First Grave On The Right by Darynda Jones

Posted February 1, 2011 by Meoskop in Book Reviews, Paranormal, Romance / 5 Comments

On a white background a white woman's foot is clad in a silver skull sandal, her well manicured hand on a silver scythe, her legs crossed in crisp white slacks. No more of her can be seen.Here’s the problem. I want to discuss this book with you in such rant-tastical depth that I would absolutely spoil it for everyone. Plus, it’s in hardcover, which means I have to wait a ridiculous amount of time to be certain everyone has had a chance to read it. (You’re going to read it, trust me on that.)

First Grave on the Right has it’s issues. There’s some serious info dumping going on as Darynda Jones sets up her world. It doesn’t read as pages of boring exposition, it reads like you walked into the middle of a series. Eve Dallas can get away with saying “Yes, it’s just like in the Icove case” because the reader has either read that book or can google it quickly enough. When Charley says “Hoo boy, and let’s not forget that day!” the reader is missing the context. It works well enough since it’s pretty smoothly introduced, but it could certainly be streamlined.

Charley is the Grim Reaper. Not a Grim Reaper, but THE Grim Reaper. This is a step up from the conventional I-See-Dead-People, but it brings it’s own problems. I’m going to assume there are other Reapers in the world, because otherwise the math just blows the whole book out. I mean, the dead have to pass through Charlie, she’s the actual light, right? Worldwide, about 62 million people die yearly. Since there are only 1,440 minutes in a day… ok that is as much math as I am willing to do. It just doesn’t work, right? Right. So no matter what Charley says, there’s got to be other options for dead folks. Charley impressed me in her ability to take more physical abuse than even my girl Sookie Stackhouse. Girl keeps ticking. She’s got a cop uncle, an ex cop father, a wicked stepmother, a non beloved sister, a bunch of men interested in her, a dead assistant, a live assistant and at least three jobs. This girl does not have time to sit about. (She also has awesome shoes, but that’s my cover envy talking.)

Charley likes sex, but this is not a LKH read, it’s pretty mild as far as the actual action goes while still having a heat meter. Unlike most books, I read all the sex scenes. They furthered the plot. I know, I couldn’t believe it either. But they did. Charley’s been having some pretty vivid dreams at night which may or may not be connected to her paranormal leanings. She’s also got an entity that’s been shadowing her since the day she was born and a fellow PI looking her way. I don’t know if the love triangle (Quadrangle? Hexagonal?) is going to work or is even intended, because it’s pretty clear pretty quickly who rings Charley’s chimes. Too bad he’s in jail. (I know! Daddy issues and inmates and tigers and lions and monkeys and bears!!) I actually have some real problems with Charley’s boyfriend. Which is the spoiler-ish bits. I think some aspects (ok, most aspects) of Charley’s relationship are going to cause heated debate about their appropriateness and her mental health. I mean, just his pick-up lines alone could light up the average message board. But the world Jones is building captivated me immediately. It’s rooted in Christian Myth (if you prefer, Christian Fact – see what I mean? Debate!) but is in no way a “Christian Romance.” I respect that. Paranormals that attempt to be areligious (irreligious? Double debate!)  annoy me. You can’t have your demons and eat them too. (Wait…)

First Grave ties up 90% of the plot it introduces while only answering 10% of the world building questions, but not in an annoying way. In a sense, coming in to the middle of the story works, after all that is what happens to Charley every time she encounters a dead person.  I rather expect Charlie’s BFF to drop dead any moment and leave Charlie as a custodial parent. This is what I mean about a dense world – she’s not just Charlie’s BFF, she’s also her assistant, a single mother, a cancer survivor and in the middle of a potential recurrence. None of which is relevant to this particular story, but would obviously come into play later. Charlie’s dad isn’t just an ex-cop, he’s an ex-cop who runs a bar, has a cop brother, is a widower (remarried) with another daughter and…. it’s a very Southern way of meeting characters. “This here is Velma, she’s Pearl’s sister. You know how Pearl and Velma married brothers? Those brothers happened to be the siblings of my grandmother and it’s a funny thing but they’re also related these other two ways…” (True sentence. It was used to start off an approximately three hour story from one of my cousins. I’m not sure he ever finished.)

Read it so we can fight about it. It’s full of Team Character opportunities and What Is She Thinking vs OMG SO HOT debatery.


5 responses to “First Grave On The Right by Darynda Jones

  1. “I mean, just his pick-up lines alone could light up the average message board.”

    LOL Oh, you are so right! It’s NOT the kind of thing you expect as the opening line from the hero to the heroine in a romance–any kind of romance–but for Reyes…well, you can’t call him predictable, can you? He’s the antithesis of predictability (in so many ways).

    I loved this book because it’s exactly what a great book should be–pure entertainment. I don’t think the intent was, in any way, shape or form, to redefine any definitions. Certainly not like Star Wars brought forward the whole good vs. evil debate. In FGotR, things are much grayer, in all POVs. In a recent interview, the author said something to the effect of: “The good characters sometimes do bad things, and the bad characters sometimes do good things.” I like the idea that this story takes place in the realm of the gray.

    You made a good point about the time factor thing and Charley’s supreme reaperness. But I took it that she was on autopilot for most souls, and maybe not even aware of them. It was only the troubled ones–usually murdered or otherwise banished to limbodom–that had to seek out her amazing shininess, so that would drastically cut down the numbers to a more manageable traffic pattern.

    Anyhow, just my take. I really enjoyed reading yours!

  2. Thanks for commenting! I hope it also comes across that I adored this book. Sign me up for the series, I think this one should get a wide audience.

  3. I love your rant-tastical reviews 🙂 I must have been living under a rock, because I’ve never heard of this book. (Please don’t disown me 🙂

    Sounds…interesting. Will have to see if it is appearing in my library – will keep an eye out 🙂

    You can’t have your demons and eat them too.


  4. It just came out – I hadn’t heard of it either until the ARC landed on me, not sure where the promotion is for it. It’s a debut and a hardcover, so it must have marketing somewhere.

  5. Anonymous

    I absolutely agree on the THE grim reaper bit. I can’t see the logic in why she has to be THE grim reaper but this is what is stated at the start of the book – though it devolves to A grim reaper later. Even if she’s only dealing with those troubled souls – the maths is impossible. That spoilt it for me.
    Too complicated a plot – too many characters. Great humor, great MC but – and that’s my issue – there’s a but….