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Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Gollancz; paperback / softback edition (9 Oct 2008)
An Ice Cold Grave is Charlaine Harris's third novel in the Harper Connelly mystery series, following on from the success 2005's 'Sight' and 2006's 'Grave Surprise'.
In an Ice Cold Grave, our psychic heroine Harper Connelly is faced with her most difficult job to date, locating the teenage victims of a suspected serial killer.
The author is best known as the writer of The True Blood series.
Ever since she was struck by lightening as a teenager, Harper Connelly has the ability to find dead bodies by sensing their vibrations. Accompanied by her brother Tolliver, she is called to the small town of Doraville to investigate the disappearance of several teenage boys. The Sheriff fears that this is more than a simple case of teen runaways - there's a serial killer on the loose. And Harper is in charge of locating the bodies of these unfortunate boys.
Very quickly, Harper tracks down 8 dead bodies and after sensing the unimaginable pain and torture that they went through before their deaths, is keen to flee Doraville forever. However, someone else has other ideas and Harper is attacked. Now forced to stay in Doraville whilst she recovers, Harper finds herself reluctantly drawn into the investigation as she discovers more than she ever wanted to know about the boys deaths.
Will this knowledge mean that Harper is the next victim to end up in an ice cold grave?
What I liked about it
I really enjoyed the fast pace of this novel, it drops you straight into the thick of the action and straight away grabs your attention. Within the first few pages Harper has already uncovered multiple bodies and had some sense of the horrific ways in which they died. This immediately sets the book apart from its predecessors as Harper has never had to deal with anything as horrific as a serial killer before. And of course by discovering this, Harper has now put herself in danger. I know it sounds like the same clichéd plot from many other crime novels you may have read before but there are plenty of unexpected twists and turns to keep the plot fresh. And the psychic element adds another dimension to the story - I found Harper's ability to find bodies and read how they died to be both creepy and fascinating. It's a fairly unique skill that sets her apart from other sleuths of the genre. And as a huge fan of horror films, I have a macabre fascination with this kind of thing. So I was both appalled and enthralled by these flashes of the horrific murders.
I also thought it was a brave decision by the author to to chose teenage boys as the victims of rape and murder rather than the more obvious target of teenage girls. This makes the killer an even more ominous figure as you realise he must be extremely powerful to have the strength to overpower his male victims, or he must have an accomplice. It gave the book a slightly different edge from other murder mystery novels I've read.
Finally, I found Harper to be a sympathetic narrator. She's feisty and determined and often comes under attack by sceptics who don't believe in her abilities. It makes you route for her to prove them wrong, which of course she always seems to do. I also liked the additions of Manfred and Xylda as support characters (even though having not read the previous books, I had no idea who they were at first!). Xylda is an eccentric old lady psychic who loves the publicity that her achievements gain her. I found her to be an amusing character.
There's a subtle hook at the end of the book which seems to set up the plot for the next novel in the series. It implies that Harper's next mission will be a more personal one, the search for her missing sister Cameron. Already I'm intrigued by this as Cameron is a mysterious figure often referenced throughout this novel (and I imagine the first two as well).
What I disliked about it
What I didn't realise when I picked this up from the library (and nowhere does it say inside!) is that this is the third book in the 'Harper Connelly mystery' series. The fact that this is part of a series of books needs to be more clearly advertised since I had no idea when I picked this out and therefore quickly found myself confused. Characters return with no explanation as to who they actually were (we were just supposed to know from previous books) and plots and scenarios from previous books were constantly referred to. You can read this as a standalone book, as I accidentally did and it is still enjoyable but the impact of certain events are lessened. For example, when a character from a previous book falls ill, it failed to have the same dramatic effect on me as it would on someone who'd read the previous books and therefore already cared about the character.
My one criticism of this book is that it starts so quickly that the pace inevitably slows down towards the middle. Within only a few pages Harper has already uncovered 8 bodies and been attacked, which already covers the events mentioned in the blurb! With such drama in the opening chapters, we then slow right down as Harper is hospitalised and slowly recovering after the attack. The change in pace is disconcerting - I went from reading several chapters at once to having to force myself to read more than a few pages at a time. Then when Harper is released and you're hopeful that the plot can pick up its pace again, there's several pages of truly cringeworthy sex scenes to endure. I'm not a prude but I just felt it was unnecessary and added little to the story overall. I wanted to get on with the business of finding a serial killer, not reading mushy pillow talk!
Overall, I enjoyed this book but wish I'd known it was part of a series so I could have read the first two instalments before reading this!
