Monday, 15 July 2013

I turned right, but am in doubt over turning left next; First Grave On The Right (Charley Davidson Series Book 1) by Darynda Jones...


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.

I've been interested in reading this series for a while, as the reviews are glowing. After failing to get hold of FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT in the library, I bit the bullet and just bought the kindle version, as I was so confident that I'd love it. Sigh, I've still not learnt to ignore hype. Anyway, lets get right to my issues with the book...

Countless reviews tell me how sassy and funny Charley is, but to me the author is trying too hard, giving the result of Charley constantly sounding like a bratty 14 year old. She is not hilarious and sassy - she is rude, abrupt and antagonises other people for no real reason. To me she is really like a sulky teenager, convinced that the world is against her.

As she seems to go out of her way to piss of the people who she routinely works with and relies on for assistance, I come to think of her as being a bit, well, stupid. For instance whenever Charley works with the police in the book, she gets her own way over the people who are actually meant to be at the various crime scenes by constantly batting her lashes at her Uncle and reminding other people, that yes, they are related. And then she wonders why people on the force don't respect, or even like her that much. By the end of the book I'm still not sure whether the author knows how Charley seems to readers, or not. I suspect that she is seeing Charley as a spunky, yet misunderstood snowflake.

The romantic angle was the other thing that drove me nuts, as Charley keeps on shelving her murder case [the bunch of murdered people clearly aren't important] to obsess over Reyes - leading to the pace dragging. Maybe if the author had kept the murder investigation as the central focus of the book, I would have been able to overlook my niggles with Charley, as I really did want to like the book.

The premise of this 'romance' is more irritating and alienating to me then Charley's attitude, as I don't emphasize with her in the slightest and, as a result, dismiss her as being melodramatic from the start; Charley only meet Rayse once as a teenager, and he wasn't exactly warm and friendly towards her, and she is now nearly 30 and has been living a Rayse free life happily up until now. The whole set up makes everything here seem abrupt and bunny boilerish.

Over the course of the book she increasingly sounds like a 14 year old, crushing over some boy-band member. At one point Charley actually says that she can't live without him - she hasn't seen or heard from him for over fourteen years, so where are these feelings coming from? The author hasn't shown me anything convincing to explain Charley's feelings. After a few chapters of listening to Charley's dramatics and general obsession with him, I honestly wouldn't be shocked if Charley snapped and clambered aboard Rayse's comatose body and had her way with him.

She somehow just knows that Rayse is in prison or something he didn't do, and the prison brawl? Rayse was clearly injured when he tried to protect somebody; her excuses for him are really quite sad, as he is a total stranger and she is busily building a happily-ever-after around him. I have to admit that I kept reading the book in the hope that he does turn out to be guilty as charged, to give Charley a slap in the face and a reality check.

Oh yeah; didn't the author tell us earlier? Charley can apparently also 'sense' guilt and lies. I found the way that the author failed to mention this ability of Charley's earlier, and then casually tossed it abruptly into the book to belatedly attempt to rationalize things, makes it seem like something that she made up on the spot. Charley's ability doesn't matter when it comes to Rayse anyway, because of the coma thing - something else the author has overlooked. This means that all of Charley's ramblings on the subject of Rayse and his supposed innocence mean very little anyway, so the whole sensing ability is wasted. I felt that reading all of the excuses Charley makes us read through is just a waste of time.

FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT had a interesting and promising concept; I love urban fantasy and mysteries, so having them combined into a series which has a sprinkling of Dead Like Me added in, sounded like a winner. However in the end I found the lead character annoying and the 'romance' subplot failed to draw me in and I soon became bored as this subplot began to take over the story and distracted from a otherwise promising read.

It's frustrating because the author has everything here for a great read, but, for me at least, she has misjudged how the lead's attitude and actions come of to other people. It's also frustrating for me to read so many positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads- what am I missing here? I want to read the awesome series that everyone else is reading.


I've gone on to read books two, three and four, to check for improvement in the ongoing plot. I'll be reviewing them shortly, although the reviews won't be as meaty as this one...


Paperback: £5.99
Kindle: £5.49

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