Grave Surprise – Review
Written by Charlaine Harris and Royal McGraw
Art by Ilias Kyriazis
Colors by Tamra Bonvillain
Letters by Bill Tortolini
Collection cover by Ilias Kyriazis
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Charlaine Harris is most famously the author of the Sookie Stackhouse mystery series, the basis for the HBO series True Blood. She has written other mystery series, usually with strong supernatural and romance elements. The Grave Sight series features twenty-something Harper Connelly: struck by lightning at age 15, she is left with neurological difficulties- and the ability to sense corpses over short distances; she can then determine the cause of death and re-live the moment at which the deceased expired . She makes a good living, but only because of the organizational skills of Tolliver, her step-brother and business manager. She and Tolliver invariably become involved in solving murder mysteries. Some of the books in the Grave Sight series have been adapted into graphic novels – Grave Surprise is adapted from a novel that first appeared in 2007.
Yes, the whole set-up sounds formulaic – and yet it’s also much, much better than it might seem at first pass.
This is because Charlaine Harris really knows her way around a story: she knows how the human drama of average people can make a story interesting in the way that gossip is interesting. She also knows how to use supernatural plot complications to bring out rather than distort the hard truths about human nature that good mysteries reveal. She is especially entertaining in her depiction of the South, whose people she understands intimately. However, her works are all essentially dynamic character studies, in which the main character/narrator always learns and grows as the series progresses.
Grave Surprise is certainly such a character study : the story is secondary to the portrayal of Harper Connelly herself, depicting her thoughts and emotions in elaborate detail. Nonetheless, the family drama that unfolds before Harper and Tolliver keeps the story moving, and I found myself hanging onto every word as the mystery unraveled.
As to the art, there’s really nothing to say except that it adequately illustrates the narrative – it’s merely a vehicle and as such is meant to be unremarkable.
All in all, I might recommend Grave Surprise to Harris fans who only know her novels- but then, I’m always trying to sell fiction readers on the possibilities of the graphic format. I would also recommend it to readers of graphic murder mysteries, especially those who like smart young female protagonists.