Charlaine Harris' Grave Surprise
by Charlaine Harris and Royal McGraw
Cover Artist: Ilias Kyriazis
Review by Gayle Surrette
Dynamite Entertainment Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781524102289
Date: 03 January 2017 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
In Grave Surprise, Harper Connelly, who survived being struck by lightning and can now tell how a dead person died, has been hired by Dr. Clyde Numley. Dr. Numley, who teaches an "open mind" class, wants Harper to identify the bodies in an old cemetery and list how each person died. This isn't a particularly difficult job, though Harper and her manager/step-brother, Tolliver, think that Dr. Numley hopes to prove her a fake. At least it was that simple until Harper stated that this current grave had two bodies in it--one recent and the other much older.
Harper says that Tabitha Morgenstern is in this grave with another body that is older. Tabitha has been dead for two years, having been suffocated. But, when Tabitha was first kidnapped, her parents, Joel and Diane Morgenstern, had hired Harper to help find their daughter. And since the police and FBI don't believe in the paranormal, it looks to them like Harper and Tolliver are guilty of murder -- the police just have to figure out how they did it. So, they are stuck in town until the case is solved.
The central mystery of how Tabitha Morgenstern came to be in that cemetery when she was kidnapped miles away is what drives all the characters. That Harper was involved when she first disappeared two years ago and is now the person to find her seems to go beyond coincidence -- for the police, the FBI, and for Harper and Tolliver. The Morgensterns, who are now expecting a child, are just relieved that the worry and wondering and hoping are now over. The family members around the Morgensterns however, seem to be a bit intense and off-kilter.
Harper and Tolliver are continually pulled back into the family problems. A psychic friend, Xylda Bernado, gives strange and ambiguous advice. FBI agent Seth Koenig is a believer in Harper's gift, but has to work within the system. With all this confusion, some of the focus on the murder is lost, but not by Harper who needs to know who killed Tabitha.
The characters are lovely, three-dimensional, fully developed people. There's depth to Harper and her stepbrother, Tolliver. There's history and background that feeds into their behavior and actions. As a reader you can believe them because their actions and thoughts are consistent with what we'd do in similar circumstances, filtered through our own belief system and background. Knowing them, you can understand their taking money for their services.
The artwork makes each character stand out as an individual. Even more interesting is how the art carries the subtext of the storyline. You learn more from the body language, background scenes, and expressions when the story and art work together. Here the two mesh to make the sum even more powerful.