Apart from my own impeccable taste in books – ahem – I read quite some books because they were recommended to me or because other people whose taste I like, enjoyed them very much so. But have you ever had that feeling that when you read a book someone else really liked and you were like.. eh? I’ve had it in the past with a book that was out of my comfort zone, but I also had the same feeling after reading the first Charley Davidson. I was quite surprised, to be honest, of my own lukewarm reaction to the novel. I expected to like if not love it, according to what others said about this series, but that wasn’t the case. Steadily, however, I am warming up to this series and with the fourth one, my main issues with the first are almost all gone.
Sometimes being the grim reaper really is, well, grim. And since Charley’s last case went so awry, she has taken a couple of months off to wallow in the wonders of self-pity. But when a woman shows up on her doorstep convinced someone is trying to kill her, Charley has to force herself to rise above . . . or at least get dressed. It becomes clear something is amiss when everyone the woman knows swears she’s insane. But the more they refute the woman’s story, the more Charley believes it.
In the meantime, the sexy, sultry son of Satan, Reyes Farrow, is out of prison and out of Charley’s life, as per her wishes and several perfectly timed death threats. But his absence has put a serious crimp in her sex life. While there are other things to consider, like the fact that the city of Albuquerque has been taken hostage by an arsonist, Charley is having a difficult time staying away. Especially when it looks like Reyes may be involved.
In previous instalments, my qualms with this series has been the focus of the plot. A case would be introduced, only to be left hanging in favour of the romantic plotline going on between Charley and Reyes. Almost in an afterthought, the case would be solved and all is well. The balance started shifting in the third book, but by now, it’s at a point that I actually quite like. The case was well worked out – the big case, that is. There is also this little sidetrack-case that does nothing but add some drama and tension – and between pieces of case there were bits about the overarching plotline concerning the pending war between Heaven and Hell. Much excite.
“just a little add-on of no importance
The fact that the main case just wasn’t tacked on to the story gave it a whole lot more body. This time, the body came in the form of a young woman who has been tormented her whole life and nobody believes her. Until she meets Charley and she sets out to investigate and find the girl’s tormentor. While it starts off at a steady pace, I really liked how it all turned out and it was actually pretty exciting as the whole shenanigans wrapped up. This in start contrast to the other case, which was just a little add-on of no importance but to get Charley’s hormones raging. The overarching plot does not move a whole lot in this book, but we get to see some damn nice demonic possessions and Charley fighting them off.
Talking about, Charley is suffering from agoraphobia and PTSD here after all she went through in the third book. My own studies prevent me from being satisfied with the representation, though, and while it could have added an extra layer to her character, it didn’t quite succeed on that account. In fact, as a result of her anxiety she starts hoarding and it’s more used as a comic relief than anything else. Not that it should have been, I mean it’s fine how it is, but somewhere in the back of my mind it feels like a wasted opportunity. I more or less like Charley as a character, quite the flippant girl but not too deep, and she hasn’t changed a whole lot over the course of four books even though she suffered through quite a lot. Her being static is still okay, but she has to avoid becoming the cardboard silly goose.
“the cardboard silly goose
That is, in fact, what’s bothering me a bit about this series. It’s fun to read and the characters are also really nice, but they don’t evolve. You can easily predict what they’re going to do and how they’re going to react because they’ve done so for four whole books. Nevermind that their lives have been turned upside down.. As I said, it feels like a missed opportunity, but at least they’re static and fun. Cookie still keeps rocking and this book just once again proved that Charley’s dad is one of the worst dads in literature. That’s perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but he’s still a jerk.
Another static in this series is the writing. Well, more or less. These novels have a trademark style to them, in that you know what you can expect, and Darynda Jones delivers. It was already noticeable by the third, though, but this one definitely sees Jones coming into her own and getting more comfortable writing in this universe and these characters, cause it just flows that much smoother than the first two offerings.
This series is not perfect, and it won’t be my favourite urban fantasy series, unfortunately. But where I had my doubts upon starting, by now Jones has found what makes this series tick and it’s become an amusing snack between some of my heavier courses.
★ ★ ★
Prepare for all hell to breake loose. Help the Grim Reaper!