An Ice Cold Grave

For those who were creeped out by anything in Grave Sight or (more likely) Grave Secret, An Ice Cold Grave is not for you. The cover might tip you off, as you realize that there's not just the regular creepy skull, but red flags that suggest multiple points of interest (aka multiple bodies or pieces of bodies). Pretend Charlaine Harris only made it to two books in the series and the third one doesn't exist (and this probably goes for the fourth one, too). For those with a stronger constitution, An Ice Cold Grave will still creep you out, but probably only for the twisted abduction/murder story at the heart of everything as opposed to the Tolliver-Harper stuff.

Harper has been booked in a small North Carolina town to assist the local law enforcement -- over the past few years, several young men have gone missing. The previous sheriff wrote them off as runaways but the current sheriff believes that they might have a serial killer on their hands and with nowhere else to turn, she has reluctantly turned to Harper Connelly and her strange ability to find bodies. And Harper finds them alright... she locates the burial site where more boys than just the ones missing from this town were buried after being raped, tortured, and killed. The sickening facts surrounding the fates of those boys puts the whole town in mourning, but now the sheriff has to find the person responsible... and realize that this might not be the work of one man.

The crime itself is just horrifying. I'm not a squeamish person, but even I read a little quickly through any discussion of the case. This isn't a true crime novel but it's really terrifying to realize this is a possibility in the world. Truly sick individuals are capable of such violence and depravity. I'm also getting a bit sick of the fact that all three books have dealt with dead teens/kids... and sure, adults get tossed in there, too, but they're often not the main focus of the crime and end up dead as a result of learning something dangerous. These are cases where kids are murdered and it's pretty rough, particularly here.

The mystery surrounding the culprit is actually more interesting than the past two books, though not necessarily any more mysterious. For those who are Harris fans from the Sookie Stackhouse books, the romantic storyline will be more what you're used to... in the sense that there are some pretty descriptive sex scenes (the first ones of the series, really). At the end of Grave Secret, Harper realized that she was in love with her step-brother, Tolliver. Note the emphasis on "step" and therefore not related by blood, as this is fairly crucial to understanding that it's not incesty... though the fact that they were partially raised together and have treated each other like siblings for years makes Harper's love all a bit complicated/weird. Lots of people reading these books (along with lots of characters in the stories) would find the very idea of this too weird, but oddly I'm okay with it. I mean, come on, it makes sense... they've been through a lot together (and continue to go through a lot together), so it seems a natural progression that given the option, they would band together in all ways. Harper doesn't want to be co-dependent upon Tolliver (and while Harris goes to lengths to prove that this isn't a weird co-dependent relationship, the reader never quite buys it), but he's always there for her and accepts her for what she is. Of course, Harper is too frightened of losing Tolliver and so resolves to never mention anything... but that never really works, does it? So An Ice Cold Grave deals a lot with Harper's feelings with regard to her brother and quite frankly, it's a welcome distraction from the case.

Despite my discomfort with the case, I thought Harris was more spot-on with her characters in this book than she was with the last, and so I enjoyed this more than Grave Surprise. I'm not sure if it's the subject matter surrounding the characters or what, but this book definitely indicates that this will be a very limited series and even if I didn't know that only four books are out, I would say that all signs here point to a series conclusion happening very soon.

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