01 February, 2011
Review: First Grave On The Right by Darynda Jones
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.