An Ice Cold Grave is a gripping and fast paced read and sets up the plot for the next instalment of the Harper Connelly mystery series.
An Ice Cold Grave (the third book in the series) sees Harper Connelly and her non-biological brother Tolliver travel to South Carolina for a new case. This time Harper has been hired by Sherriff Rockwell on behalf of several families who would like her to locate the bodies of their sons. Boys have been disappearing from the town of Doraville for five years. The previous Sheriff Abe Madden believed that the boys had run away. But now six boys have disappeared and not a trace of them has been found. Jeff McGraw has been missing for three months and his grandmother Twyla Cotton has been integral in raising the money to pay for Harper's services. She is a firm believer in Harper's ability.
This is the darkest novel of the series so far. Harper who usually regards her line of work very professionally and clinically becomes emotionally involved as she learns what the missing boys have been through. She soon locates the site of the graves and is overwhelmed by the imprint of fear and suffering that each boy leaves behind. An Ice Cold Grave is a most appropriate title for this book as it left me chilled to the bone after reading it. I was actually quite disturbed by the depth of the evil that Harper uncovers. It is the crime that only your most frightening nightmares can produce.
The author does work in a lighter element to the story through the changing connection between Harper and Tolliver. Their bond finds a new and welcome dimension in this book. It had me smiling.
Charlaine Harris really knows how to lay red herrings and create a great unexpected plot without cheating the reader. The identity of the murderer is so wrapped up in twists and turns that I had no idea who it was. Overall, this book has cemented my love for this series. I am quite sad that I only have one more instalment to go. Great characterisation, intriguing and well-established back story, chilling plot, all make this book unputdownable!
Recommended for adults only due to mature relationship content.
An Ice Cold Grave - Charlaine Harris
Ice Cold? Not This Time!
I have already wrote a review on the 2nd book in the series and although I was not overly impressed with that book, I was intrigued enough to move on to the next book especially as I had rented them both from the library at the same time. Unfortunately when I started what I believed to be the first book (Grave Surprise), there were some holes in the story which lead me to believe that it was not in fact the first in the series. On looking online I found that 'Grave Surprise' is actually the second in the 'Harper Connelly' series. There are four books in this particular series which include;
An Ice Cold Grave
Not very original titles though they do say never judge a book by its cover (or title in this case!)
This review is on the 3rd book of the series; 'An Ice Cold Grave'.
Charlaine Harris began publishing her books over twenty-five years ago. Her original novels were mainly based around ghost stories though by the time she started college, she had begun writing both plays and poetry which led to her going towards the mystery genre. In later years, Charlaine started pushing the genre boundaries to appeal to a wider range of readers which led to books such as the 'Sookie Stackhouse' series which has now been turned into a popular television series under the name of 'True Blood'.
To see the full list of her books, visit her website at the following link;
It is always difficult not to give too much away in a synopsis of a book as if you are like me, you will hate a book being ruined before you have even bought it, so I will give away nothing and only outline as much as the back of the book gives away.
This series follows Harper Connely, a young 24 year old woman and her step brother Tolliver.
When Harper was 15, she was struck by lightning. After her brother saved her life, she was able to recover from the experience though her life was never quite the same. Her physical appearance had been altered by a strange red spider web scar which covered parts of her body and her right leg was weakened, though the biggest change was that Harper can now find dead people...
This book takes place a couple of years after the second book and follows Harper and Tolliver (her step brother) as they go to a job in Doraville, North Carolina. Here, Harper is asked to find a missing boy who is believed to be a young runaway though soon it becomes apparent that this boy is not the usual runaway and he is not the only one.
Harper soon finds eight bodies buried in the half frozen ground, though when she tries to leave the town she is attacked and injured. She has no choice but to stay in the own and reluctantly becomes part of the investigation into the serial killer and soon learns more than she wants to about the dark mysteries and secrets hidden in the town.
(Nothing written above is anything more than what is on the back cover - just in my own words!)
MISSION - THE BEGINNING
Having only just read the second book in the series, I did have some prior expectations on both the writing style and some unanswered questions which was the main reason for me going on to this next book. Having not read the first book, I found the writing style in the 2nd very uncoordinated and off-putting, though a few pages in to this book I relaxed into the story. Whether it was because I had got used to the style by now or whether it was a story with more flow, I am not sure, though I do know that I started to read this book at a much faster pace and after only a couple of chapters, I felt that I did not want to put the book down.
