This book was the very first one to pop up on my screen when GoodReads first introduced their recommendations based on what you’ve already read and enjoyed. It took a while but eventually I got myself a copy of this book, though this may have been more to do with the fact that people who like similar UF to me sign its praises!
Title: First Grave on the Right
Author: Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson #1
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Urban fantasy
Length: 315 pages
Story: A smashing, award-winning debut novel that introduces Charley Davidson: part-time private investigator and full-time Grim Reaper
Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. 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 (i.e. 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.
Thoughts and impressions: The opening of this book was a bit… weird to say the least – a bit intense? I have to say, I usually prefer my sex scenes to come a bit later on in the book! The author does deliver with a longer, better sex scene later on, but I was surprised to find one as the opening passage.
I was obviously being particularly slow while reading this book. It wasn’t until Charley pointed it out herself that I drew the parallel between her name and Harley Ds! She was definitely as cocky and in-your-face as a Harley D so I’d say her name was well chosen. In fact, at times she was a little too cocky for my tastes but this was easily overlooked.
The narrative was meant to be humorous and there were plenty of times when it pulled it off and I’d snigger out loud, but there were other times when the humour felt forced or was too repeated. This can easily be explained away by the differences between British and American humour, but at times I found it to be more on the side of tiring than funny. Still, in the long run I enjoyed Charley’s narrative voice. Due to her role in life, she’s used to keeping everyone at arm’s length and this shows – usually by her insulting anyone who tries to get to close.
Charley is, of course, the grim reaper. The ghosts of the departed go to her to get some closure to their lives before they go into her light. She works with the local police force where her uncle Bob, Ubie, is an officer, giving the “anonymous tips” necessary to put the bad guys behind bars. She also runs her own P.I. business on the side, keeping busy with both the living and the dead (as the dead obviously don’t tend to pay).
But when three lawyers working to get an innocent man’s name cleared of a murder he didn’t commit are all assassinated on the same night, Charley finds herself caught up in an investigation that seems hell bent on getting her killed. Luckily for Charley, she seems to have a guardian angel in the form of some unknown entity that scares her shitless. I have to admit that she did get injured a bit too often for it to really be believable. I think not a single day went by without her having a brush with death. It would have been easier to accept it all if it had been set over a slightly longer period, giving her a little bit of reprieve each time.
The romance with Reyes felt rather… unfounded. The two of them never had an interaction that didn’t end up giving in to lust. I knew next to nothing about his personality, because Charley didn’t know it either – she just felt this inexplicable attraction to him. This led to me feeling that I didn’t know enough about him to be particularly interested in their relationship – or maybe invested is the better word. That said, I really liked the sentiment behind the idea that Charley is quite literally the girl of Reyes’s dreams! There are enough tantalising hints about his role in life, the universe and everything that I’m interested in finding out more about him, but I wish I’d been able to get a better handle on him in this book.
I would have liked to have seen more of Charley’s family as well, especially her father’s reaction to her stepmother’s open animosity towards her. I suppose that this could easily be explored more in future instalments but it’s one of the things I’d be interested in exploring.
A fabulous introduction to an urban fantasy that deserves its position in the fantasy market!
Style: Very catty, very chatty. Informal, but fun.
Final verdict: A fun read that had me laughing out loud at times! I’m already looking forward to reading the second book! 4 stars
Extra notes: Both bad language and sex are present.