Review. Darynda Jones, First Grave On The Right

Reading is very much like eating. You need a substantial meal on regular intervals, but in between, a delicious little snack is very much appreciated. Same goes for reading. I like my big, sweeping, epic books, but a little snack in between does wonders for digestion. Not every book has to be deep and grand in scope to be enjoyed, sometimes some light fun is all you need. There are some people I know who have a knack for searching out those books, and thus they recommended me the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones.

Charley Davidson is a part-time private investigator and full-time grim reaper. Meaning, she sees dead people. Really. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (like murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely. But what does he want with Charley? And why can’t she seem to resist him? And what does she have to lose by giving in?

Through the years and after reading quite a lot of books in the same vein, I’ve come to adapt my expectations. If you come to expect big plots with twist and turns every other page and multi-layered characters who are scheming for power, this will be a disappointment. However, if you go into this simply expecting a fun romp, you’re in for a good ride. Cause that is exactly what you get here. The plot is simple and relies on a sole mystery to be solved and an overarching story that will probably take us through a good part of the series.
At first, though, I had thought/hoped that the main mystery of the novel would thrive the whole book through. This was not the case, however. The initial murders start off the book, but then take the backseat in favour of the overatching mystery of Reyes and this is mainly a romantic plotline. Once I wrapped my head around that fact, I quite enjoyed this first instalment, but the initial disappointment of where this book was heading lingered. At the end, the main mystery got solved, but it felt more like and afterthought. I would have liked some more effort on this, so to balance the book. Besides her job as a reaper, Charley has another, more official job, and this inject some other, minor plotpoints, but these could have been left out cause they are merely there to fill Charley’s day. It would have been better, I think, if these were left aside in favour of the grim mystery.

But like I said, you have to adapt your expectations. I don’t read urban fantasy mainly because of the plot. The books in this genre never fail to deliver on the character front. Just like her peers, Charley is a sassy, sarcastic and confident young woman who made me laugh multiple times through the course of the book. Perhaps this type of character is being overdone, but for me at least it never fails to entertain. As tradition requires, there is the just-as-sassy-sidekick, this time in the incarnation of Cookie. Love the woman. End of discussion. This dynamic duo reminded me a lot of Stephanie Plum and Lula. Cookie made multiple appearances, but I like their chemistry quite a lot, so I hope she’ll be getting a more prominent role and her wise-cracking can become a thing.
No matter how much I tried, though, I couldn’t bring myself to like Reyes. Partly due to the fact that he doesn’t have much of a personality in this book and mainly appears as a dreamlike shadow, but also because he comes off as a real douche. No matter how big your dick, it doesn’t entitle you to behave like one, and frankly, his behaviour is very much dick-worthy. In this respect I much prefer Garrett and his dynamic banter with Charley. As is prescribed, our heroine is misunderstood by the larger part of her family but their introduction didn’t leave that big an impression on me, to be honest. I’m pretty sure this will be explored further on in the series, but as for now, I’m not dying to know.

Picking up a recommendation is never a failsafe endeavour, and I did have some issues with First Grave On The Right. Where I did get what I wanted in terms of characters and overall feel of the book, the plot and direction left to be desired. Where this didn’t leave a lasting impression like the first Kim Harrison or Kelley Armstrong, I am intrigued by the reaper-idea and I like Charley enough to continue with the series. I have it on good authority that the series gets better, so I consider this to be a pleasant enough first meeting.

★ ★ ★

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