First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Charley Davidson, #1


This whole grim reaper thing should have come with a manual.
Or a diagram of some kind.
A flow chart would have been nice.

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?

With scorching-hot tension and high-octane humor, First Grave on the Right is your signpost to paranormal suspense of the highest order.

“I went down like a drunken cowgirl trying to line dance to Metallica.”

I’ve heard so much praise about this long-running series and have had the first book on my shelves for years waiting to be read. I found it to be a fun, different, and interesting story that kept me reading in between chuckling, but did it live up to its rep?

I like cutesy humor in the paranormal vein, more so last year since I seemed to find more of these types of books I enjoyed, but sometimes the humor was done a bit too much in this story. Some things simply must be taken seriously, but Charley’s fixates on serious problems with a blend of determination and jokes in the background. It’s fun but after a while the threads can become a little frayed.

There is a strange backstory that Charley is obsessed with – saving a boy who gets her to leave with a hinted attempted rape they explain away – it makes sense in the story somewhat more than it does with horrible it sounds with this review. There is that side-mystery with who this guy is, the weird sex dreams she has with a shadowy figure that opens the book, and this is apparently leading up to a major character of the series. Much is answered about him by the end and he’s intriguing. There’s a lot left about Charley to discover by the end, though, which makes sense since it’s a series.

There seemed to be a trend for me in 2017 to read books where the protagonist can see ghosts (how cool is that ability?) I did like Charlie overall, and she unashamingly used the looks she knew she had to advance – use what you have, right? – but then there’s the odd humor thrown in with that like naming her breasts Danger and Will Robinson. Humor like that falls a bit flat with me, but I have to point out a lot of the other humor DOES work well.

I pointed to my right breast. “This is Danger.” Then my left. “And this is Will Robinson. I would appreciate it if you addressed them accordingly.”

The chapters open with bumper sticker type quotes about the dead and plays on grim reapers, death, and helping ghosts. It was a cute set-up for what was to come with the book.

Despite Charley being able to see ghosts, it wasn’t used to its full potential of being downright interesting like another quirky mystery series, Pepper Martin (that also overdosed on humor but the ghosts were a bigger part of the mystery). In this one the romance element is a bigger part of the story with Reyes and what’s going on for the shadowy figure’s mystery.

Toss in a love triangle brew and that doesn’t help, although I dig Garrett too. Reyes is supposed to be hot and steamy, which only came across average to me, perhaps because the author is only showing that part of him in the first place because I cared enough to agree.

Have a feeling this is one of those series that gets better with the follow-up books, but I did enjoy this one for the quirky humor and unique main character, even if the mystery was mild and the focus on the sexy shadow overtook it a bit too much.

   Book Quotes:

“Maybe I needed sensitivity training. I once signed up for an anger management class, but the instructor pissed me off.”