First Grave on the Right
Published 2011 310 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Private investigator Charlotte Davidson was born with three things: looks; a healthy respect for the male anatomy; and the rather odd job title of grim reaper. Since the age of five, she has been helping the departed solve the mysteries of their deaths so they can cross. Thus, when three lawyers from the same law firm are murdered, they come to her to find their killer.
In the meantime, Charley's dealing with a being more powerful - and definitely sexier - than any spectre she's ever come across before. With the help of a pain-in-the-ass skip tracer, a dead pubescent gangbanger named Angel, and a lifetime supply of sarcasm, Charley sets out to solve the highest profile case of the year and discovers that dodging bullets isn't nearly as dangerous as falling in love.
First Grave on the Right is the first novel in a new urban fantasy romance series by Darynda Jones. The story follows the frankly hilarious adventures of Charley Davidson, PI and grim reaper. There’s a solid murder mystery plot, a plethora of ghosts and plenty of action – so this is definitely in the urban fantasy genre. Yet the romance has a strong influence on the story too – allowing the story to be both urban fantasy and paranormal romance at the same time. Anyway, whatever the story’s genre, all you really need to know is that it’s uncommonly good.
First Grave on the Right contains no vampires. They just don’t exist in Charley’s world and since the mythology is rich enough already with ghosts and a couple of other types of supernatural entity it seems unlikely that vampires will ever be added. The fantasy elements in First Grave are fairly low-key. The ghosts are still very human in their behaviour and are actually some of the less scary elements of the story. During the course of Charley’s investigation it is the living bad guys that give Charley the most scares. The characters of the three dead lawyers whose deaths kick off the story are written in a way that manages to make them seem funny rather than frightening or sad.
Romance is provided by a mysterious supernatural entity that visits Charley in her dreams. There are some fairly hot scenes whenever the two meet, even though they don’t physically meet, if you get my drift. The identity and purpose of Charley’s mystery lover is one of the major plotlines for the book so it would spoil the story to say more at this point – but trust me the romance doesn’t disappoint.
First Grave on the Right is an action packed mixture of fantasy, comedy and murder mystery. The comedy lightly touches on the Chick Lit end of the comedy spectrum. There are elements of the storytelling style that remind me of Janet Evanovitch’s early Stephanie Plum novels (although Charley seems to have a greater intelligence and a lesser ability to irritate with incompetence than Evanovitch’s Plum.) Similarly, comparisons with MaryJanice Davidson’s earliest (and best) Undead/Queen Betsy novels aren’t far from the mark either.
First Grave on the Right is a first rate addition to the urban fantasy romance field. The story is witty from start to finish and there is never a dull moment, whether Charley is convincing ghosts to “go to the light”, tracking down murderers or the discovering identity of her secret lover. And the best news is that the author has been contracted for at least five books, meaning that there is plenty more fun to come.
Rating: This book is rated down half a point because it doesn’t feature vampires (it’s a site rule!)
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