Savannah is one of the most atmospheric places I’ve ever lived. It is steeped in history and there’s no way you can get away from it. From the ancient oaks dripping with their Spanish Moss to the stately homes in the historic district whose history is spouted by any number of tour guides, it’s part of your daily life. It’s also a place that offers the perfect atmosphere for death and dark thoughts.
Check out the cemeteries in town, from the ones that hold pre-civil war dead to Bonaventure, which holds some of the most famous former residents of the city. All of them easily suggest the existence of a darker, more deadly side of the city if one only knows where to look. Some tour companies trade on rumors of hauntings, offering “Ghost and Gravestone” trolly tours or walking tours that pass the most haunted houses of Savannah. Bonaventure Cemetery even offers a tour called “Bonaventure at Night. Are you getting the idea that Savannah residents are almost equally comfortable with the dead as they are with the living?
The atmosphere of the city makes it a terrific setting for a murder mystery, which is where A Beautiful Corpse by Christi Daugherty enters the picture. This is the second in a series featuring Savannah resident and crime reporter Harper McLain and, of course, murder. Below you will find my review of the book. If you’ve visited Savannah, or perhaps lived here for a while, it’s an opportunity to revisit some of the atmosphere that you will remember. It gets into your system almost as much as the salt air and humidity. Are you intrigued? Then read on for my review,
A BEAUTIFUL CORPSE by Christi Daugherty is the second book in a series featuring Harper McClain, crime reporter for the local Savannah newspaper. Naomi, a young woman Harper knows through her best friend Bonnie is shot and killed on River Street. That mystery is the central storyline of this book and is solved within this nove. There is some carry over from the first book where Harper solved a murder and revealed a police officer as being the murderer. This has created great animosity between Harper and the police department and this stress carries through much of the novel. This fractured relationship makes it harder for her to do her job and when she has ideas which may help police solve the murder, their resentment of her makes them less than receptive to her information.
A secondary storyline is Harper still dealing with a break-in at her apartment in the historic district which also apparently took place in the first novel. In this book, she relives much of that stress as it becomes apparent she is now being stalked and the stalker has somehow gained access to her apartment. As this storyline moves forward, the question arises as to the true intentions of the stalker, does he want to harm Harper or does he have concern for her well-being. This storyline progresses, but is not resolved with this book. It is unclear if the issue will be resolved in the next book in the series, however, there is enough connection that if a reader might be best served to begin the series with the first novel and move forward as the story progresses.
There is also a love interest as a minor storyline. In the previous novel, apparently Harper and Luke were an item until Luke dumped Harper. They are now thrown together as he has been promoted to detective and they are both investigating Naomi’s murder. Whether or not they resolve their problems and renew their affair is a question that continues past this novel.
As the book progresses, the reader can experience the heat and humidity of Coastal Georgia as Harper moves around Savannah.. This physical aspects of heat and humidity, along with some occasional references to Spanish moss are the primary pieces of information that reveal the book is placed in Savannah. Not much information regarding the area exists in the book.
Throughout the book, the tension is high. The reader is constantly reminded of the problems between Harper and the police department in addition to feeling her fear at being stalked and trying to figure out what he wants. Once Harper determines who the murderer is, the tension ratchets up as her safety becomes threatened.
Most readers will find it easy to determine the identify of the murderer as more of the book is a “how did the murderer accomplish it” than “who was the murderer”. With strong secondary storylines, many readers will want to continue the series to learn what happens to Harper. It is well written and the characters are well drawn in terms of distinct personalities, etc. If you like books that have a high degree of tension, this may be the series for you.
That’s all for now, so I’ll just say Happy Reading. I’m going to go out and enjoy Savannah before it gets so hot I have to start seeking out air conditioning.