Unlike the 2nd book in the series, this one seemed to jump straight into some action. I do not mean gun slingers action by any means, though there was no waiting around for the story to pick up pace. There was no real introduction to the story as you would be expected to have known the stories before this, though there are some points where certain things are expressed once again to refresh the memory. This time, though, the story did not become static around these part, but moved at a relaxing yet fast pace. The main story seemed to start almost immediately and soon after this, I was addicted.
Although with the 2nd book I felt that I could read and understand it all without prior knowledge of the characters and background, with this 3rd book I feel that at least the 2nd book does need to be read to completely understand the relationship of the two main characters and their backgrounds. There is no real character explinations of the two main characters, though as it is written from Harpers point of view, we do get even more insight into her character. The lesser characters are all explained well through Harpers own thoughts and feelings so we are able to meet them all as she would which helps the mystery part of the story remain in tact.
ACTION - THE MIDDLE
I was reading towards the middle of the book at a fast pace compared to the first and was enjoying every minute. The action and storyline continued to flow smoothly and at a great pace and I had really started to fall into what was happening.
The style seemed a little calmer than in the first book, and although there were still some unnecessary 'thesaurus used words', they were not overused this time and fit in nicely with the flow of the text in the main. There were still some points in which I felt that the author could have used more simpler words which would have worked better - mainly in some of the conversation parts, though this was easily overlooked as the story was so exciting to read.
The middle of the story is where things heat up - literally - both within the main mystery part of the story and otherwise. From reading the first book and watching 'True Blood' on the television which is derived from Charlaine Harris' 'Sookie Stackhouse' books, I did expect some strong language in parts and some sexual references though within this book, I found the sexual references were taken to the next level. There are a few scenes which are very graphical and took me by surprise even after watching True Blood. If you are the sort of person who doesn't mind subtle references though shy away from more in-your-face scenes then this is perhaps not a part for you to read. It is all within the flow of the story, fitting in nicely with the storyline, though it is still a surprise nonetheless.
Do I think that this part was written well? I am not overly keen on scenes such as this with too much graphical text - I am certainly not one to shy away from innuendos or subtle scenes in books or films, though I do feel that too much information is not always a good thing. I felt that certain phrases and certain action sequences within this book were too over the top though I had to admit that it did fit in with the characters well and did not stand apart from the story.
As for the language within the book, I felt that apart from those within the centre of the book alongside the graphical images, the language was much calmer and only came along in scenes or conversations they fit in rather than with everyone in the story slotting words in wherever and whenever like in the first book.
This type of language and graphical text seems to be the usually for this author.
LINKED - THE END
The action and happenings from the rest of the book flowed easily and quickly into the ending. The pace, if anything, accelerated and threw all its energy into wrapping up the story perfectly. There was a slight feeling of de-ja-vu with the turnaround of events from the previous book though this was much more efficient in bringing the whole story to a close with questions answered, plot twists and realisations in place.
Unlike the previous book, this ending had a number of surprises, some of which I had guessed though some I did not see coming with the cleverly written text throughout the rest of the book. I was certainly left wanting more once I had turned the final page, though unfortunately I will have to wait a week until the final book gets itself to my local library. I might have to order it sooner on Amazon, though, as I am that eager to read on.
I was not sure about how I would feel about this book after the previous one had been a bit of a let down but I am very glad that I read on as this one I simply could not put down. It was full of action, great characterisations and brilliant flowing storylines. There were are few parts which I did not completely enjoy though these minimal parts were overshadowed by the rest of the book which was a hit.
The story is set a year or so after the previous book though again, there is no actual time stamp date within the story so the book remains timeless.
The book contains 280 pages which took me only a couple of days to read, even with an energetic two year old in the house.
The flow of the story is much better than the previous book and is fast paced without any large holes in the story line.
The language is much tamer than in the previous book with more words which fit in to the characterisations and descriptions rather than overly long words which stand out of place. There are some 'adult' words within the book (see above) though apart from certain areas, this again is more tamer in this book.
There are two main characters within the story who continue through the rest of the series with a couple of recurring characters who show up within part of the story. All the main characters are written extremely well and even the two smaller characters are brought in with some background information - just enough to grow an understanding with them and feel sympathy and empathy towards them.
There are a whole host of smaller characters relevant to the storyline, many of which are written with feeling and some background information relevant to the story without being too wrapped up in their histories. I did find that some of the minor characters did need a little more attention to detail as their characterisations were a little sparse and confusing though in the main they were all written very well. Some of the speech did not seem to match the descriptions of the characters, though I soon got used to this.
