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An Ice Cold Grave (Harper Connelly Mysteries, No. 3) by Charlaine Harris
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Hardcover Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425217290
Date: 25 September 2007 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Since their last case Harper Connelly and her manager and sort-of brother Tolliver Lang have been tiptoeing around each other, careful not to upset the balance of their relationship. Called to Doraville by Sheriff Sandra Rockwell to help find the bodies of six missing boys, Harper knows that her talent, finding the dead and identifying how they died, will be severely tested. That six boys are missing could mean a serial killer, and when they learn the sheriff was coerced into calling her, Harper knows things could turn nasty. But neither Harper nor Tolliver knows just how bad it could get.

This is the third in the series, and it just keeps getting better and better. Harris's characters are always well developed with back-histories that make them seem alive, so alive in fact that it's difficult at times to remember these are fictional people in a story. Don't be afraid to step into the series with this book because it does stand on its own. There's enough backstory layered into the narrative to explain the interplay between Harper, Tolliver, and Xylda and Manfred Bernardo (psychics met in a previous book). While I found some of the reactions of the investigators irritating and a bit unbelievable, contemplation of the situation made me believe that that is exactly how things would play out in those circumstances.

To me the sign of a good book is when I get so wrapped up in the story and characters that I start feeling upset and argumentative on their behalf -- of course sassing back the book won't change a thing but then again if we care so much about the fictional characters then the author has managed to get us to pay attention and engage with the story. Now if being so engaged also gets us to think about the larger issues involved and to carry those thoughts beyond the book to look at how people react to crime, to those to pursue criminals, those who commit crimes, and those who look away and ignore what's happening around them -- perhaps then we'll see some changes.

There's the major mystery and several subplots that have been carried over from the previous books. Harris manages to balance all these threads so smoothly that there's no jarring note as we move from one to the other. Some of our questions get answered and some don't -- perhaps to be dealt with in a later volume. There is a satisfactory conclusion to the book but also more threads to be taken up in later stories, I hope. Harper's gift is one with limits and limitations and Harris has built a character that is an interesting mix of vulnerability, intelligence, strength, and heart but who yet has the pull of an everyman to her.

If you haven't tried this series yet, give it a chance. I think you'll be mysteriously entertained.

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