolina—or so the folks and local law people of that town would prefer to believe: it seems they also have a habit of deliberately keeping themselves in the dark.

As much as they would eventually regret this, it could not change what happened—because terrible things happened in the dark. When the missing kids are finally located, by Harper in a frozen graveyard, their bodies revealed that they were raped, tortured, and then murdered.

Sometimes, I ask this question: what’s more evil? Doing evil, or doing nothing to prevent someone from doing evil? Does the town’s deliberate blindness over the years qualify as doing nothing?

This is part of why I like the Harper Connelly series—the layers, the conundrums, the contradictions in the human condition aren’t ignored, they are naturally part of what make the books tick. A one-dimensional book would not allow us to feel sympathetic towards a sadistic, serial-killer-in-the-making boy; it would not let me feel his story is the most tragic of all, over and above the innocent murdered children; a one-dimensional book would make me put down the book immediately upon encountering an unpleasant story development.

Because I did encounter one, and that’s about the dramatic shift in Harper and Tolliver’s relationship. Sure I noticed the tension from day one; sure I figured out things would eventually head that way; but I sure was disappointed that they did in a hurry. It’s as if Harris wanted this particular issue resolved and out of the way so she could concentrate on the mysteries.

But she must not have realized that we are after not just the mysteries but the total package, which includes the richness, the uncertainty in the Harper-Tolliver relationship. There surely will be more sequels in the offing, aren’t there? Why ruin a good suspense when you don’t have to?

Nevertheless, ICE COLD GRAVE was a great read. I was riveted, and swept up by the events unfolding in the book. I expected it; yes, there were a few strange turns, but, overall, I got what I wanted—which is a story and people as real as a book or characters could possibly be.

The ice would thaw soon enough, I think… Who knows what else it has been hiding all this time? Cameron, the missing sister, is still out there, waiting for Harper.

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