Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Good, gloomy fiction

I just finished Grave Surprise, the second book in Charlaine Harris's Harper Connelly mystery series. It's almost of the "cozy mystery" genre, with a supernatural twist: the main character can sense corpses and determine how they died. Both books have been good, and if you're up for a light mystery novel, I'd recommend it. But I wouldn't recommend reading them (and the third book, Ice Cold Grave) in a row. They're oddly gloomy in tone, and three of them in a row might be a little depressing. As much as I enjoyed the books, there's no two ways around the fact that they're kinda downers. It's amazing the main characters even find the energy to get out of bed, much less read graves and solve crimes....

From a technical perspective, it was interesting to read them and try to figure out what sets the tone. It's subtle, and it's amazing how much difference a few words make. It would take just a few changes (I think maybe 200 words over the entire novel) to make the main characters upbeat and perky; they're very efficiently made a bit morose and unhappy. It's a real lesson in storytelling and language use. I'm looking forward to reading a few more of Charlaine Harris's mystery series.

Another oddity, for a mystery series: the events in the second book follow immediately after the events in the first. Book one ends with Harper and Tolliver driving to Memphis, and book two begins in Memphis. If you read the first book, you already know what they're doing there. And in book two, we get some foreshadowing of what's going to happen in book three. I'm more used to series mysteries in which an undetermined amount of time passes between books, so it was different (and nice) to see books following on each other's heels.

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