I was able to feel even more in tune with the main characters through this book as their characterisations, inner emotions and feelings and background information had built up in the previous book. These characters were so strong that I found myself wanting to read the next book based mainly on them.
There were some surprising developments within the characters both the main ones and the minor ones, though it was more the main ones which effected me. These developments were well explained and reasoned out and followed the story nicely after I got used to it.
Overall, the characters were much stronger and more well developed than in the previous book.
The main genre is that of a mystery which played out really well. There were some small amount of predictable writing though in the main I felt the mystery was written perfectly. There is also a running supernatural theme throughout the story though this is certainly not written in an unbelievable way. There are no vampires running around or werewolves howling at the moon, just the fact that Harper has this supernatural ability which she uses very subtly, though in saying that it is the main focus of the story (not in your face at all though). There are also more slight genres running through the book such as mingled love stories which was a stronger genre in this book than in the previous.
PRICE AND AVALIABILITY
Although I rented this book from the library, I did search for the price and found that the RRP is £6.99, though this can be found on Amazon for £2.00 used or £4.34 new. After reading this book I am now considering getting the whole set simply due to the fact that this one was so great.
After the previous book, I did not rate this series very highly both due to the writing style and the see-through story though this book has altered my opinion completely. Throughout the whole book I did not want to stop reading. The twists and turns of the mystery mixed with the relationships of the characters and the storyline as a whole was top class in my opinion. Yes, the style of writing is not perfect though this is easily overlooked in this book and is far better than in the previous one.
I fully recommend reading the series if anything for this book. As of yet, I haven't read the last book though hopefully soon I will have it in my grasp and will be able to tell you exactly how I feel right to the end.
The third in the Harper Connelly series
One of the wonderful things about dooyoo is that you can buy books with your vouchers and not feel guilty! Not only that but you can then review the book when you've read it, to put the miles towards your next voucher! I got this book with the first voucher I earned, and I am really glad I got this one.
This is the third of the Harper Connelly series, which is another of Charlaine Harris's charming heroines.
About the author
Charlaine Harris lives in Southern Arkansas with her husband. She has three children three dogs and a duck that stays outside. Her first books were mysteries, the Aurora Teagarden series and the Lily Bard series, but in that progression we can see her move to a heroine with a problem, as Lily was the survivor of a terrible attack, and in the books we see her live with the consequences of that. Charlaine Harris's next series was one that spanned several genres, as it had a telepathic heroine and featured romance with vampires and werewolves. For her latest series, Charlaine has stayed with the paranormal, as her Harper Connelly series has a heroine with a strange ability. THe author is a member of the American Crime Writer's League, and a former president of the Arkasas mystery Writer's Alliance.
Harper Connelly was struck by lightening when she was 15, and when she recovered from the injuries that caused, she found she had a strange ability, she can feel dead people. She describes this feeling as a buzzing, and the older the corpse the fainter the buzz she gets. She has set up her own small business with this ability, although at times it makes her unpopular, as not only can she find corpses, she can often see the last moments of the dead person. She travels the country with her step brother, Tolliver, helping people find missing loved ones, and solving mysteries by finding the corpses.
An Ice cold Grave.
In the third of this series, Harper is employed by the grandmother of a missing boy, in a town where several boys have gone missing. She meets the Police chief who is somewhat antagonistic towards Harper and her brother, believing them to be charlatans who prey on the distress of people. The police chief is sceptical but desperate, as she has no clue as to what has happened to the six young boys that have gone missing in the area, and it seems to her too much of a coincidence for them all to be runaways. Sure enough very quickly Harper locates the bodies, but finds not six but eight, and she sees the horrendous torture that they underwent before dying. They are asked to stay overnight by the authorities, and whilst they are making arrangements, Harper is attacked and injured, ending up in hospital. Now it appears that whoever has been murdering the young boys now has Harper in their sights.
In this bookd we see the development of the characters, and the development of the relationship between Harper and Tolliver. It has an interesting twist, and there are parts where the fast moving action is breathtaking. It keeps you guessing, making you think everything is resolved, and then opening up again as things are not what they seem.
I have enjoyed Charlaine Harris's books, and this is no exception. It is straightforward and easy to read. I wouldn't call it great literature, but I would encourage you to pick up this book, if you're looking for a light venture into the paranormal/mystery/crime genre. You don't have to have read the previous books, as this could stand alone, but it would explain some of the characters that we met in the previous Harper Connelly books if you did
In paperback the book has 288 pages and it is available on offer from Amazon for £5.49 reduced from its recommended price of £6.99