Reviewed: April 10, 2011
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Charley Davidson, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars
Length: 320 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Charlotte "Charley" Davidson isn't like other people. She sees the dead. Oh, sure, we've heard that before. Even had the oft-parodied catch phrase drilled into our heads. Truth is, seeing the dead isn't really what makes Charley so very different from everyone else. That's really just part and parcel of being the grim reaper, the one in all the world who leads those souls to the light and helps them cross over through her. For the dead, she's sort of like a well advertised (and sparkly) supernatural toll both without the Speedy Pass. Still, that's not what makes Charley so very, very different from every other person on the planet - dead or alive.
Though, admittedly, it does help.
Charley is a bit of an overachiever. She works as a PI for both the lively and the pulse-challenged (live people pay better), helps her uncle as a consultant for the Albuquerque, NM police department (the dead are better at telling her who killed them), and when needed, even pulls a tap or ten for her dad, formerly with the APD and now owner of his own bar/restaurant next door to Charley's apartment. Plus there's that grim reaper gig. Sort of goes without saying that Charley doesn't have much of a social life.
But that is exactly what makes Charley so very different from everyone else everywhere else, because she does have a secret - and potentially deadly - admirer who may or may not be the terrifying guardian Big Bad who has saved her life time and time again since she was four years old. An entity of unimaginable power that sends all of Charley's neurons and synapses into nearly orgiastic delight when it isn't scaring the bejesus out of her. It...he...calls her Dutch. And has since the day she was born. She remembers.
Welcome to the wild, wacky world of Charley Davidson, PI/grim reaper. She's got a new case courtesy of three dead - and chatty - lawyers who were shot down in the same night, and she's got her first clue into the mysterious dream man who has been lighting up her nights for the past month with scorching hot dream sex that feels all too real upon awakening. If she can survive the answers to either...or both...mysteries she may just get a good night's sleep. Then again...sleep is so overrated.
Don't look now, but Darynda Jones has managed to do what so many others have failed to do: create an utterly unique cross-genre hybrid story that is as hilarious as it is well written, as complexly plotted as it is well-cast, as totally satisfying emotionally as it is intellectually...and as light and comedic as it is dark and haunting and tragic. To be honest, I didn't even know it was possible. Now that I've seen it has, I want more. Lots and lots more.
With the sort of sophisticated polish that most debut novels only hope to achieve, Jones has birthed a heroine who is both intrinsically human and utterly foreign and kicked off a series that has grit, humor, danger, and hope. Charley is the delightful mass of contradictions that reflects the myriad of layers in the book. Bearing the scars of a childhood that had its happiness, its sorrow, its crippling disappointment, and its terrifying trauma, she's very alone in many ways. Yet she has a father and uncle who care about her almost more than she will allow. She shows the world her sarcastic face as she shields herself from the slings and arrows of prejudice and fear, but bears the weight of responsibility for a supernatural calling she doesn't totally understand. She's got a best friend she'd do anything for, but hates to think of burdening that best friend with the truth of her existence.
She's brilliant, and she's flighty, and she has the attention span of a demented gnat. She's completely awesome and I love her. Love. Her. Love her, love the story, love the author. And Reyes? Come on...do you really need to ask? Though I have to admit, I've also got the warm fuzzies for Garrett.
First Grave on the Right is stunningly and intelligently written. The wit and humor on the surface keeps the darkness beneath from becoming overwhelming, even when truly bad things are revealed. The plot is a meaty, layered, two-prong attack on the senses. The world building and character definition was subtly and artistically woven into an action- and emotion-packed thrill ride of mystery, suspicion, and danger. And the plot twists? Woah. Just...woah.
For fans of urban fantasy, or chick lit comedies, or paranormal romance, or romantic suspense, or mysteries, or thrillers...well, this is a must read. Period. And believe me, I do not say that about many books. To anyone. Ever.
For the cost-conscious and the patient, the mass market paperback format will be available on November 29, 2011. I made the mistake (if you can call it that) of reading the Kindle sample I downloaded after the book was recommended to me (thank you, thank you, thank you, Cat!!), and it was pretty much all over for me after that. As it turns out, I'm neither as patient nor as principled as I thought I was. I couldn't wait that long, and I bought the Kindle version even though it's more expensive than the currently advertised cost of the trade paperback. I'm sure I'll eventually feel really, really bad about that, as I promised myself long ago that was something I'd never do.
Eh...it was totally worth it. Just like I'm sure it'll be worth it for the sequel, Second Grave on the Left, when it's available on August 16th. I'll do penance later.
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