First Grave on the Right is the first book in a long-running series with volumes continuously being added. I’ve seen this series pushed hard by avid fans and any time a new book in the series is released, there begins the sudden onslaught of new reviews on my feed. With so many rabid fans, it was only time before I gave in and read the first book in this supernatural, urban fantasy. How could I resist a grim reaper who doubles as a private investigator to solve murders and help poor souls find eternal peace? Especially a sassy one? St. Martin’s Press | November, 2011 | Paperback | 338 pp
Charley Davidson is a grim reaper. She’s also a private investigator who helps solve crimes, working with the local Albuquerque police force where her uncle works as a detective. Since she can converse quite well with the recently departed (and murdered) she has a leg up on getting information that no one else would have and can solve mysteries that would otherwise remain cold cases.
She’s a sassy thing. She remembers the day of her birth, can speak every single language ever spoken in the history of the world, and loves to piss off condescending nonbelievers with quick-witted comebacks and slightly immature jabs. She’s a beacon of light to deceased souls who cross over to the other side through Charley. To those she finds in various places who haven’t crossed, she attempts to learn what’s keeping them tethered to the realm of the living, sends messages on their behalf if needed, and helps them cross over. But sometimes, those souls haven’t crossed because they’ve been murdered, and they need Charley’s help to find justice.
First Grave on the Right begins with three murdered lawyers, all partners in the same firm, all killed in the same manner hours apart. One of the dead lawyers informs Charley that he was given new information about the innocence of a man already convicted of killing a teen boy. That informant was also found dead. None of the lawyers saw who killed them, but the trail of information leads Charley, her Uncle, and a hot-headed skiptracer named Garret to uncover a massive flesh trade where children and teens are stolen and sold off.
But that’s not the only thing going on. Charley has been haunted by what she calls “The Big Bad” since the day of her birth. It always seems to appear when Charley is in trouble, and can sever spinal cords without breaking the skin with one swish of its mighty incorporeal scythe. Charley is terrified of its appearance even though it seems to be helping her. She thinks it’s another grim reaper, possibly. She has a few theories. And then there is another haunting of a sexual nature. A being is invading her dreams and private time, controlling her thoughts and turning her on like no mortal could ever do. It called her “Dutch” and there is only one person who ever used that name for her, one man she only met once years ago. But he seemed mortal. What is the connection?
Charley Davidson is a one-of-a-kind character and the series stands apart as an urban fantasy with a ‘hardboiled‘ feel as an urban crime mystery. You know what you’re going to get from the very first paragraph.
“I was starting to wonder if repetitive exposure to nightly hallucinations resulting in earth-shattering climaxes could have any long-term side effects. Death via extreme pleasure was a serious concern. The prospect led to the following dilemma: Do I seek help or buy drinks all around?”
If those lines made you smile, get ready to don a sh**-eating grin for the length of the book. Charley Davidson is a heroine with sense of humor. She might be the grim reaper, but she isn’t some ass-kicking ninja with a scythe. She’s a normal human-by-day who tends to be on the other side of the ass-whooping, and she takes it all in stride with cheeky levity. In fact, there are several attempts on her life and she doesn’t walk away unscathed.
“Just in case, though, I stormed into my apartment, tossed a quick hello to Mr. Wong, then rummaged through my entertainment center to lay out all of my exorcism equipment. I kept it in my entertainment center because exorcisms were nothing if not entertaining.”
What I enjoyed most of all was the level of sophistication in storytelling with the multiple plot points. It reminded me of my all-time favorite series: The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde – which is also a comical, urban fantasy mystery series. Imagine that. In both series, each book features several mini-plots and mysteries that are tangled up together while the heroine works to separate and solve each crisis usually under the pressure of time. I think the Charley Davidson Series and I are going to be good friends. I’m sensing the beginning of a possible contender for favorite series.
So, will I continue with the series? Absolutely. The second book is already on its way.
First Grave on the Right
by Darynda Jones