I grabbed this at the library, having never read any Sookie Stackhouse or anything else by Charlaine Harris. The pretty pink cover art made me think it would be a cozy mystery, but...no, it's not really cozy. Despite the fact that I don't like first-person POV books, and I'm tired of female characters with "boyish" names, I did enjoy this book enough to keep reading.
The plot, following Harper and her stepbrother Tolliver as they become embroiled in the secrets of a fundamentalist town in the Ozarks, was presented with few hiccups. Harper's ability to sense the dead from a distance brought her to this town to search for a missing girl, whom she finds pretty quickly. And that's when the trouble starts. Various long-time residents to the town have their own secrets, which Harper can't guess at, leaving her bouncing from one angry face to another.
The secret of who murdered whom and why was, unfortunately, not well concealed for me. There was a nice dearth of hard fact, making it impossible to say for certain what had happened until all was revealed. But mysteries are by nature formulaic, and with only X number of characters and plot arcs to choose from, I had motive pegged halfway through. I couldn't stop reading, though, due to a need to learn all the details surrounding the incidents.
Sex was toned all the way down to happening offstage, though it was present in more than one story arc. There was minimal swearing, though the F-bomb presents itself here and there. Yet, always in character and for good reason.
The characters were generally presented very well. Most every one had a full, rounded feel to them, from the hussy waitress to the chilly socialite. The two that felt the most forced were Hollis and Mary Nell: plot direction showing through, methinks.
Some of the characters reacted with a black and white, good vs. evil response when they learned what Harper's ability was. Others were presented as unaware, and their normal personalities were allowed to show. The only character besides Tolliver who seemed to accept her ability was Hollis, who inexplicably fell for Harper despite her description of herself as quite ordinary, and of Tolliver as the irresistible one. Shades of Bella? Their storyline never seemed to fit well with the rest of the novel.
I did have some trouble with the writing style. As I said, I'm not a fan of first person POV. Though the book's tone seemed consistent given Harper's background, I personally couldn't relate to her much at all, and the book came across as dim and emotionless, spattered with panic attacks that didn't feel properly grounded (ahaha, lightning joke) in the character's past (fear of lighting, I get, but fear--nay, full blown panic--of being without Tolliver was never explained to my satisfaction). Contrasting with that, every other paragraph seemed to suffer from telling instead of showing. There was a lot of concept repetition and a few repeated dialogue scenes in regard to her being struck by lightning. Honestly, I got it the first time. The fifth didn't give me anything new.
I was pleased to find merely a single error of omission in 263 pages: an end quotation mark left off some dialogue near the end of the book.
This book was enough to hold my interest as a free library loan, but there is no way I'd have paid the $23.95 price listed inside the front flap. Not for these particular 65K words.
3 of 5 stars.