Review. Darynda Jones, Second Grave On The Left

It all comes down to expectations. When I read the first Charley Davidson book earlier this year, I liked it to some degree, but was disappointed as well. The thing is, I expected it to be something that it wasn’t. When I started reading the second in the series, however, my expectations were altered. I knew what I was going to get and as such, I was able to enjoy it much more altogether.

Take it from Charley Davidson, part-time P.I. and full-time Grim Reaper. The deceased find her very sparkly. Demons find her irresistible. And one entity in particular wants to seduce her in every way possible…
When Charley and Cookie, her best friend slash receptionist, have to track down a missing woman, the case is not quite as open and shut as they anticipate. Meanwhile, Reyes Alexander Farrow (otherwise known as the Son of Satan. Yes. Literally.) has left his corporeal body because he’s being tortured by demons who want to lure Charley closer. But Reyes can’t let that happen. Because if the demons get to Charley, they’ll have a portal to heaven. And if they have a portal to heaven…well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty.
Can Charley handle hot nights with Reyes and even hotter days tracking down a missing woman? Can she keep those she loves out of harm’s way? And is there enough coffee and chocolate in the world to fuel her as she does?

My main critique of the first book in this series, was that while I was interested in the main mystery, it clearly took the backseat compared to the romantic storyline of Charley and Reyes. In this second book, I felt there was more of a balance between the mysteries and the overarching Reyes-story.
I still feel like the mysteries should get a better treatment. While there is more on-page attention for them, they still feel like they are just there to fill the book, which is a bit of a shame, really. I really think that it could take the books to the next level. Perhaps this will happen in the installments to come?
jumping around with the head set on the ghostly boyfriend
Charley also juggles quite a lot of cases. I think at a certain point she was in the middle of three cases, all the while tracking down Reyes. What this does, is that it speeds the plot along. Whenever there is a slow point in case a, jump to case b, track down Reyes some more, back to case a, … It keeps a nice and steady flow going, that’s for sure. On the other hand, because the whole Reyes-thing is still priority, Charley tends to come across as not being completely able to handle things. The whole jumping around with the head set on the ghostly boyfriend made me feel like her heart wasn’t really in it..
The Reyes-story, on the other hand, took a turn for the more interesting. The first book portrayed Charley as almost incapable of resisting this ghostly being, whereas here we see her trying for more of a balance. I still wouldn’t call this a healthy relationship, but with babysteps, we’re getting there. I did like how we got more of a story from him. He’s no longer that ghostly seducer, but his character is becoming more substantial. Also, the whole part with the demons was pretty nifty.

neurotic scream-fest in the car

Even though Reyes is getting some more depth, I still don’t like him that much. In fact, I think he’s a big prick and Charley can do better than him. While I don’t like Reyes as a character on its own, I do like the dynamic he sets in motion with Charley and between Charley and the others. Charley I like, though. I don’t love her like I love Rachel Morgan or Stephanie Plum, both of which share some resemblance to the character of Charley, but we get along. In a way, she is as much the clueless character that both of the other ladies were in the beginning of there respective series, so I have complete faith in the fact that Charley will grow to become another awesome character, whom I’ll grow to love. In the meantime, we have a good time together. I don’t want to hang out with her all the time, but when we do, it goes well. I also like the little steps she took over the course of this book. She’s been growing into her own, and it’s nice to read.
Full props to Cookie, though. As far as hilariously great sidekicks go, she’s becoming one of them. As Charley takes her more and more into the fold, Cookie will be able to display her full potential. As the comic relief, she’s doing a great job. Her highlight was definitely the neurotic scream-fest in the car. God I loved that scene and the aftermath! Cookie is gold. The other characters are pretty much okay. They’re not that fleshed out much, but they serve their purpose as instigators for Charley. Another thing, perhaps, that the coming books might do?

While expectations led to disappointment with the first book, things changed for the better with the Second Grave. It’s still not my favourite series and frankly it won’t be, but I feel like I understand it a bit better now and I can appreciate it for what it is. Also, I liked this one more, so I’m hoping that this is a trend that will continue in the coming books. In the end, this was a fun, quick read that entertained me enough to want the next book.

★ ★ ★

If you fancy a read of this book, go to the graveyard and take the Second Grave On The Left.

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