📚 Series Review: Harper Connelly Mysteries

Harper Connelly Series by Charlaine Harris

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Installments (4)
Paperback covers

• RECOMMENDED FOR LOVERS OF:

Midnight, Texas series, Ghost Whisperer, Paranormal Mysteries, Charlaine Harris

• SUGGESTED AGE GROUP: 18+

• Individual ratings & reviews:

◦ Grave Sight (#1): 4.25 stars

Full review here.

◦ Grave Surprise (#2): 3.5 stars

Grave Surprise was the installment that change the way I viewed the series. There were plenty of words eaten from my first review. And Grave Surprise certainly dispelled the notion of this being a cozy mystery series. The tone shifted to something much more intense and unsettling, more reminiscent of horror.

Grave Surprise was also where romantic shenanigans of a Greg and Marcia Brady variety began to appear. In my review of the first installment, I expressed delight and relief that Harris seems content to have the two main characters remain in a step-sibling role. It was indeed refreshing, until it wasn’t. Ick factor aside, the romance was developed quite nicely. There was plenty of internal struggle, which seemed realistic, given the situation. Once I (and the main character) got past the not-quite-incest aspect of it, it actually turned out to be a quality romance, as one would expect from Harris.

I liked that the mystery in this installment wasn’t built upon something that had happened in the past, before the series began. It wasn’t as if these two characters suddenly sprang to life at the beginning of series. They have a personal and professional lives before it and both were impacting the current events in the book. Just any author couldn’t pull this off, though. If it were executed incorrectly, the reader would be left feeling like they had missed something in a previous installment. But Harris is a master of world building and character development, so she was able to fill in the gaps in a natural and subtle way.

However, the “whodunit” was just too obvious. Before the halfway mark, I had already decided not only the “who” but also the “why”, therefore I quickly became bored with the plot of this installment. Grave Surprise was easily my least favorite book in the series.

◦ An Ice Cold Grave (#3): 3.75 stars

If Grave Surprise was my least favorite, An Ice Cold Grave had to be my next favorite installment. Not only did it take place in my home state of North Carolina, but it scared me silly. An Ice Cold Grave had the most intense mystery and setting of the entire series: An ice storm in the mountains with a serial killer targeting children. {shiver}

I don’t know if I wouldn’t necessarily call this horror, but it was definitely spooky.

To offset some of the intensity, Harris granted a larger role for the Bernardo’s. Manfred Bernardo was already familiar to me as the main character in the Midnight, Texas series, which is set after this series ends. I unknowingly read that series before this one, but it did not impact my understanding of either. Actually, I was delighted by the crossover. I guess you could technically consider the Midnight, Texas series to be a spin off of this one. It was great fun meeting Zilda. She is referenced in the Midnight, Texas series, but does not appear in it. I learned a lot more about her background and zany personality in An Ice Cold Grave and also met her daughter, Manfred’s mother. The Bernardo family is so fun, I’m glad Manfred got his own series.

◦ Grave Secret (#4): 4 stars

Grave Secret nearly gave me whiplash with all of its twists and turns. I would be looking in one direction and then get blindsided by something else. The first three installments in this series had been building towards this all along, but I wasn’t expecting such a punch. Grave Secret started out with Harper on a job, just like the other installments, but soon became about Harper’s missing sister and her family backstory. Harper’s family background had been disclosed little by little throughout the series, like breadcrumbs leading to this installment and Grave Secret opened the floodgates.

🎙 Narration Review: Alyssa Bresnahan

Alyssa Bresnahan is the fourth narrator of Charlaine Harris’ audiobooks that I’ve heard and I can’t say she’s my favorite. She did an adequate job of narrating this series, but after hearing Johanna Parker, Susan Bennett, and Therese Plummer, I have to say I was slightly disappointed.

“Adequate” or maybe even “on par” are good descriptions for the narration of this series. I wasn’t blown away, as I was with Johanna Parker’s narration of the Sookie Stackhouse series, but there’s nothing overtly significant that I can point a finger at as particularly unenjoyable. The characterizations provided where (again) adequate. They were just enough to get the point across, but not overly helpful. I think perhaps Bresnahan’s tonal range may be limited.

She approached the protagonist, Harper Connelly, with an air of distance, maybe even frigidity. That type of approach was initially perfect for the character, but I would have liked to have heard some sort of warmth creep into the character’s voice as the series progressed. Granted, Harper’s emotional growth is subtle, but it’s there.

I would be curious to hear Bresnahan narrate another author’s work, maybe even another genre, to see how she approaches it differently. Despite all of this, I still think the series is worth listening. Not much is added, but there’s not a lot taken away either.

OVERALL SERIES RATING:
3.75 
Listening Options:

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