This was a positive surprise, since I’d pegged Charlaine Harris mostly as an urban fantasy writer (I was dimly aware she did other stuff in the past, but that never really breached into consciousness). While the heroine of this one (first in a four book series) has a supernatural talent, this is more a tool to support the mystery-like nature of the book than to open it to the common urban fantasy genre cliches. Also, unlike most characters in urban fantasy, Harper is not the usual ass-kicking action woman.
Her talent is finding corpses and reliving their last moments, a talent she got thanks to surviving a lightning strike as a kid. She’s not a detective, she’s not particularly strong or even all that mentally hardy, but when push comes to shove as in the first novel here where here talents lands her in an muddled murder mystery in small, backward town, she tries to find justice for those who have no voice anymore.
Even when her major support pillar, her half-brother is taken away under fabricated accusations and the people of the town she’s in become increasingly hostile, she tries to keep it together and go forward. Charlaine Harris really makes you feel just how vulnerable our heroine is, almost nobody to rely on and trying to keep her psychoses in check while actively trying to solve the case. The oppressive atmosphere and the mounting pressure Harper has to navigate do not make a light book, but a compelling one, enjoyable in its own way. Hope the other books in the series are just as good.